The next-generation iPad mini 2 may not arrive until early next year due to a shortage of the retina display fitted to the new tablet, industry sources claim.
Thought to be announced alongside a redesigned full-size iPad at an Apple media event on 15 October, the second generation iPad mini may only be available in very limited quantities during the Christmas shopping season, before a larger rollout in the new year.
Speaking anonymously to Reuters, the supply chain sources said manufacturers of the high-resolution screen have been unable to meet the high quantity demanded by Apple, and that there have been delays in the California company's certification process for display producers.
The report echos comments made by Rhoda Alexander of supply chain analyst IHS iSuppli, who told CNET that a retina-screened iPad mini "looks less certain" to arrive at the expected 15 October event than an update to the regular iPad, adding: "Manufacturing volumes on that [mini] would match better with Q114 [first quarter, 2014] launch."
LG Display, Samsung Electronics and Sharp Corp all vied to manufacturer the 7.9in iPad mini panels, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal in August, when mass production of the new tablet was believed to have begun.
Used by the full-size iPad for more than 18 months, the retina displays have a resolution so high that individual pixels cannot be identified by the human eye. The iPhone has also featured a retina display since the fourth-generation smartphone was launched in mid-2010, and high-end MacBook Pro laptops also feature the high-resolution screens.
When the original iPad launched in late 2012 with a resolution of 1024 x 768 it was already assumed by consumers that the next model would arrive a year later and feature a retina display, along with the usual reduction in weight and thickness, and increase in performance seen by most of Apple's annual updates.
'There will be howls'
Missing out on a retina display would be a major blow for the iPad mini, says Forrester analyst Frank Gillett: "If they don't put in retina...there will be howls."
The supply chain sources expect Apple to either wait until early 2014 for a full-fledged launch of the iPad mini 2, or to make the new tablet available in limited quantities before the end of the year - an option that would likely see the same widespread stock shortages experienced by the iPhone 5s last month.
Consumers are unlikely to respond positively to another year of non-retina resolution with the iPad mini, especially given rivals Google and Amazon both offer similarly sized 7in tablets with retina-resolution screens and lower prices with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX respectively.
Two sources also claim Apple has instructed suppliers to reduce costs, with one person saying the US firm is looking at introducing an iPad mini with 16GB of storage and a lower price.
The cheapest iPad mini currently has 16GB of storage and sells for £269; by contrast, the latest Google Nexus 7 has higher screen resolution, the same storage, and costs £199.
Arthur Liao, an analyst for Fubon Securities in Taipei, said: "Right now the iPad mini is more expensive than everyone else in the 7- to 8-inch tablet segment. If it could reduce its price by even just $50, it would appeal to more consumers."
However, while Apple may want to save on manufacturing costs, one source warned that this does not always translate into savings for the consumer.
"Don't expect the price to be significantly lower. Even though Apple aims to cut down on component costs, it still ends up around the same as the current mini because the new mini will have upgraded specifications."
These specifications, published by serial Apple leaker Sonny Dickson, point towards the mini getting the same A7 processor and M7 coprocessor as the iPhone 5s, along with 1GB of RAM. The iPad mini 2 is also thought to be available in grey, black and gold, matching the iPhone 5s.