iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending March 26

Deducing the shipment date, T-Mobile clues, ballpoint pens, price cuts

In the iOSphere one doesn't need sources for rumors. Just unhinge one's imagination, propose a couple of untenable hypotheses, and deduce.

This week, supply chainers deduce the shipment date for iPad 5; T-Mobile announced availability of iPhone 5 and bloggers deduce that, amazingly, the carrier is very likely to eventually have a future iPad; save those ballpoint pens because you'll be able to use them on the Next iPad; and savor the prospect of iPad mini price cuts.

You read it here second.

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"And those familiar with Apple's pricing strategy know that the $329 price [for iPad mini] wasn't about trying to squeeze an extra ten percent over and above the $299 mark, but rather that Apple didn't want a $299 iPad mini to make the $499 flagship iPad look overpriced by comparison," Robison explains. "The $329 price almost said 'Please don't buy me, consider the full size iPad instead.'"

~ Jake Robison, StableyTimes.com, explaining how Apple ensured the iPad mini's success by pricing it so people wouldn't buy it, and how it will make the Next iPad mini even more successful by giving it something no iPad or iPhone has previously received: a price cut.

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iPad 5 will ship in Q4 2013

So much for shipments blossoming in April, which was - and will remain until April 30 - one of the other rumors.

Digitimes rounds up the usual industry sources, anonymous of course, who say that they don't expect Apple's orders for new, 9.7-inch touch panels to swell until the July-September period. Since it takes time to assemble these into finished iPads, that proves that iPad 5 won't go on sale until the October-December period.

Once you understand the Mysteries of the Supply Chain, these kinds of deductions are a snap.

The thinking here is the by-now-oft-repeated rumor that iPad 5 will use the same thin film display technology that Apple introduced with the iPad mini in October 2012. "Which would mean that Taiwan-based thin-film supplier TPK would be among one of the main suppliers of the technology, as it has been for the iPad mini," Digitimes helpfully points out.

But.

"However, Apple recently adjusted shipment estimates for its iPad and iPad mini products in 2013 to 33 million and 55 million, respectively, said the sources." These sources are apparently reading other blogs and tech sites, which have been repeating for weeks and analysts claim that Apple has reduced its orders for full-size iPads and increased them for iPad mini.

By the bizarre economics of the iOSphere's understanding of the Apple supply chain, the fact that Apple might sell more iPad minis with TPK's touch panels is ... bad news for TPK. Apple "expects the iPad mini to sell substantially better during the year, which would be less thin-film type material area shipped per a[n] Apple device for TPK, added the sources."

Apparently the only thing worse than not winning a contract to supply Apple is ... to win a contract to supply Apple.

"Meanwhile, Samsung Display is reportedly trying to snatch back panel orders from Apple by offering the company reduced panel prices for the iPad mini after losing out on shipments in 2012 as a result of disputes between Samsung Electronics and Apple," according to Digitimes.

Trying to understand this statement is like trying to understand Greek if you only speak Chinese. According to Digitimes, Samsung lost the iPad mini opportunity because of "disputes" - presumably all those patent lawsuits and counter-lawsuits. Which, as we've pointed out before has never been as self-evident an argument as the arguers imagine: Samsung is competing successfully with Apple in iPhones and it's making a ton of money reliably and cost-effectively supplying other Apple displays as well as manufacturing Apple's A Series processors. What would either company gain by trashing those relationships?

In any case, according to Digitimes, Samsung hopes to win the Next iPad or iPad mini display contract - even though it's still locked in those same disputes with Apple - by cutting its display prices. But it's not price that's Apple's top issue, according to the same Digitimes story: It's thin-film technology. If Samsung doesn't offer that, then Apple won't buy the displays, even if Samsung gives them away for free.

Over at uSwitch.com, the fourth quarter shipment of Next iPads sounds perfectly sound to Jonathan Leggett. "A move towards a later launch for both devices can perhaps be read as an admission of the increasing importance of the seasonal market for tablets in the fourth quarter," he writes.

Leggett's wording seems to suggest that he thinks there is or has been a fierce debate inside Apple over how important the holidays are for sales.

It's not clear how people come up with these Conventional Marketing Pieties. For the past three years, iPad sales during the Oct-Dec period have been 7.3, 15.4, and 22.8 million units (the biggest quarter so far and the one that included iPad mini sales). But iPad sales in Apple's Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 were sometimes higher in other quarters, as well as sometimes lower.

Apple has always seen the Oct-Dec period as important to sales. Almost every other consumer-facing company in the United States does too, for the obvious reason: holiday gift buying. Apple hasn't had to "move toward a later launch" for any of its products to boost sales during the holidays. Because its products are available for the holidays.

