With real information about iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 almost non-existent, the iOSsphere seized on the dregs, most of them provided by anonymous Asian supply chain sources.
The most prevalent rumor is the unfounded claim that iPad 5 will be announced and released in September, but iPad mini 2 won’t appear until the October-December quarter.
Unless you believe another rumor that both new tablets along with the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 and possibly a completely separate iPhone cheap will be announced at the same time in September.
Finally, contradictory rumors confirmed once more that no one really knows if the Next iPad mini will have a Retina display or not.
You read it here second.
“A new rumour emerged claiming that Apple is set to release its iPhone 6, iPhone 5S, iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 in one big event in September.”
~ Kristin Dian Mariano, International Business Times, who seems to have made up this rumor completely on her own, based on the “fact” that other rumors have predicted September as the month in which these products will be announced. Why not just put them all together and get it over with?
iPad 5 will be announced in September but iPad mini 2 is “delayed.”
And the reason for the later date for the smaller tablet is that it “may receive further upgrades in specifications,” according to a post at DigiTimes.
Some in the iOSphere, predictably, are already interpreting this as a delay, caused by the iPad mini 2 “not being ready” in time. Thus RedmondPie’s Ben Reid: “[W]hile the iPad 5 is apparently set for a September release, the purported iPad mini  may not be ready in time, probably releasing later on in the year.”
Reid packs a lot of unexamined assumptions into that one statement: that iPad mini 2 originally was scheduled for September 2013 release, that it’s late, and that “probably” it will be released later in the year.
And he’s confident that given such a schedule “We are quickly approaching that time of the year whereby Apple’s supply chains begin leaking clues on the Cupertino’s upcoming products….”
Good luck with that because the basis for Reid’s post is the original DigiTimes’ post, with its “sources from the upstream supply chain,” which is the usual breeding ground for DigiTimes’ Apple rumors. And as usual, there is remarkably little detail, let alone clues or even hints, offered by these presumably informed supply chain sources.
Except for one, and it’s a big one, buried near the end of the DigiTimes post: “As for the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, the sources pointed out that Apple is still considering whether to adopt a Retina Display for the device, and if the company decides to do so, the product's release may be delayed to the end of the fourth quarter.”
This revelation contracts the Accepted Wisdom of the iOSphere since shortly after the original iPad mini was announced in 2012 – that the Next Obvious Improvement would be to upgrade its screen to the high resolution Retina display.
Without any expert knowledge of Apple’s supply chain, it nevertheless seems a bit late in the game to be deciding on whether you’re going to replace the main iPad mini display, and do it in time to have any hope of offering the new iPad mini for sale during at least part of the year-ending holiday quarter. The change would involve possibly retooling not just Foxconn assembly lines but those of the display manufacturers, and their suppliers. And that doesn’t take into account the need for enough processing and graphics processing power, and battery power, to drive the much higher resolution display.
According to DigiTimes, “Apple is expected to announce its fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad in September as scheduled,” which is a nice touch since the phrasing makes the Apple announcement sound as precise as a publicly announced re-entry plan for a NASA space shuttle.
Yet two paragraphs later, DigiTimes has this: “Although suppliers have not yet received a firm mass production schedule from Apple and are mainly shipping products for pilot production, the sources pointed out that pilot production is already able to satisfy demand for the initial launch. Therefore, the sources expect Apple to give its shipment estimates at the end of July or early August.”
DigiTimes is saying that iPad 5 is scheduled for September launch even though as yet there’s no schedule for mass production of the devices. From this posting, it’s not clear whether or not this is a routine practice for Apple, and for consumer electronics companies in general, or something unusual.
The post recycles the widely accepted, if not well grounded, rumor that the next full-sized iPad will have a “slimmer bezel design to allow a bigger viewing area.” That doesn’t sound quite right: reducing the width of the “border” or “frame” around the 9.7-inch iPad display wouldn’t increase the display’s surface area – it would still be 9.7-inches diagonally. But the reduction could allow Apple to make the length and width of the iPad somewhat smaller and to create the illusion that the screen is, relatively, bigger.
Apparently, at least according to DigiTimes’ supply chain sources, Apple also wants to make the iPad mini’s mini bezel still smaller, and possibly nonexistent. DigiTimes: “Apple has also been asking its upstream supply partners to further shrink the next-generation iPad mini's bezel, aiming to push a bezel-less design similar to that of Samsung and HTC's large-size smartphones.”
If this is true, the months-long speculation that Apple is reducing the 9.7-inch iPad bezel in part to mimic the outside design of the iPad mini is another example of misreading Apple’s options, plans, and actions. The iPad 5 will end up mimicking the first-generation iPad mini.
CNET’s Brooke Crothers claims to believe that “a distinct theme has emerged about the timing of upcoming Apple tablets: The iPad 5 is on track, while the Retina Mini is up in the air.”
Yet for all anyone really knows, both products are on track, because Apple plans to introduce one first and then the other.
The theme that Crothers says is emerging is based on “speculation” and “continuing chatter” the credibility of which is highly variable. Much of it is from badly reported postings that depend on completely anonymous supply chain sources. Based on that, Crothers says regarding iPad mini 2: “Don't hold your breath.”
Crothers quotes one analyst who makes a point that allows us to be even more skeptical of the DigiTimes post. “Ideally, [display makers] should be producing in high volume one or two quarters before Apple can use the display," Sweta Dash, senior director of LCD research at IHS iSuppli, told CNET previously.”
