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When Apple last October introduced an update to its full-size iPad, nobody expected a name change but that’s exactly what transpired as the fifth-generation iPad became known as the iPad Air.

The rebranding conveys the device’s thin appearance and sleek design. With Fall fast approaching, Apple is about to refresh its tablet lineup.

A fresh report from China now hints at the possibility of a dramatically thinner appearance for the third-generation iPad mini, suggesting the device might even borrow the “Air” moniker from its bigger brother…

GforGames passes along a new supply chain report from the Chinese site UDN [Google translate] which claims that the device will be called the iPad mini Air due to its 30 percent thinner appearance compared to the current model.

The current iPad mini with Retina display is 7.5mm thin (pictured below) so a third thinner design would yield a device a little more than five millimeters thin.

iPad mini with Retina Display Smart Case 05

And how’s Apple going to shave more than two millimeters off the iPad mini’s enclosure? According to the report, a new manufacturing technique based around nanometer processing technology will make this possible. The device is said to run Apple’s A8 processor, which is currently manufactured by TSMC.

Citing a DisplaySearch estimate that Apple’s tablet shipments for year 2014 will be roughly the same as last year, Chinese sources added that Apple is still looking to address oversized tablets with a rumored 12.9-inch iPad model.

According to DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh, the larger iPad will not be released before year 2015, contradictingTaiwan’s United Daily News which said the device would make its debut at the end of the third quarter of 2014.

Assuming the third-generation iPad mini will in fact sport noticeably thinner appearance, should Apple rebrand it as the iPad mini Air?