Leggett seems to think that Apple reasons thusly: "The seasonal market is increasingly important to tablets so instead of announcing the Next iPad in the spring, and selling it for the rest of this year, we'll wait until October and only sell it for three months this year."

iPad 5, iPad mini 2 due at T-Mobile in Fall 2013

While everyone else was focused on T-Mobile's announcement this week that, finally, it would be offering the iPhone 5, starting this month, Chuong Nguyen, at GottaBeMobile, looked deeper.

"Historically, Apple launches the iPad on its carrier partners' networks following the successful launch of the iPhone," he explains in a blog post. Take Sprint for example.

"When Sprint signed on for the iPhone 4S [in October 2011], it did not get 'the new iPad,' also colloquially referred to as the iPad 3 [in March 2012], but had to wait for the iPad 4 and iPad mini [in November 2012]," Nguyen says. "The reasoning was LTE. When Verizon debuted the iPhone 4 on its 3G network, it got the 3G-capable iPad 2 on its network a few months after."

So if you are a carrier, and you get the iPhone, then you get the iPad, too, either a few months later or many months later.

Therefore.

"Likely, given that T-Mobile is up to date with 4G LTE and continues building out its LTE network as planned, it will get the new iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 in the Fall when Apple announces those products," Nguyen confidently predicts.

Q. E. D. What could be simpler?

iPad 5 will let you use a regular ole pen

Repurposing rumors is a tried and true iOSphere practice. Last week, the "iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending Mar. 22" noted that a "breakthrough" display technology developed by Sharp Corp. would be appearing in the Next iPhone.

It would let you write on the display using a regular ole ballpoint pen instead of some fancy-smancy "smartpen." As one blogger noted, "it'll be the first time in history that a user will be able to write on a display using an ordinary pen or pencil for taking notes."

The very. First time.

This week, some keen minds in the iOSphere realized if you could do that on the Next iPhone, it would be even better to do it on the Next iPad.

Actually, make that one (1) keen mind.

That would be Jordan Mammo, writing at iTechPost, where he modestly noted that "to this reporter — and apparently I'm the only one, because all other reports suggest iPhone functionality only — it seems just as likely that Apple would build this screen into a new iPad 5 or iPad mini."

He's not afraid to boldly speculate where no man has speculated before.

"If Apple does put this screen in a new iPhone, it means two things," he tells readers. "First, it means the iPhone 6's touch screen will be significantly larger than the iPhone 5's. Second, it would mean Cupertino is jumping into the phablet race. The screen doesn't scale down past 5 inches, putting any phone using it squarely into phone/tablet hybrid territory."

It's pretty obvious, really.

"Sharp is, of course, an important Apple supplier," Mammo explains. "Apple is, of course, working on a new iPhone that will supposedly have 'a killer feature.' Connect the dots and that's basically the entire rumor at the moment."

All you have to do is...connect the dots.

iPad mini 2 will have retina screen and a lower price tag

This is the conclusion based on insightful reasoning by one Jake Robison, who "covers politics and other topics" for a copy-and-rewrite website called StableyTimes.com.

His reasoning is based on "various sources (and common sense)." These agree that "the second generation iPad mini will indeed be a Retina Display product." So you can check that off your list right now.

"And those familiar with Apple's pricing strategy know that the $329 price [for iPad mini] wasn't about trying to squeeze an extra ten percent over and above the $299 mark, but rather that Apple didn't want a $299 iPad mini to make the $499 flagship iPad look overpriced by comparison," Robison explains. "The $329 price almost said 'Please don't buy me, consider the full size iPad instead.'"

Exactly! Apple ensured the iPad mini's success by means of a fiendishly clever pricing strategy that did everything possible to discourage people from buying it.

But.

"But with the iPad mini having proved to be a hit product and Apple now needing to treat it as a full fledged member of the iPad family, it's a fairly safe bet that it will indeed be revised to the much more attractive sounding $299 price tag once its generational turnover happens."

So, the $329 iPad mini, which has sold so many units that some bloggers now dare to predict that Apple will shortly scrap the full-size iPad entirely, now needs to be treated as a full-fledged member of the iPad family ... by receiving something that no other iPad or iPhone has yet received: a price cut.

"The question, then, is just when that's going to happen," Robison wonders.

That's the question, all right. And Robison has the kind of comprehensive answer that's a hallmark of the iOSphere.

"So while Apple could pull a fast one by holding a press event in April and revving the iPad mini to a $299 Retina Display model while perhaps simultaneously releasing an iPad 5, it could just as well be the case that the current iPad mini remains at its current hardware specs and pricing until the fall, at which time it will have been on the market for a full year."

One or the other. For sure.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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