Apple could shift 50 million iPad minis next year, pack mini 2 with Retina

9.7" version might lose some weight

iPad mini

Next year could be the year of the iPad mini, or at the very least a robust one for the 7-plus-inch slate, if two predictions floated this week come true.

The first comes from David Hsieh, vice president, Greater China Market for NPD DisplaySearch, an analytics firm that specializes in display supply chain and display-related industries, in a recent blog post.

According to Hsieh, Apple could ship 100 million iPads next year with the iPad mini taking up half of that figure.

What's more, DigiTimes reported Thursday that Apple will zero in on the next-gen iPad mini's display for improvements. The paper's sources aren't sure if that means the mini 2.0 wil have Retina display, but chances are that could be the case.

Mini time

DigiTimes' prediction isn't exactly new news - we've heard that the iPad mini 2 could pack a 2,048 x 1,536 screen resolution - though the publication added the Retina tech would give the tablet a ppi of 326 (we've heard 324 before).

But the paper does cite industry sources, albeit unnamed ones, which adds more fuel to the Retina display fire.

As for Hsieh's predictions, he said that Apple planned to sell 6 million iPad mini's this year but, citing a DisplaySearch report, only 1.6 million displays shipped in the third quarter, causing the supply to tighten.

However, Apple has since ordered 12 million screens for Q4.

Apple initially faced shortages for its 7.85-inch XGA display thanks to the acutely difficult task of making a panel for the mini, Hsieh noted.

According to the analyst, iPad panels are difficult to make in general because of high res and low power requirements, as well as wide viewing angle and high color saturation specifications that require additional photomask steps during production.

While a standard backplane takes four to five photomask steps, the iPad and iPad mini need six to seven, or - for those builders with limited IPS and FFS production experience - as many as eight.

Hsieh thinks Apple will make the adjustments it needs to reach its 100 million iPad goal, with the iPad 4 shipping 40 million units and the iPad 2 (still going strong) 10 million.

One catch and a point of dissonance between the two reports is that Hsieh said Apple will need to recruit more panel makers to meet demand for 50 million minis.

If those figures include next-gen minis, Apple could find itself in the same short supply boat as it did this year if it needs to train more manufacturers to build even more taxing Retina displays.

Yet another little bit from the DigiTimes' report: other sources reportedly said that Apple plans to cut down on the next 9.7-inch iPad's weight by switching from two LED light bars to a one - meaning different manufacturing techniques.

Apple can't be faulted for innovating - but it might want to print some handbooks before it gets to building.