NPD DisplaySearch sees two Retina iPad minis

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

NPD DisplaySearch knows its display supply chain inside out and while they may not be the most accurate source of Apple rumors, more often than not their predictions have proved pretty accurate. In a report filed yesterday, DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim was quoted as saying that Apple is readying not one, but two Retina-capable iPad mini models, “one in the second half of this year, then one in the first quarter of 2014”

Rumor mills have been speculating for months that a 2013 refresh to the iPad mini is designed around a high-resolution Retina screen so a Retina iPad mini 2 mentioned by Shim isn’t that much surprising.

What is surprising is the following, via CNET (emphasis mine):

We see two refreshes coming. One in the second half of this year, then one in first quarter of 2014. The Q1 2014 device will have a Retina display plus an updated processor.

Apple is also believed to be considering LTPS (Low-Temperature Polysilicon) display technology for the upcoming iPad mini refreshes, the story goes. LPTS is the same technology used in the iPhone 5.

Shim’s note jives with the rather accurate KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who last month claimed manufacturing challenges related to 7.9-inch Retina panel yields could contribute to a later than expected release for the second-generation iPad mini.

Separately, it was reported that a recent fire at one of LG Display’s subcontractor plants disrupted supply of backlight units for iPads, forcing Apple to seek alternative suppliers. KGI also speculated Apple could be developing a low-cost version of the iPad mini that could come with eight gigabytes of storage, a tweaked A5 processor and no iSight camera on the back.

NPD DisplaySearch previously reported that a fifth-generation full-size iPad will achieve a thinner iPad mini-like design by adopting a smaller, more efficient LED backlighting technology and shifting to a film-based touch sensor.

If true, the report could suggest that the upcoming iPad mini will be a repeat of 2012 when Apple followed up on the Retina iPad 3 with a tweaked model six months later that brought a speedier A6X chip and a Lightning connector.

iPad mini (two up, flat, black, white)

Looking at the big picture, Apple is probably moving to a semi-annual refresh for iPads. Rival vendors are taking advantage of the rapid advancements to mobile chips and with increased competition and the onslaught of cheap Android tablets, breaking away from the usual annual refresh is just sound business if Apple wants to keep the iPad on the bleeding edge.

The bigger question, of course, is how customers will react to Apple obsoleting six-month-old devices with their improved counterparts.

On the other hand, there is never a good time to buy latest gizmos as there’s always something better, faster and newer around the corner.

But then again, that’s the pice of progress us tech lovers have come to accept, no?