Supply issues could limit iPad Mini availability

Posted by Emma Woollacott

We're all used to supply issues whenever Apple launches a new product, but in the case of the new iPad Mini, things could be worse than usual.

The company launched the new tablet yesterday, along with an iPad with Retina Display and a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro notebook. Both the iPads can be pre-ordered on October 26 and ship on November 2.

With a price of just $329, the iPad Mini is clearly aimed at a mass market, which will in itself put pressure on supply. But, says Richard Shim, a senior analyst with DisplaySearch, shortages further up the supply chain point to even tighter availability than usual.

When earlier versions of the iPad have launched, LG Display and Samsung have been the main panel suppliers, with roughly equal production. This, though, has now changed.

"Samsung has been one of the leading panel suppliers for the iPad. In fact, when the new iPad was first released, Samsung was the only supplier that could meet production orders with LG Display gradually ramping up to meet demand," says Shim.

"However, Samsung and Apple appear to be winding down their relationship, most likely due to the legal conflicts the two have been embroiled in recently."

Apple is now expanding its supplier base with new partners for the iPad Mini. It will continue to work with LG Display, which is supplying panels to Foxconn for the finished product, and is adding AUO to supply panels to Pegatron.

However, as a new supplier AUO is having yield issues with the 7.9-inch panel, says Shim, limiting the number of units it can supply to Pegatron. In September, it was only able to ship just over 100,000 units.

It's hoping to ramp this up: the production plan is to reach 400,000 units in October, 800,000 units in November and one million in December. Meanwhile, LG Display shipped 300,000 panels in Sepember, and plans to ship one million in October, 2.5 million in November, and three million in December.