Apple could be aiming to refresh the third-generation iPad to reduce weight and make other improvements, CNET has learned.
The updated 9.7-inch Retina iPad would address issues with the first-generation Retina product. That includes making it lighter and improving the LED backlight apparatus, according to market research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
"We are seeing [Apple] work with panel makers to come out with a display that enables a thinner overall [product] with longer battery life," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch.
"Of course the supply chain is dynamic, but we're seeing some early indications that this may be happening," he added. Because of the vagaries of the supply chain -- made up of manufacturers and suppliers -- orders get canceled, plans get changed, sometimes on a monthly basis.
DisplaySearch last week published a research note about the updated iPad Retina, which said "Apple is working with the LCD supply chain to refresh the display, including revising the LED backlight design for cost reduction, refining the thermal solution, reducing the weight by replacing some components, and fine tuning the panel transmittance for lower power consumption."
That would include using an IGZO display to reduce the display's thickness and heat, Shim added. Samsung would be a likely manufacturer, he said.
Raymond Soneira, the founder, president, and CEO of DisplayMate Technologies, said earlier this year that iPad Retina in its current form was actually Plan B for Apple. Plan A was an iPad that didn't have the additional heft. (While the Apple tablet's height and width remained the same, the thickness of the new iPad swelled slightly to 0.37 inch and the weight edged up to 1.44 pounds.)
"There's no question that the iPad 3 is Plan B. They pushed amorphous silicon [display tech] to a higher [pixels per inch] than anybody else. But the light throughput is not good. So it has roughly twice as many LEDs, and they had to get a 70 percent larger battery," Soneira said previously, referring to the Retina iPad.
If Apple goes forward with production, about 7 million updated Retina iPads could be produced in October, according to DisplaySearch (see chart below).
But it would be an unusual move for Apple, which would typically wait a year to offer a successor to the iPad Retina, which was announced back in March.
Apple is also expected to bring out an iPad Mini later this fall that sports an IPS 7.85-inch display. Monthly production volume is slated to hit 5 million in October.
Apple supply chain companies include Corning, Japan Display, LG Display, Sharp, AUO, Chimei Innolux, Samsung, Radiant, Coretronic, TPK, Wintek, and Foxconn.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.
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