iPad Mini Rumors Resurface: It's In Production, Revealed In Few Weeks [Updated]

Update: The latest info, coming from AllThingsD is that Apple's event will be on October 23rd, a Tuesday, three days before Microsoft's Surface is set to hit the streets.

During the last week or so there's been little discussion of the iPad mini—everyone has been busy fussing about the iPhone 5 and iOS 6. But now there's a glut of rumors and leaks, the biggest and best of which comes from the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ, thought to be an official leaky channel for Apple, has a story today saying Asia's manufacturers have kicked into mass production mode for the smaller iPad.

The WSJ's sources say it'll have a 7.85-inch LCD screen that has lower resolution than the retina screen of the iPad 3. LG and AU Optronics are said to be making the display. Yesterday Japanese blog Macotakara reported that iPad mini production was ramping up in Foxconn's factory in Brazil, which tallies with the WSJ's data.

More iPad mini components have arrived courtesy of website UkrainaniPhone, which got hold of a black anodized metal back shell and a front screen glass from one of Apple's Eastern suppliers. From these images we can tell the new iPad's shape is more like an iPhone with asymmetric bezels than the current iPad design, that it'll use a nanoSIM card for mobile data and that it'll likely come in a white and black edition. The SIM details, if they are from a genuine product rather than a prototype, suggest that Apple will make the iPad mini a full 3G (possibly 4G) capable device in some configurations. That means it will stand out against competitor devices the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 because these are Wi-Fi-only tablets.

Finally other sources suggested to Fortune that Apple is poised to send out invites on October 10th for a media event that may be on October 17th at which the new iPad will be revealed, with a launch date very soon after.

Update: The WSJ again has more information on the purported iPad "mini". Apple, it says, has ordered more than 10 million units for the launch from its various suppliers. If true, this indicates that Apple has high confidence that the new device will sell like hot cakes.

Not that Apple needs to worry about its tablet market share—a study at the end of August noted that Apple still owns 69% of the market. This same report noted that millions of cheaper iPad 2s being sold into education in the U.S. pulled down the average price of iPads sold—affecting Apple's top and bottom lines. This is part of Apple's design, so it's no surprise, but it does illustrate why Apple's choosing to sell a new smaller iPad: Presumably set at a much lower price, it will also have a lower build cost, which improves the profit ratio of the device.

Meanwhile according to MacRumors a new, previously unseen, code for iPads has shown up in some analytics—which can suggest that a new device is undergoing advanced testing in the wild. It's designated iPad3,6 which is interesting because the various versions of the current iPad 3 are iPad3,1 to iPad3,3. More surprising is that the logs point to an A6 chip like that used in the new iPhone. Is this a new tweaked iPad 3 sporting a lightning connector?

[Image: Flickr user jurvetson]

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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