Production of the iPad Mini has begun, further suggesting that the smaller tablet from Apple will launch before the holidays.
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Manufacturers in China have begun assembling a new, smaller tablet computer for Apple, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Unnamed executives from component suppliers said that production of the tablet is under way. Production typically begins several weeks before Apple brings its new devices to market.
The tablet, which many refer to as the iPad Mini, will have a 7.85-inch screen. The regular iPad's screen measures 9.7 inches diagonally. The most stunning revelation to come from the Journal story is that the iPad Mini's screen will not be a Retina Display. It will use the same liquid crystal display technology that the larger iPad does, but it won't have a resolution high enough to merit the "Retina" descriptor.
Apple first introduced the Retina Display with the iPhone 4 in 2010. The iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 all have screens with resolutions higher than 320 pixels per inch, which is dense enough that spotting individual pixels is difficult. The result is that images look razor sharp and text appears as though it has been printed on paper.
Apple brought its Retina Display tech to its tablet this year with the third-generation iPad. Its display has 2048 x 1536 pixels. At 264ppi, the third-gen iPad's display has lower resolution than the pixel density of Apple's iPhones, but it still outmatches the resolution of most--if not all--competing tablets.
The Journal did not report what the resolution of the iPad Mini's screen will be. Given how Apple prefers to make things easier for iOS developers, it might stick with a resolution that's similar to its other devices. For example, it would make sense for Apple to pick 1024 x 768 pixels, which is the same resolution shared by the iPad and iPad 2. That would be a competitive resolution for a device with a 7.85-inch display, even if Apple can't market it as a Retina Display.
When will this new tablet make an appearance? It is believed that Apple will distribute invitations to the iPad Mini's unveiling as soon as Oct. 10. The unveiling itself might take place on Oct. 17, with an availability date to follow on or around Nov. 2.
The iPad Mini will be aimed at cheaper Android tablets, such as the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire. These devices are sold at or near the $200 mark. Pricing for the iPad Mini is expected to range between $249 and $349, depending on storage and other options.
Apple has not confirmed the existence of the device, and most features and specifications are unknown.
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