Cellular iPads hit China: iPad mini already on a 2-week backlog

iPad 3 promo video (wireless and cellular networking)

Amid all the negativity surrounding speculation of weaker than expected demand for the iPhone 5 (and now the full-size iPad) comes a glimpse of hope as buyers in China seem to be picking up their cellular iPads at a rapid clip. In fact, iPads are seeing shipping delays on the launch day in this massive market.

As promised, on Friday cellular versions of the full-size 9.7-inch iPad and 7.9-inch iPad mini went on sale in China. Immediately following the launch, however, Apple’s online store in China is quoting a two-week delay for new online orders for both the Wi-Fi-only and cellular versions of the mini tablet…

As The Next Web points, cellular versions of the fourth-gen iPad now hip in China in 1-3 working days. Back in the United States, the online Apple store shows a 1-week shipping delay for the iPad mini (2 weeks in the United Kingdom).

These signs of strong demand for the iPad mini contradict supply chain chatter based on unnamed sources who claim Apple is cutting orders of tablet panels.

iPad mini backlog in China

According to an exclusive Reuters report this morning, Apple’s supplier Sharp all but stopped producing tablet panels for iPads.

Sharp’s iPad screen production line at its Kameyama plant in central Japan has fallen to the minimal level to keep the line running this month after a gradual slowdown began at the end of 2012 as Apple manages its inventory, the industry sources with knowledge of Sharp’s production plans told Reuters.

The news organization was “unable to characterize Apple’s overall tablet sales” or figure out if the slow-down is the result of some re-shuffling in Apple’s supply chain or the usual seasonality. It could also indicate a shift of consumer preference toward the iPad mini. Another possibility: Sharp has a history of yield issues with panel production so it’s possible they are having problems of their own.

Apple also buys iPad screens from LG Display and Samsung Display, with the latter telling Reuters there “had not been any significant change in its panel business with Apple, which has been steadily reducing panel purchases from the South Korean firm”.

Apple is slated to announce its holiday quarter results next Wednesday, January 23.

iPad mini promo video (iPad mini users 003)

Tim Cook last week met with high-level officials in China to talk the near doubling of Apple Stores. He also visited China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier which has more than 700 million subscribers, to talk “matters of co-operation”, raising hopes that a rumored iPhone deal may move forward.

Cook is working with China’s government agencies to expedite the approval process so that Apple’s products could launch in China with little or no delay. In Cook’s view, China will surpass the United States to become Apple’s largest market.

Up to one fifth of Apple’s total revenue is now attributed to China.