- Jan 11, 2012
- Reaction score
lecycliste said:1. Apple already uses retina screens for iPad 3 and 4 at 9.7 inch diagonal size, with wide color gamut and good contrast. Yields were high enough to allow those products to be produced and sold to Apple's high profit-margin requirements. Yields generally go up with smaller die and display sizes, all other things being equal.
2. Large die and panel yields can be quite low (15-20%) and still produce saleable product, depending on the process and profit goals. No one likes yields that low, but products can be made. After initial release, it's time for design and product engineers to work on increasing yields.
3. While I haven't worked directly on displays, I've designed products that drive them, and worked on relatively large-die products in bipolar, CMOS, and BiCMOS. Some of the basic engineering and product P&L considerations apply to most electronic products.
4. Apple's Retina screens in iPad 3 and iPad 4 both have large color gamuts approaching 100% of the sRGB colorspace commonly used in consumer displays. The iPad Mini's color gamut is considerably smaller at 62% of sRGB, according to iPad mini Display Technology Shoot-Out. Apple has demonstrated they know how to do it better right now with the 9.7 inch tablets.
5. Apple has access to 28nM and smaller technology. If the goal was to produce an iPad Mini with a retina display, they could drive it with low-power graphics processor and CPU designs in the small-linewidth technology. That would reduce battery drain.
There are small-linewidth processes available with low gate capacitances and high k' Apple needs for high-speed, low-power design at Samsung, their foundry of choice, and others (TSMC comes to mind for this too - I designed in their processes awhile back).
6. I've edited photography for commercial clients on several platforms. To do this adequately, you need a high-resolution display with accurately-calibrated color rendering, large color gamut, and high contrast range. I've been seeking a lighter-weight alternative to a laptop for critical evaluation of photographs in the field. I'd like to use the iPad Mini for its light weight, small size, and apps it runs, but its display isn't good enough *for this application*. Differences between its display and Retina alternatives are definitely visible to my naked eye.
7. Apple's corporate culture was opposed to producing tablets with screen sizes below 9.7" until relatively recently. Faced with the explosion of the small-tablet market, they may have decided to (a) produce a 'good-enough' small tablet to compete (b) with sufficient profit margins to meet Apple's profit model (c) in a relatively short time-frame - before this Christmas.
I have trouble believing a company with Apple's engineering talent and technology access couldn't produce a retina-screened iPad Mini at a competitive price point right now. My guess is that Apple's marketing people drove this one, or there was a temporary yield glitch. Most products are a tradeoff, and the marketing folks may have won out this time.
Given the clamour for an iPad mini with a retina display it is only a matter of time as to when Apple introduce such a product. Technically of course it is possible since a 7.9" retina display would have about the same pixel density as in the iPhone 4 and 5. Any yield issues can be solved given time. However, I would wonder whether it would be wise to introduce a new product with only a 15-20% yield as aside from the impact on cost this would be a major bottleneck in ramping the product (from what I read I think that Apple already sold something like 3 million minis).
Why would an iPad mini that had a spec essentially that of the iPad 4 be significantly cheaper? Having a higher resolution display predicates having a bigger battery and a faster processor. The end result would be a product costing maybe $50 more to build and therefore selling for significantly more than $400.
I guess one question is how Apple want to position the Mini in the future. Going to a retina display would likely bump up the price and from a marketing perspective I imagine that they wanted an entry level device at around the $300 mark. It may well be that when (if?) they introduce the iPad mini 2 they will continue to sell the original iPad mini (as they did with the 2 when they introduced the iPad 3). Hopefully, they would also be able to shave $50 or so off the price! Personally I do think there is a market for a (relatively) cheap, entry level device.
Speaking purely for myself I don't feel the need for an iPad mini with a retina display and am happy to spend my money now, rather than wait 6-12 months for something that will be of marginal benefit to me (and for which I would not want to pay a significant amount of money for). I fully appreciate that other people have other needs.
I don't think it is a question of marketing "winning out" over engineering. All products are compromises. In the case of the iPad mini I imagine that other factors such as weight, thinness and sales price won out over the display spec. It is also possible that Apple was wrong sided by the introduction of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. Remember that it takes a considerable time to introduce new products and at the time that they started development of the iPad mini they hadn't realised that there would be higher resolution, cheaper 7" tablets available from competitors by Q4 2012.