iPad 3 rumor rollup for the week of Feb. 21

iSmall, display hype, the supply chain exposed.

In the real world, leaks cause you to sink, but in the iOSsphere they cause you to float, higher and higher.

With iPad 3, a news leak is anything that confirms your own thinking or longing. This week, the iOSsphere longs for a smaller iPad, Retina Display, revelations of the secret Apple supply chain, and savors the subtlest of differences with iPad 2.

You read it here second.


"However, it is entirely possible this particular reseller is exploiting the iPad 3 hype to get some attention."

~ Christian Zibreg, 9to5Mac, neatly summarizing the entire value chain of iPad 3 rumoring.


iPad 3 is a precursor to a smaller 7-inch iPad

Two stock analysts are predicting that iPad 3 will only be the first Next iPad launched in 2012. The second: a "smaller, more affordable" iPad with a 7-inch screen and a price tag of $299.

That's according to a story at EE Times by Sylvie Barak. It's just the latest version of a persistent, months-long iOSsphere conviction that the idea of a smaller iPad is simply so sound that Apple must be planning it.

In this newest prediction, the iSmall will be considered the affordable iPad, with iPad 2, repriced lower, taking the mid-range, and iPad 3 at the high-end, according to Brett Simpson and Richard Kramer of Arete Research. EE Times quoted from their assessment: "Given the iPad 3 aims to use higher spec parts (quad-core CPU, higher resolution display, LTE, and improved camera) there is plenty of scope to offer a cost down model supporting ~$100 lower bill of materials." (Clearly, they've been reading plenty of other iPad 3 rumors.)

But the same could be said of repriced iPad 2 models - a "cost down model" with a lower price tag. Apple has been repricing iPhones each time the latest generation is announced. Currently, the three Wi-Fi-only iPad models, with 16G, 32G and 64GB of storage are $499, $599 and $699; with 3G, each models adds about $130.

As EE Times' Barak noted, the late Steve Jobs derided smaller screen tablets; and the 9.7-inch size for the iPad seems to have been based on a lengthy series of internal design iterations. Barak writes the two analysts "believe the new management is revisiting the idea" but they apparently didn't offer any evidence to support that.

iPad 3 parts show it will have Retina Display

"iPad 3 parts are supposedly cropping up all over China," writes Christian Zibreg, at 9to5Mac. And the latest ones are from the Japanese Website, Macotakara, which republished photos first posted by a parts reseller, Eye Lab Factory, of a tablet's display componentry.

Eye Lab apparently claims the display is by Sharp, that it's high resolution, that it's 9.7 inches diagonal, and that "its flat cable corresponds to a similar cable connecting the iPad 2′s LCD panel to the motherboard," Zibreg writes.

Zibreg adds the pro forma iOSsphere caveats about taking all this with "several grains of salt." And after he describes another parts reseller posting images of things like an iPad 3 "internal earphone jack and a Bluetooth antenna flex cable," he cautions, "However, it is entirely possible this particular reseller is exploiting the iPad 3 hype to get some attention."

Come on. Who would do a thing like that?

Certainly not the iPhone 5 News Blog, which concluded that the unsourced, unverified and unverifiable display actually "corroborates" that iPad 3 is in production, and a March release date is likely.

It does this, writes Michale Nace, because the photo "matches the rumors of the iPad 3's new display, and fits in with earlier reports [i.e. rumors] indicating that the iPad 3 production has been underway for some time now."

Nace swears that "it's never easy to get excited about the release of a new gadget based solely on sightings of abstract components like the one pictured in this article." Clearly, the opposite is true. Nevertheless, "it does help to complete the picture that rumors of a March-released iPad 3, complete with a lustrous new retina display, seems to be playing out as true." The unverifiable picture helps to complete the picture painted by other unverifiable pictures and rumors.

"I have said in articles past, the easiest rumor for the tech rumor mill to manufacture is a 'parts sighting,' since very [few] people are truly qualified to confirm the validity of new components, and yet it would be very easy to fabricate or doctor an image to make it seem new," Nace writes.

A lucid, realistic assessment which he promptly undermines in his next sentence: "But there are other recent photos to suggest that all of the critical parts of the iPad 3 are being produced and assembled." Other recent photos that very few people are truly qualified to confirm the validity of and yet could be easily fabricated or doctored. Those photos.

