Opinion: iPhone 5 looms, but iPad nano won't appear till October

Sharp is preparing to ship displays to Apple [AAPL] for use within the iPhone 5, itself set to debut September 12. Meanwhile separate reports this morning suggest the 7.85-inch iPad mini is about to go into production next month, a move that to my mind suggests the device won't debut until later in the year.


iPhone imminent, iPad nano for October

On displays thought to be destined for the iPhone, "Shipments will start in August," Sharp's new president, Takashi Okuda, said at a press briefing in Tokyo yesterday following that firm's results call -- it is however possible these displays are intended for the iPad.

Reports today speculate that new iPhones will sport 4-inch displays perhaps based on Sharp's IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) technology. LG Display and Japan Display will also manufacture panels for the new smartphone Reuters reports.

IGZO technology is highly energy efficient and delivers increased pixel transparency. The displays are also thinner than previous forms. However, it is thought that there have been some problems producing the screens in quantity, and that production at present is expensive in comparison to existing display technologies, though this should drop once market momentum is achieved.

In combination with the nano-SIM card now being stockpiled by carriers worldwide and the new 8-pin Dock Connector, Apple is setting the scene for further minituarization of its iPhone range.

Sayonara Samsung

The alliance between Sharp and Hon Hai/Foxconn continues to extend. Reuters in May told us: "Japan's Sharp Corp and Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. will jointly produce panels for Apple Inc's iPhone and other consumer electronics products in China."

Speaking in June, Hon Hai/Foxconn boss, Terry Gou, waxed hyper-critical against Korean CE manufacturers, saying: "I respect the Japanese and especially like their execution and communication styles," Gou said, "Unlike the Koreans, they will not hit you from behind."

The big loser here is Samsung, which is seeing its biggest customer the Sony-inspiring and then Sony-checking Apple, actively explore alternatives for its previous prize partner's component supplies.

The deal with Sharp will give Hon Hai/Foxconn a "three-year advantage" against Samsung Gou added. He also noted that an assembly line for TV sets is to be set-up using Sharp's tech. "Market sources suggested that the TV sets would be the upcoming Apple TV models," a report said.

There has been some expectation the iPhone will be introduced in conjunction with a new 7.85-inch model iPad mini. This seems less likely this morning as NPD DisplaySearch analyst Paul Semenza believes production of the new iPad only began this month:

"We expect panel production to start in August, with production ramping up to high volumes (more than a million units per month) in the fourth quarter,” he told CNET.

Does this suggest Sharp is delivering these displays?

In my opinion this means it will take another couple of months before these things can ship in quantity, which favors the notion of an October introduction for these devices. That mass production of the displays these things will use suggests this, because it will take a certain period before there are enough available to fulfil the millions of likely orders for the new iPads, which will cost South of $300, most reports agree.

They seem likely to be a success, however. After all, in a separate prediction today, RBC Capital Markets analyst, Amit Daryanani said he estimates Apple will sell up to 40 million of the new model iPad minis within the first 12-months.

With this in mind, I'm predicitng an iPhone introduction in September with the mini iPad set to launch in mid- to late-October. I could be wrong, but that's my gut feeling on the matter. What do you think?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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