iPad 5 rumor rollup for the week ending August 20

Latest Apple iPad 5 scuttlebutt: Rear shells, svelteness, and Retina clues from the supply chain

Even the iOSphere seems bored with yet more photos purporting to show the iPad mini-like metal rear shell of the iPad 5. It's aluminum, it's flat, and the edges are rounded. For some, that's been an article of faith for at least eight months.

Also this week, one website speculated on how the Next iPads – both the full-size and the mini models – will succeed in being thinner and narrower by being all glass…like the iPhone. And there was a “report” – actually more of a comment made in passing – from a display analyst who says the Retina display for the next iPad mini is being produced in volumes similar to those of the non-Retina display last year at this same time.

Whatever that might mean.

You read it here second.

__________~ Phil Moore, StableyTimes, overlooking Apple’s description of the iPhone: “The back of iPhone 5 is made of anodized 6000 series aluminum — the same material used in Apple notebooks — with inlays along the top and bottom made of ceramic glass…or pigmented glass.”“The rumor pegs a thinner front bezel as the source of the iPad [5 and iPad mini 2] diet plan, which should make the new models more lightweight in addition to being thinner – and they could mirror the iPhone by moving to an all-glass body.”

__________

iPad 5 rear housing appears in new photos…in silver!

There are so many purported iPad rear housings showing up that you could create a cottage industry turning them into sushi trays or cutting boards.

Two new photos of the housing were published this week by the French tech site Nowhereelse.fr posted [Google Translate] which apparently lifted them from a microblog on the Chinese SinaWeibo website.

[IPHONEYS: The iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 edition]

The pictures allegedly show the iPad 5 housing in comparison to an iPad mini rear housing, which has caused some bloggers to speculate that the smaller housing might be for the expected iPad mini 2. One photo shows them from the back while the second shows their interiors. The Consensus Rumor for many months is that the new iPad 5 will have narrower sides to the “frame” surrounding the display (and therefore be less wide overall) and rounded edges, both features that distinguish the iPad mini.

“We’ve seen this part before, says CultOfMac’s John Brownlee, commenting on the new photos. “Way back in January, the first iPad 5 rear shell popped up, and we’ve seen new leaks every month or two since then. Unless this is a scam of epic proportions, Apple has been serious about this design for at least the last eight months.”

This reasoning is essentially a variation of “what else could it be?”

Even NowhereElse founder Steve Hemmerstoffer veered between wild excitement and something like boredom, sometimes in the space of a single Google-translated sentence: “In short, these new pictures do not tell us anything we did not already know but confirmed for the umpteenth time the rumors that keep us in suspense since the beginning of the year and at the same time that production of the iPad likely to 5 turns full speed.”

MacRumor’s Richard Padilla says the photos “are also consistent with a previous report that the next-generation full-sized iPad would use the same touch panel technology like that of the current generation iPad mini to achieve a smaller size.”

It is widely expected in the iOSphere that the glass-on-glass touch panel used in the existing 9.7-inch iPads will be replaced by the glass-film technology introduced by Apple in the first 7.9-inch iPad mini almost a year ago. The overall assembly becomes thinner and lighter be eliminating a layer of glass.

iPad 5, iPad mini 2 are slimmer, more svelte, and all glass…like the iPhone.

That’s the rumor from StableyTimes.com, which describes itself as “a new kind of news” and they prove it day in and day out.

According to a rather confusing post this week by Phil Moore, headlined “New iPad 5, retina iPad mini 2 get slimmer for 2013 release date,” both of the new tablets will be “more svelte.” Moore doesn’t provide any evidence that the iPad mini is being smaller in any dimension.

“The rumor pegs a thinner front bezel as the source of the iPad diet plan, which should make the new models more lightweight in addition to being thinner – and they could mirror the iPhone by moving to an all-glass body,” Moore writes.

It's not clear what he means by this last comment. According to Apple's website, “The back of iPhone 5 is made of anodized 6000 series aluminum — the same material used in Apple notebooks — with inlays along the top and bottom made of ceramic glass (on the white and silver model) or pigmented glass (on the black and slate model).” So most of the iPhone 5’s body is aluminum, not glass.

A second confusion is about the meaning of the word “bezel” which is not a term that, as it relates to the iPhone or iPad, has a generally accepted meaning; and Apple itself doesn’t seem to use it, at least on its Website. Moore doesn’t explain what he means by that word. Finally, there is confusion about what he means by a “thinner” bezel, because “thinner” could refer to more than one dimension, or more than one feature, or both.

Moore seems to be using “bezel” to mean the front border or “frame” surrounding the iPad’s Liquid Crystal Display (The Rollup has used the same word to mean the same thing in the past). This border is formed on the underside of the tablet’s glass cover, although Moore seems to be confused about this, too. “This comes after the first four iPad generations each looking largely the same from the front, with black or white acrylic plastic surrounding the screen,” he says.

This picture of the fourth-generation iPad from Apple’s website, clearly shows the iPad's glass cover with, in this instance, the black frame surrounding and demarcating the actual LCD display, which lies underneath the glass.