But if, as DigiTimes says, Apple is expected to greenlight mass production in late July or early August, there would be at best eight and at worst four weeks of high volume manufacturing before a September tablet release, not counting units created during a preceding “pilot” production phase.
iPad 5, iPad mini 2, and iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 will be announced at one September event
Talk about Epic.
This rumor seems to have resulted from the iOSphere’s mutant version of deductive reasoning, in this case applied by Kristin Dian Mariano, of International Business Times.
The headline to her post, declares the conclusion: “Apple may release all its devices in September in one launching event.”
She begins: “A new rumour emerged claiming that Apple is set to release its iPhone 6, iPhone 5S, iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 in one big event in September.” This is ingenuous, since Mariano seems to be the one starting this very rumor.
“This [rumor] came from previous reports that all devices are speculated to be released in Fall,” she continues.
But then the “reports” became more specific. “A wide array of separate reports claimed that the flagship phone and tablet of the company will be released in September,” she explains helpfully. She doesn’t link or cite any of these reports, which are clearly nothing more than the unfounded rumors and speculation that have been rife in the iOSphere for months. And none of them, according to what we can tell, ever suggested Apple would announce all four or five new mobile products at one event.
So there’s no basis for this rumor in reasoning; no basis for it in any credible, let alone substantiated, facts; and no basis for it in Apple’s practice. iPhone and iPad represent two separate classes of product, each with separate design and production processes and schedules. It’s not impossible for them to coincide but it’s rather like a rare astronomical event, say the red dwarf star Ross 248 passing within 3.024 light years of Earth, 36,000 years from now to become for a while the closest star to the Sun.
The IBT post also mentions that the iPad 5, which a “wide array of separate reports” for the better part of a year have claimed will have iPad mini-like narrow bezels, actually will have “no bezels.”
iPad mini 2, whenever it comes, will have Retina display…or not
And the latest beta release of iOS 7 has a change that might argue against the higher resolution for the 2013 iPad mini 2.
MobileMag somehow interprets the previously mentioned DigiTimes story – which cites supply chain sources claiming that Apple still hasn’t decided whether to give iPad Mini 2 a Retina display – as indicating that it “might” do exactly that.
The Retina display is such a must-have feature, that MobileMag’s Leo Xavier reads the DigiTimes rumor as proving that Apple will “delay” the iPad mini 2 in order to ensure it has that higher resolution screen.
“We are not expecting Apple to release the iPad Mini 2 with a lower resolution display, which has turned many customers away from the current iPad Mini,” pontificates Xavier in a post that doesn’t even attempt to explain how he knows that “many” have turned away from the current iPad mini because of its non-Retina display. “So it might be safe to believe in a delayed launch for the upcoming tablet.”
Over at GottaBeMobile, Adam Mills is serenely confident that the next iPad mini will be Retina equipped.
“If the iPad mini 2 does come with a Retina Display, and there is little reason to doubt that it will, the iPad mini 2 display would likely feature 2048 x 1536 resolution at around 324 ppi,” he writes. “That is an incredible difference in both numbers and quality.”
Indeed it is. And it’s also an incredible difference in terms of microprocessor and battery demand. No one yet knows whether Apple has cracked this problem, while preserving battery life, performance, price, and display quality requirements.
Mills advises buyers “So while the iPad mini might look like a tempting buy, especially since an iPad mini 2 release date hasn’t been nailed down yet, a Retina Display is going to be one reason to wait for the iPad mini 2 instead of buying something right now.” Exactly: if you need or want an iPad mini now, don’t buy it. Instead, wait four to six months and buy the iPad mini 2.
Of course, if you want a really, really good iPad mini, wait 16-18 months and buy the iPad mini 3 in 2014.
Some of the confusion over the iPad mini Retina display may be due to the possibility of two separate new iPad mini products. CNET’s Crothers reported in June about this prospect, raised in a blog post at NPD DisplaySearch, which also draws much of its information from contacts in Asian electronics firms and component suppliers.
Crothers quoted from the blog entry, by analyst Richard Shim: “The new  iPad mini will continue to use a 7.9-inch display with a 1024×768 resolution, but it will use the iOS 7 operating system and an A6 processor. Another iPad mini is also planned for production but not until early 2014. That device is expected to feature a QXGA (2,048 x 1,536) resolution [Retina] display and the iOS 7 operating system.”
Regardless, the recent beta 3 release of iOS 7 contains a change that improves the presentation of iPhone apps, written for the newer iPhone Retina displays, on the two non-Retina iPad models – iPad 2 and iPad mini.
MacRumors’ Eric Slivka has the details and we won’t repeat them in depth here. Essentially, Apple has improved the “pixel doubling” that allows apps designed for the Retina display iPhone to appear sharper and clearer when “blown up” on the non-Retina iPad 2 and iPad mini screens. You can see the difference in this MacRumors screen shot.
Apple today still sells a 16-Gbyte version of iPad 2, for $399. But that is likely to end with the release of the next iPad. The iOS 7 enhancement is good news for existing iPad 2 and iPad mini users. But – perhaps -- it could also indicate that the iPad mini 2 will not have a Retina display, and this OS-level change is one way for Apple to improve display quality for iPhone apps on the lower-resolution screen.
The bottom line: at this point, the Retina display iPad mini 2 remains wishful thinking and nothing more.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.” Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: email@example.com