iPad mini 2 rear shell (WeiPhone 002)iPad mini 2 rear shell (WeiPhone 001)

A fresh batch of images purportedly representing the back shell believed to belong to a next-generation iPad mini have popped up on a Chinese forum. On the surface, the back part is reminiscent of the current-generation iPad mini design. On closer inspection, however, it appears to be a little thicker. Per rumor mills, the next iPad mini looks virtually identical to the original, but if the iPad 3 is anything to go by, the Retina upgrade in fact could add thickness in order to accommodate a bigger battery and better graphics, both required to power the Retina display…

Here, two more images.

iPad mini 2 rear shell (WeiPhone 003)iPad mini 2 rear shell (WeiPhone 004)

If you’re wondering about that bright blue Apple logo, MacRumors speculates it could simply be “part of the process used to create the mirrored logo and text as seen on the current product”.

That, or the iPad mini 2 is coming in a bunch of colors (hint: fashion statement), like the iPhone 5S is rumored. That wouldn’t be terribly shocking as Apple last September added color choices to its iPod touch media player.

Additional photographs can be found in a thread on the WeiPhone forums.

As Apple has finally caught up with iPad mini demand, the somewhat reliable DigiTimes yesterday said that supplier AU Optronics is now working on next-gen panels for the iPad mini 2. Most rumors point to October-ish launch for the device, alongside a redesigned iPad 5.

iSuppli thinks the iPad mini 2 will institute a slight price hike due to the pricey 7.9-inch Retina display, though some people may be OK with that.

So, how much would you pay for a Retina iPad mini?