"Still, we've often noted here on the blog that, when rumored photos of new components make their way into the news, it usually foreshadows an imminent product release, since, while Apple may be able to control leaks out of Cupertino, they have a much more difficult time keeping a lid on components and production news coming out of Asia," Nace explains.

Rollup isn't certain but Nace seems to be saying that when rumored photos, which can't be verified and might be doctored, make their way into rumors which are then repeated by blogs like his own, then they are transformed into foreshadowings of imminent product releases. Sort of like alchemy transforming lead into gold.

The key here is positive thinking. "These photos are undoubtedly building a 'breadcrumb trail' that indicates we will indeed see a March iPad 3 release, which should in turn give us increased hope that the iPhone 5 could be on the horizon for June," Nace concludes.

iPad 3 will have tapered edge and 8 megpixel back camera

That's the conclusion of a Taiwanese web site, Apple Daily, aka Next Media, that published photos showing the housings or shells of the first two iPads and what the site claims, in Chinese, is an iPad 3 housing.

There's nothing quite like well-lit, clear photographs to fascinate the iOSsphere. Arnold Kim, at Macrumors, was gratified to see that the iPad 3 shell "should look familiar as it seems to be the same part we previously published."

But, ominously, he mentions that the better light "reveals the more subtle changes" to the shell. "Subtle" is often an iOSsphere code word that means "most of you don't realize it, and it's hard to tell, but trust us: it's there."

Another group of photos, which may be of the same shell, showed up at M.I.C. Gadget, and also quickly flashed through the iOSsphere, as at Cult of Mac, where Charlie Sorrel observed that the "drip of hardware leaks is turning into a torrent." At WebProNews, Shaylin Clark's story on these images carried the headline "More iPad 3 Leaks Confirm Latest Rumors," as if the photos and other information from unnamed sources wasn't itself rumor.

Wikipedia defines a news leak as "a disclosure of embargoed information in advance of its official release, or the unsanctioned release of confidential information." The iOSsphere often defines news leak more broadly, as "anything that sounds, or looks, good."

What the good-looking Apple Daily photos show Arnold Kim is that the alleged iPad 3 has a "more gradual taper to the edges than the iPad 2" and the camera "lens does appear larger," with the Taiwanese rumor site claiming the Next iPad's rear camera will be 8 megapixels instead of one, the loneliest number.

"Overall, the images here seem to match up to other parts that have been floating around China," observes Kim, revealing Macrumors' standard for verifying rumors. "Apple Daily is described, however, as a 'tabloid-style' newspaper, but the Hong Kong edition is said to be quite popular as the second best selling publication."

Kim can't seem to make up his mind: a tabloid-style newspaper seems a bad thing, you know playing loose with the facts, unlike a rumor-style Website with "rumors" as part of its domain name, but the fact that it's a popular tabloid-style newspaper suggests that millions of Hong Kongians just can't be wrong.

iPad 3 displays by Samsung seen at Chinese factory

You can tell a lot from a photograph, although the picture quality is quite poor. You just have to know how to look for those subtle changes.

And that's ITProPortal's Radu Tyrsina did, when he saw a "set of images apparently showing iPad 3 displays ready for shipment at a factory in China," originally published by Chinese tech site App.wepost.me.

Unless Tyrsina reads Chinese, he may have relied on Google Translate, but perhaps not enough, as he seems to have formed his conclusion by simply looking at the photos "allegedly leaked from a Radiant Opto-Electronics factory in Wujiang, China, which is a Samsung supplier."

"Despite the tight security in that plant," Tyrsina writes, "the set of 20 snapshots manages to offer us a rare glimpse into the iPad supply chain, although the picture quality is quite poor."

"Quite poor" is an understatement by several orders of magnitude. The photos showed by App.wepost.me look like they were shot underwater by someone suffering from nitrogen narcosis

In fact, they are so bad that Rollup is tempted to suspect that someone is pulling someone else's leg. It's rather easy to imagine a few teenaged Chinese nerds with too much time, and beer, on their hands deciding on a prank. But a "rare glimpse into the iPad supply chain" sounds so much better.

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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