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iPad Mini Retina looking iffy to ship with iPad 5

One of Apple's most anticipated products is still uncertain for high-volume availability this year.

Shipment timing of an iPad Mini Retina is proving hard to predict.
Shipment timing of an iPad Mini Retina is proving hard to predict.

So far, there is little evidence that points to shipments of one of Apple's most highly-anticipated products in October.

While Apple's iPad 5 looks to be on schedule for an October release, that's not the case for the Retina version of the Mini, according to Rhoda Alexander, director of Tablet and Monitor Research at IHS iSuppli.

"The Retina Mini looks less certain for that time. Manufacturing volumes on that would match better with a Q114 [first quarter 2014] launch," she told CNET.

Though she quickly qualified that saying, "But given that it's Apple, one never knows" -- meaning that Apple could announce a product but not necessarily ship it in the same time frame as the iPad 5.

Here's another confounding factor: the Asia-based supply chain of manufacturers. While analysts have talked about the start of Mini Retina display production, that's not the same as high-volume production or manufacture of the tablet itself.

IHS iSuppli, for instance, gave some aggressive estimates for Retina Mini display production earlier this year but added the caveat that production volumes necessary for Apple may not happen until late this year.

And then there's the design challenges. It may be thicker, heavier than the current Mini -- which has received mostly rave reviews because of the exceptional balance of size and weight. "I don't think that there's any way that they're not going to have a tradeoff with thickness," Alexander said.

Other analysts believe Apple has to announce a Mini Retina this year. "We think iPad Mini 2 may lose its opportunity in the market if it is slated for introduction next year," KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this month.

Adding to the confusion is the possible earlier arrival of thinner non-Retina Mini model that comes with a A6 or A7 processor, upgraded from the current A5. NPD DisplaySearch expects that to happen this year.

So, it is possible that Apple announces the product. Just don't expect Retina Minis to fly out of factory doors.