The iOSsphere obsession with figuring out the precise announcement and shipment dates for iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 continues.
The iOSpherians were reduced to trying to decode how unsubstantiated rumors of future orders for tablet displays might reveal iPad dates. But the efforts rarely get more precise than “the fall,” which most of those with the intelligence level of a lemming already could guess.
[ALSO: iPhoneys 5S and 6 edition]
Also this week, Apple’s order of prototype 13-inch screens ignited speculation that Apple is about to create a larger-screened iPad.
You read it here second.__________
This week’s top headline: “Apple is doomed even with iPhone 6 and iPad 5?”
~ By a website called “Society and Religion” or perhaps more accurately “Society and Religion and iPads.” The headline is then immediately contradicted, in a post by “S&R Staff” that is a model of iConherence, as follows: “Apple Is Not Doomed. And Verizon is not a snapshot of the world, it is not even a true snapshot of the US. I’m not saying Apple is doomed…it is not. Actually only a fringe sector of people actually think Apple is doomed.”
iPad 5 due in fall of 2013 because a Taiwan display maker is shipping more units
The connection between the two is somewhat tenuous, in The Rollup’s opinion. And in any case, we end up where we’ve been for months: expecting a new iPad about a year after the last one – in the fall.
The display maker in question, named in the original DigiTimes post, is Taiwan’s TPK, which has been a major supplier of iPhone and iPad display panels for Apple for years. Unnamed “industry sources” told DigiTimes that “TPK expects its performance in third-quarter 2013 to improve due to OGS touch panel orders from Apple….”
OGS is “one glass solution” an advance in display panel manufacturing that uses a single piece of glass as both the cover lens and the sensor substrate, reducing the number of layers that make up the panel, and creating a thinner and lighter overall assembly that is also optically clearer. According to one OGS supplier, US Micro Products, it also “lowers the cost of panel manufacturing, and by extension, of overall equipment production.”
According to the DigiTimes post: “TPK expects shipments for the technology to increase throughout August and September as Apple gears up to launch its next-generation iPad, the sources said.” The sources also said that “TPK has also reportedly slashed pricing for its touch panel products in order to land more orders from Apple amid increasing competition in the touch panel industry….”
The Obvious Meaning of these anonymous claims was drawn by, among others, Kukil Bora at International Business Times: “Apple has placed a large order for touch panels for its next-generation iPad, dubbed the ‘iPad 5,’ which suggests that production Apple's highly anticipated flagship tablet device is ramping up, with a release date likely to take place toward the end of this year, during the lucrative holiday season.”
Though one would like to say that this conclusion is worthy of Sherlock Holmes, one can’t because it’s not. Again, assuming that Apple is sticking to a roughly 12-month product cycle, one would expect various suppliers to be ramping up in the weeks and months before that.
Though Apple is an important TPK customer, it’s not the only one, and TPK has been busy for over a year developing both new customers and new markets. Details about TPK and its founder Michael Chiang are found in a May 2012 Forbes story by Russell Flannery.
Beside Apple, TPK supplies mobile screens for products from Lenovo, Motorola, Sony, Toshiba and ZTE, and for e-readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Flannery noted then that Apple was expected “to turn to LG and Sharp to supply thinner-still touchscreens for the next version of its iPhone [i.e. iPhone 5]….”
To remain competitive, TPK planned to launch a year ago “its own thin, single-glass technology known as ‘touch on lens.’ And while still delivering screens for iPads, TPK may increasingly find business through Apple rival Microsoft, which is soon to launch a much-revamped Windows 8 operating system,” according to the Forbes story. In addition, Chiang is eyeing autos and videogames as markets for touch displays.
But, if the DigiTimes sources are correct, it would appear that Apple has opted for TPK’s OGS technology for the 9.7-inch iPad and not for another candidate, a proprietary touch-on-display technology from Innolux, which is "a type of on-cell touch structure in which the sensor is located on the upper glass (the color filter substrate), beneath the top polarizer,” according to a Jan. 14, 2013 report, "Is Apple Changing its Mind on Touch Panel Structures?" by Calvin Hsieh, an analyst with NPD DisplaySearch.
Hsieh actually didn’t answer the question he posed but laid out some of the issues and trade-offs that Apple faces in improving various characteristics of the iPad display, such as image and color quality, thickness, weight, power demand, and so on.
Such a move also apparently contradicts a February 2013 post by DigiTimes, which claimed that its industry sources said that Apple was embracing for iPad 5 a glass-film combination with dual indium tin oxide conductive coating, which layers both sides of a single display substrate. This is the technology used in the iPad mini. The Rollup covered this rumor and the associated alphabet soup of acronyms in early February [see “iPad 5 will have GF2 DITO OMG IMHO screen structure”]
At that time, DigiTimes posted: "Apple's current 9.7-inch iPad models use a G/G [glass on glass] touch screen structure. The sources said Apple's move to use DITO technology shows the company is looking to bump up its competition in the tablet segment and that it has more adequate supply to the technology compared to one-glass-solution (OGS) technology."