Another view of the front cover is in this photo from iFixIt, the mobile device repair service. The picture shows the "front cover" or "front panel" or "cover glass" (iFixIt seems to use all three terms interchangeably) of the iPad -- with its surrounding front "frame" -- being lifted up. The large black rectangle beneath it, nestled in the aluminum body, is the Liquid Crystal Display. In its parts catalog, iFixIt calls this front cover the "iPad Retina Front Panel" and the "3rd or 4th Gen iPad front glass panel."

What iFixIt calls the "bezel" is the thin black “plastic” strip running around the top edge of the underlying aluminum rear case. (Here’s a closer photo showing the bezel being lifted off the aluminum rear housing.)

What Moore seems to be saying is that sides of the front border or frame around the iPad’s LCD display will get narrower, to resemble the proportions of the frame in the iPad mini. The difference is clear in the large photo on Apple’s main iPad webpage, which shows the iPad and iPad mini lying on their sides.

No one expects the 9.7-inch LCD display to change size in the iPad 5. If Apple’s actual goal is to continue to make the iPad lighter and “smaller,” then making it less wide would result in a narrower border on the sides of the front glass cover. The iPad’s overall width is currently 7.31 inches wide; the iPad mini is 5.3 inches.

Moore is more or less correct when he says that “Apple has had difficulty in shrinking the full size iPad any further due to the fact that the bulk of the tablet’s innards are taken up by the battery.” To drive both the iPad Retina display introduced with the third-generation tablet, and its far more powerful processor including quad-core graphics, and maintain acceptable battery life, Apple dramatically increased the battery size.

Apple may still be able to fit the same battery into a slightly smaller (less wide) rear housing; or it may be able to free up more internal space by changing the iPad’s internal design, layout, and components; or both. CultOfMac’s John Brownlee, in his post on the NowhereElse photos, mentions another possibility: if a new display technology for iPad, uses much less power, then Apple might be able to reduce the size of the battery. Brownlee mentions Sharp’s IGZO technology which offers both greatly improved power efficiency, image quality and resolution.

Possibly, the iPad 5 could also be “smaller” in the sense of being less thick. Adopting the glass-film display technology used in the iPad mini, Apple may be able to create an overall assembly that has fewer layers and is therefore thinner and lighter than the assembly for the current fourth-generation iPad.

iPad mini 2 Retina display production is, uh, “like last year's model”

Since this revelation is about the high-resolution iPad mini, it must be important. Somehow.

“Production of displays for the expected high-resolution version of the iPad Mini is at levels similar to last year's launch of the first-generation iPad Mini, IHS iSuppli told CNET,” says Brooke Crothers

He quotes Vinita Jakhanwal, director of mobile and emerging displays at IHS iSuppli: “Based [what] we are seeing in the [production] pipeline...The volumes are similar to the iPad Mini that we saw in Q4 of last year.”

Perhaps the encouraging news is that iSuppli believes the Retina display iPad mini is actually being manufactured. Or, at least the display assembly itself is. But neither Crothers nor Jakhanwal thought to say anything about what kind of technology is being used for the display or, most of all, when the final Retina display iPad mini might become available.

Presumably, a Retina version of the mini, with a 7.9-inch panel, will have a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536, which is the same as the existing 9.7-inch iPad. “Because the display is smaller, however, the pixel density will increase: from 264 pixels-per-inch on the iPad 4 to about 324 ppi on the Mini,” Crothers writes. “That would be, more or less, the same pixel density as the 7-inch Nexus 7 (gen 2), which has 323 pixels per inch, one of the highest per date for a tablet.” The resolution for the new 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet is 1,920 x 1,200 pixels.

To drive the Retina display in the 9.7-inch iPad 3, and the physically larger system-on-chip with its quad-core graphics processor, Apple packed in a much larger battery to increase capacity. Doing that in the much smaller volume of the iPad mini is going to be difficult. In the case of the new Nexus 7, its 3,950 mAh battery is driving fewer pixels than a Retina iPad mini would have. The current iPad mini battery (via the iFixIt tear-down) is rated as follows: 3.72 volts, 16.5 Watt-hours, 4,440 mAh.

But Norman Chan, reviewing the Nexus 7's battery life for Tested.com, http://www.tested.com/tech/457058-testing-new-nexus-7s-battery-life/ noted that Google’s new tablet is thinner and lighter than the original Nexus 7, and has a higher resolution display, a more advanced (but also more power-efficient) CPU. Yet its battery actually has less capacity than the first-generation product (15 Whr and 3,950 mAh compared to 16 Whr and 4,325 mAh).

“In my testing of the new Nexus 7 (which doesn't account for long-term/multi-month use and potential battery degradation), the battery life was excellent,” Chan writes, essentially matching the battery life of the older model. “I also think that the difference in usage scenarios for 7-inch tablets compared to laptops, phones, and "full-size" tablets requires that we valuate battery life differently.”

(CATCH UP: Read last week’s iPad 5 rumor rollup here.)

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwjohn_cox@nww.com

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