Get Ready for Apple's Retina iPad Mini

There may be a handful of engineering challenges that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) faces in making a Retina iPad Mini, many of which seemingly conflict with the strategic purchase of the smaller tablet, but the Mac maker is still expected to deliver such a device in the near future.

NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim tells CNET that the Retina iPad Mini is still on track for launch this year, likely in the third quarter. DisplaySearch typically has a reliable read on panel supply chain happenings, so Shim's predictions have some bearing. The new model is expected to carry a Retina display alongside a faster processor.

The three most important components in making Retina happen are the display, processor, and battery. Getting a panel with double the pixel dimensions is just the first step. Apple would also need a chip with beefier graphics, such as the X-series of its A-chips that feature more graphics cores. Both of those ingredients would rely on a much larger battery, which is a challenge considering the small size of the iPad Mini.

These challenges are far from insurmountable, but addressing all of these needed changes could result in greater costs or larger form factors -- which go against what the iPad Mini is all about.

The low end is where all of Apple's tablet rivals are seeing the most success, thanks to its price umbrella, so this is likely where Apple will be focusing most of its efforts. Another analyst even thinks an iPad Mini price cut may be in store, which Apple could achieve by giving up certain features like a rear camera or large storage capacity.

Perhaps more interesting is that Shim foresees another product refresh very shortly after in the first quarter of next year. The analyst doesn't provide any more detail, but such a short product cycle would be rather odd considering Apple seems to have moved its iPad product cycle to the fall.

Well, fall is on its way, so a Retina iPad Mini may be, too.

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