OGS for iPad 5 could mean applying a more mature technology than that used for the in-cell display in iPhone 5, resulting in a cheaper, lighter, and thinner assembly compared to the current fourth-generation iPad.
Which is likely to be announced … in the fall.
iPad mini 2 due in fall of 2013 because a Korean display maker is shipping more units
Look: if a rumor works for the iPad, why not the iPad mini 2?
The connection between the two is somewhat tenuous, in The Rollup’s opinion. And in any case, we end up where we’ve been for months: expecting a new iPad mini 2 about a year after the last one – in the fall.
The display maker in question this time, named in yet another DigiTimes post, is LG Display. And according to another, or perhaps the same, batch of unnamed “industry sources,” LG Display is boosting or getting ready to boost shipments not only of 9.7-inch displays for iPad 5 but also 7.9-inch displays for iPad mini 2.
“LG Display expects to ship 2.5-3 million 9.7-inch panels a month for the iPad in the third quarter of 2013, according to industry sources,” DigiTime declares. That sounds like a lot, but it turns out 1 million, or maybe 2 million, of them will for iPad 5, the rest for “previous iPad models.”
But more importantly, “LGD is reportedly making new headway in producing Retina panel technology for use in the next-generation iPad mini,” DigiTimes assures its readers. “Despite previous speculation that Apple might not launch the new iPad mini until next year, the sources claimed that there has been no delay in LGD's panel production for the Apple tablet. LGD expects to ship about 2-3 million units a month for the new device, the sources said.”
The DigiTimes post, as so often, neatly sidesteps exactly when the iPad mini will ship, only saying there “had been no delay.”
But that’s enough for the Rumor Recycling Sites, such as GottaBeMobile, where Chuong Nguyen interprets DigiTimes as saying that (in his post’s headline) “Retina Display Production Suggests iPad 5, iPad mini 2 Coming in the Fall After All.”
Yet again, we’re back where we began in the endless wheel of circular reasoning. We expect the tablets in the fall, so increased component shipments show that the tablets will be announced in … the fall.
Nguyen is helpful but it turns out inaccurately more precise about the date, at least for the iPad 5: DigiTimes, he writes, “says that the tablet is expected in October” although DigiTimes’ post says no such thing.
iPad 5 releases in early September; cheap iPad mini later; iPad mini 2 later still
And the reason for this precision? “We believe.”
That’s the Royal We typically used in Notes To Investors by stock analysts, in this case by Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. His latest NTI was picked up by MacRumors Juli Clover, who summarizes Kuo’s comments in her own post:
“The fifth generation iPad, which is also expected in September, has been rumored to feature a slimmer, iPad mini-style redesign that will offer a thinner form factor and smaller bezels,” Clover writes. “According to Kuo, it will be the only iPad released in 2013, which is unsurprising as the potential release date of the iPad mini has been in flux in recent months. Though some reports have suggested Apple might release a slightly upgraded non-Retina version of the iPad mini in late 2013, Kuo does not believe that will happen.”
When Clover says the “potential release date of the iPad mini has been in flux in recent months,” she really means that “rumors of the potential release date have been in flux.” Taken as a whole, the rumors say the iPad mini 2 will be released sometime between September 2013 and April 2014; will or will not have a Retina display; that it is delayed and that it is not delayed; and that there will be as many as three new iPad mini models – a slightly upgraded iPad mini, a slightly cheaper iPad mini, and a Retina display iPad mini 2.
Kuo at least admits to the challenges Apple faces bringing the high-resolution Retina display to the Next iPad Mini. “Kuo attributes the iPad mini Retina delay to the higher energy demand of a Retina display alongside limited battery capacity because of the diminutive size of the device,” according to Macrumors. As a result, he predicts that the Retina iPad mini will be released in March or April 2014.
Let’s set aside the fact that there is no real evidence that the Next iPad mini has actually been delayed. The Retina display does indeed demand not only more battery power but a more powerful processor, which also adds greater demand on the battery. Apple “solved” this in the third-generation iPad by increasing the battery size (along with adding a more powerful processor). No one has really explained how that can be done in the iPad mini, while maintaining the overall quality of the higher-resolution display.
Kuo recycles the belief held by some that Apple is planning a “low-cost iPad mini model,” but it won’t be shipping until “December at the earliest.”
But he then adds this assessment of the low-cost model: “For the sake of gross profit, the model may not be much cheaper than current iPad mini, which means less appeal to consumers. As such, we think Apple is unlikely to launch the product this year.”
