Reminder: Nobody but Apple Knows What’s Happening with the Retina iPad Mini

Consider this your routine reminder not to believe every single Apple rumor, especially those based on mysterious supply chain sources.

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While we’d certainly like to see an iPad Mini with a Retina display this year, months of rumors have produced no compelling evidence that it’s going to happen. If anything, we’re less certain about the prospect than ever in light of several conflicting reports. Thanks for nothing, rumor mill!

The latest scuttlebutt is a puzzler, courtesy of Richard Shim at NPD DisplaySearch (via CNet and Business Insider). Shim says Apple is on track to ship an iPad Mini with a Retina display this fall, but with the same A5 processor as the current model. A more powerful version, he said, will follow in the first quarter of 2014.

Unless Apple has pulled off some miraculous engineering, in which a two year-old processor can power quadruple the pixels at no apparent cost to overall performance, NPD’s story doesn’t add up.

At a resolution of 2048-by-1536, a Retina-display iPad Mini would have four times as many pixels as the non-Retina model. It takes more power to handle all those pixels, which is why Apple introduced the A5x chip in the third-generation iPad last year. Speaking to Business Insider, Shim had no explanation for why Apple might use an A5 chip instead, or how that would even work.

At this point, I’d usually turn to other rumors to figure out some sort of consensus — an Apple tea leaf triangulation, if you will — but consensus on the next iPad Mini is hard to find. Here’s a sampling of other recent rumors with conflicting information:

  • In December, Chinese website said a Retina iPad Mini would soon begin mass production, with an A6X processor.
  • Contradicting that report, Chinese-language site,, claimed that  small-scale production had begun on a Retina iPad Mini 2, but with an A5X processor.
  • In March, Chinese website CNYes said the Retina-equipped Mini was on track to launch in the fall, with no word on processing power.
  • iMore, a fairly reliable Apple rumor source, claimed that the next iPads could debut “as soon as April.” Didn’t happen. The site cautioned that a Retina display for the Mini “doesn’t sound imminent.”
  • In mid-April, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the iPad Mini 2 would be delayed due to technical challenges, but didn’t get into specifics on timing.
  • Kuo followed up later that month by claiming that mass production of the Retina iPad Mini wouldn’t begin until at least October, and that Apple might launch a cheaper iPad Mini, priced at $200 or $250, as a holdover. (Kuo has a good track record but this prediction just seems bizarre.)

Not all of these rumors can be true. Apple may ship a Retina display iPad Mini in the fall, or it may not. It may ship a new iPad Mini with an A5 processor, but that would likely mean no Retina display. Basically, everything’s on the table right now.

Just consider this your routine reminder not to believe every single Apple rumor, especially those based on mysterious supply chain sources. At best, those are educated guesses, and the folks doing the guessing are at odds about what’s actually going on.