Rumor: Sharp joins the Retina party, but brings only 2.71 million iPad panels

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Apple’s long-time supplier and frenemy Samsung has fulfilled the bulk of orders for the new iPad’s stunning 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution display, marketed under the Retina moniker. Piggy-backing on that story, Reuters chimed in with claims that LG Display is also filling iPad Retina display panel orders.

A new report by DigiTimes, a hit-and-miss Asian trade publication, asserted this morning that Sharp too is supplying Retina display panels for the tablet. Apple is known for sourcing components from multiple suppliers in order to reduce risks and squeeze the best prices possible. Unfortunately, quality issues with the highest-resolution display on a mobile device meant Sharp delivered lower-than-expected Retina shipments, pegged at 2.71 million units…

According to the publication:

Even though Sharp’s shipments were finally verified in February, total supply for new iPad panels reached merely 2.71 million units, which was significantly behind Apple’s expectation.

Sharp was allegedly attempting to sell IGZO display technology for the new iPad, but Apple passed. NPD Group’s DisplaySearch explains that the tablet’s Retina display has been difficult to manufacture on the demanding a-Si TFT production process due to its high pixel count and the vertical separation of the ITO pixel electrodes and signal lines. The latter process is explained in Layman’s terms in Apple’s product video found below (mark 1:50).

Note that the DigiTimes story contradicts the aforementioned Reuters report by saying that LG Display “has not received Apple’s verification for shipment due to quality issue”. Last week’s report by The Wall Street Journal quoted a manufacturing source suggesting suggesting Sharp may be the first to offer backup for Samsung, with mass production of iPad Retina display panels set to be underway “as soon as possible”.


Apple is still Samsung’s largest individual customer even though the two partners are embroiled in patent fights in courts over the world. Another recent rumor published by the Korea Times has it that Samsung will also provide display panels for a rumored 7.85-inch iPad nicknamed the iPad mini.

By quadrupling pixel count Apple is now able to brag how the new iPad packs in a million more pixels than your HDTV (or an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console). The Retina moniker was coined by Apple and first used with the summer 2010 introduction of the iPhone 4 which brought out a 960-by-640 pixel resolution display at 326 pixels per inch. Unlike the iPad, however, users typically operate their iPhone at ten inches away, hence the need for a denser pixel count on the iPhone 4/4S compared to the new iPad.

Experts say more pixels on the new iPad’s Retina display lead to less eye strain. Both a look under a microscope and a non-scientific side-by-side pixel density test of the new iPad vs. iPad 2 corroborates this notion.

What about you? Is the Retina display a compelling upgrade to justify the new iPad purchase? As for me, I can’t wait for mine to arrive as it should feel like putting on a pair of glasses.