What seems unlikely to The Rollup is that Apple would ever release a “low-cost” product that is “not much cheaper” than the current model, thereby guaranteeing that it will have “less appeal” to consumers. Isn’t a low-cost model supposed to appeal to more consumers, just by being cheaper?
Kuo’s opinions are the shaky foundation for massive Narrative Structures created by iOSpherians, such as “Chris P.” writing at PhoneArena.
“Here's the thing with analysts and their analyses – you either despise them, or you don't,” he begins. “What do they know, right? And that's fair, given how often they're way off. But this time it's slightly different – KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has issued a research note to clients that has fallen into the hands of AppleInsider, giving a rather complete forecast on what wares we can expect to come from Cupertino by the end of the year. Why is it slightly different? Well, Kuo actually has a rather 'stellar' (as stellar as it can get when it comes to making predictions) track record and most rumors actually support his call.”
Think about that: most rumors support his prediction. Once upon a time, that would have been a reason to question a prediction, not accept it.
PhoneArena uses Kuo’s predictions to spin an entire tapestry of unfounded speculation about how Apple is plagued by production problems and technical challenges and delays for its next phone and tablet products. One needs only a dollop of imagination to picture what it must be like right now at One Infinite Loop: haggard, drawn, weary Apple engineers cringing as CEO Tim Cook, frothing at the mouth, screams at them to get their s**** together and don’t they understand what the word “deadline” means?
After dealing with Apple’s many phone woes, PhoneArena continues: “Apple's troubles don't end here, though, for according to Kuo, the iPad mini 2 will be pushed all the way to March or April next year. Ours and the analyst's intel seem to converge on this one, for Retina panels combined with the smaller 7.9-inch factor have proven a tough nut to crack for Cupertino.”
Again, nothing presented by Kuo or PhoneArena credibly suggests a “delay.” And one doesn’t need “intel” to realize that an iPad mini with Retina display is a tough nut, or that Apple may not intend to introduce one until later, even much later, in its product development cycle.
iPad 5 will have a 13-inch screen
A story in The Wall Street Journal has ignited speculation that Apple will soon have a 12.9-inch iPad.
“People at Apple's suppliers said [Apple] asked for prototype smartphone screens larger than its current iPhone in recent months, and has asked for screen designs for a new tablet measuring slightly less than 13 inches,” according to the Journal story. The next sentence added an important caveat, which many blogs and tech sites ignored: “Whether the designs will make their way to market is unclear, but they could lead to Apple phones and tablets that are larger than the current 4-inch iPhone 5 and 9.7-inch iPad.”
The request “in recent months” for different sizes of screens to test indicates that finished products equipped with them are in all likelihood years, not months, away.
According to the Journal’s Conventional Wisdom Narrative, “The challenge Apple faces is how to continue expanding its customer base with innovative new products and refinements of current ones. Apple has successfully done both, but analysts note the company hasn't launched a new product line since the original iPad in 2010.”
Innovation and refinement amount to making devices with different screen sizes. “The tests with suppliers suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture customer interest in smartphones and tablets from competitors that come in various sizes. Its biggest rival in the tablet and smartphone markets, South Korea's Samsung, offers products with different features and sizes in what its executives say is an effort to appeal to as many customers as possible.”
Samsung’s approach, which amounts to “Let’s throw a plate of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks,” is often considered successful based on its share of phones or tablets sold, even though none of its numerous individual models, especially in tablets, have proven as durably popular as the iPhone or iPad.
Why is it that Apple’s screen size tests are seen as a reaction to the market, rather than as a continuing product development discipline intended to anticipate technology developments, improve current offerings, and develop new product categories?
One example of this myopic bias is a stock analyst, BGC Financial's Colin Gillis. His recent investor note is quoted in the Journal story: “Apple has been slow to react to consumer desire for larger smartphone screens, [and] entry level price points on new phones. Waiting and waiting, for the new products to launch, has become painful.”
The Rollup’s advice to Mr. Gillis is to take two aspirin, chill out, and call us in the morning. Given Apple’s record Q3 iPhone sales and the continuing popularity of iPad, it seems plenty of consumers are not in pain at all.
AppleInsider’s Sam Oliver accepts the same Conventional Wisdom but, almost as an after-thought, raises the possibility that the 13-inch test screen may be for an entirely different category of product.
“A 13-inch iPad would put it in a similar class with the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, both of which are available with 13.3-inch screens,” he writes. Which raises the possibility that it wouldn’t be an iPad at all. Oliver links to a possibility mentioned by DaringFireball’s John Gruber in May 2013 that Apple may eventually introduce an iOS notebook product. Gruber sees this as part of a years-long evolution in the “Post-PC” era in which increasingly capable tablets will indeed become the primary computing platform instead of Macs and PCs.
As even the Journal acknowledges, “Apple routinely tests different designs for its products as it refines them during development.”