October 10 has come and gone without an Apple invitation (Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt who called for it apologized), prompting watchers to wonder about a smaller and cheaper iPad Apple’s rumored to be close to launching under the iPad mini moniker.

According to a supply chain report today, Apple is facing quality control issues with the device’s display and chassis, suggesting that shipments are not smooth at the moment due to low yield rates. The report notes that the iPad mini will come in native and black-colored aluminum chassis said to be “more vulnerable to scratching”. That doesn’t sound good.

The manufacturing difficulties are being blamed on anodizing, a finish process where aluminum thrown into a pool of chemicals and then running an electrical current through the acid bath, which produces a skin-deep layer that can easily be peeled off. The anodized finish process on the black cases for the iPad mini is reportedly “more critical”, resulting in lower yield rates…

This one comes from the somewhat-reliable DigiTimes, an Asian trade publication otherwise well versed in manufacturing and supply chain topics.

The sources pointed out that although the iPad Mini’s chassis adopts a similar material as the 9.7-inch model, the iPad Mini’s design and tactile feel will be different from those of the larger model.

The report goes on to note that the upcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Retina Display, the iPad mini and new iMacs have all been delayed from September to October amid manufacturing issues.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White is touring Asian supply chain and last week speculated that “complex components” could delay the iPad mini for several months.


Designer Martin Hajek’s rendition of an iPhone 4S, iPad mini and regular iPad.

The analyst wrote in a note to investors:

Our team sensed that suppliers have found the specs around Apple’s 7.85-inch iPad mini to be a challenge and yields have been frustrating.

In our view, this is the reason the iPad mini is 4-6 weeks behind our original launch expectation that we discussed in June.

That said, we believe that supply constraints will initially hold back the full sales potential during the first month or so of the launch.

He also said “Apple did not skimp” on the aesthetics, leading him to believe that the iPad mini “could outshine” the new iPad in terms of how it feels in your hands.

Apple, of course, is also busy addressing the iPhone 5 supply shortfall and quality control issues with the handset’s metal backing which collects scratches from “normal” wear and tear.

A week ago, DigiTimes also reported that the iPad mini’s aluminum chassis is being made by Foxconn Electronics, Catcher Technology and Ri-Teng Computer Accessory, an associate company of Pegatron, Apple’s other favorite product assembler, after Foxconn.

Other iPad mini suppliers reportedly include TPK Holdings and Largan Precision.


Hopefully, the iPad mini won’t scratch just as easily as the iPhone 5

As for product assembly, the iPad mini will be made by both Pegatron and Foxconn, which was the sole maker for the previous iPad lineup. The first wave of orders will be distributed evenly among the two contract manufacturers, the report notes.

DigiTimes also has another story up (subscription required) claiming that production of a fourth-generation iPad is scheduled to begin in mid-2013, marking an unusual exception from first-quarter launches of all iPads to date.

What do you make of this?

Is Apple really that naive to elevate Scuffgate to the next level by engineering the iPad mini around the same Unibody anodized aluminum casing as the iPhone 5?

Scuffgate on a grand scale, anyone?