12/21/12 5:00 AM PT
The iPad mini is one of Apple’s only products not to boast a Retina display, but it appears that will be a short-lived distinction. The Apple rumor mill is floating the idea of the next mini refresh coming with the higher-resolution screen. The little iPad that Steve Jobs swore he’d never build is performing well in the market, particularly in Asia.
Premium Price Without Premium Display
Screen resolution on the mini is 1024 x 768 pixels (163 pixels per inch). By comparison, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD have displays with resolutions of 1280 x 800 pixels (216 ppi), while the Barnes and Noble Nook HD boasts a screen with a resolution of 1440 x 900 and ppi of 243 — very close to the 264 ppi of the iPad 3’s retina display.
“If the iPad were selling at a price equivalent to its competitors, the lower resolution wouldn’t be a problem; at a premium price, it is,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld.
A 16-GB iPad mini is priced at US$330. That contrasts sharply with the $199 price tag for an equivalent Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD and $229 for a 16-GB Nook HD.
Pricing doesn’t appear to have hurt sales of the mini, however. Apple will sell 6.5 million minis in the current quarter, according to a research note written by Barclays analyst Ben A. Reitzes. That figure could be higher if Apple can iron out supply problems its had since the launch of the tablet.
“There’s a huge shortage of displays right now, so that’s what’s created the issue,” Enderle explained.
That situation is changing rapidly, though, according to Reitzes.
“Checks indicate availability of the iPad mini is improving significantly, although we expect supply to be constrained into the March quarter, but still feel that the supply chain can produce at least 8 million units in the December quarter,” he said. “For FY13 we estimate iPad unit sales will grow 65.2 percent to 96 million including a contribution of 39 million iPad minis.”
Mini sales appear to be doing well, asserted Ben Bajarin, principal at Creative Strategies. “Demand for it in the marketplace is extremely strong,” he told MacNewsWorld. “It’s even doing well in other areas, like Asia. It’s at least meeting expectations if not exceeding expectations on all levels.”
In addition to the Retina display, the next generation mini may also have some evolutionary improvements, he noted. “We will see spec bumps where we’ve seen spec bumps before.”
Those areas might include a lighter weight, upgraded processor and higher resolution for its rear-facing camera.
Question of When
While the Apple watchers agreed on the prospects of a Retina display for the mini, there was less consensus on when Apple would refresh the hardware.
Competition and market demands will pressure Apple to refresh the mini in the spring, Enderle predicted.
“There’s so much pressure on the market now that Samsung and others are bringing out ever better products to compete with Apple so I think it will be on a faster cycle time with its iPads going forward,” he maintained.
On the other hand, Apple’s fall iPad event this year may have been a reset of the product line’s refresh cycle, Rubin contends. Since the iPad is such a popular gift item, it makes sense to refresh it in the fall, in time for the holidays, he reasoned.
“We might not see the next generation of iPads until next fall,” he said.