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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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.