iPad mini promo (Smart Cover, launching Safari)

And the back and forth continues. Hot on the heels of a report this afternoon that iOS 7 contains references to an A6 iPad mini with a non-Retina display, comes a story from The Wall Street Journal that Apple has begun ordering hi-res screens from Samsung for the tablet.

Today’s clash is just the latest in a long line of conflicting reports regarding Apple’s next-gen 8-inch slate, which is set to debut this fall. Previous speculation has suggested that a Retina iPad mini would be nearly technically impossible, but tonight’s story says the contrary…

The Journal’s Lorraine Luk has the scoop:

“Apple Inc.’s AAPL -0.17% suppliers are gearing up for mass production of a new iPad mini in the fourth quarter that will likely feature a high-resolution screen from Samsung, 005930.SE +0.08% people familiar with the matter say, an indication of the difficulty the U.S. company faces in its attempt to reduce its dependence on its biggest rival. Apple is working with suppliers in Asia on its next iPad mini with a high-resolution “retina” display, unlike the current iPad mini that comes with a lower-resolution screen, the people said.”

Luk goes on to say that the size of the new tablet will likely be the same as the 7.9-inch model we have now—no surprise there—and that Apple is also considering colored backs for the device. Looking at the 5th gen iPod touch and recent iPhone leaks, that makes sense too.

iPad mini (three-up, front, back, profile, white)

So does this mean this year’s iPad mini will have a Retina display? Not necessarily. But the report does sound a lot like an Apple plant. The company has long used the WSJ as a mouthpiece to steer the conversation, and the scoop came late at night, following negative reports.

Industry watchers have been fairly split on the need for an iPad mini with Retina display. Some feel that since Google’s new Nexus 7 dawns a hi-res screen, Apple has to respond in kind or it’ll get left behind. Others think a Retina mini would detract attention away from the redesigned iPad 5.

Again, it’s going to be an interesting fall.

Thoughts?