The rumors have been flying fast and furious. Will Apple's next iPad mini have a Retina display? Some sources have said that it wouldn't come until after an intermediate model without that feature. Now the situation is a somewhat clearer with the Wall Street Journal reporting that an iPad mini with a Retina display will go into production late this year.
Part of the delay may have been Apple's desire to reduce its dependence on its biggest rival, Samsung, and select other suppliers to carry the complete manufacturing load for the mini's Retina display.
Last week, Google announced its next generation Nexus 7 with an impressive 1920 x 1200 display made by Japan Display, Inc and using a low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) technology. But that technology isn't ready immediately, and those Nexus 7 units won't be ready until early next year. Nevertheless, the announcement may have forced Apple's hand.
Previously, stories have circulated that Apple approached both Japan Displays, Inc. as well as Sharp for its next iPad mini with a Retina display. That high-resolution iPad mini can probably expect high volume sales and would stress the production capacity of any one company to meet demand.
Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has chosen Sharp and LG, but has added Samsung, in addition, to insure adequate supplies for its iPad mini Retina displays. However, production will won't start until the 4th quarter. That puts Apple's product launch in about the same timeframe as the Nexus 7. The report also suggests that Apple is looking into various colors for the back of the iPad mini, a design theme seen in the rumors of a lower cost iPhone.
If Apple had been planing to ship an intermediate model, to generate a more frequent product release cycle, Google's recent, impressive Nexus 7 announcement may have scuttled that idea.
All this underscores the lingering frenemy status between Apple and Samsung. Apple might have moved faster on its decision if suppliers other than Samsung could have carried the whole load. But the Nexus 7 announcement seems to have made the decision for Apple: work with Samsung to come on as a third supplier as insurance for the expected high demand for its long-awaited iPad mini Retina.