iPad Mini Unofficial Renderings Appear, Release Date Rumor Surfaces

This week's iPad Mini rumors suggest the official launch of the device could come as early as Oct. 17, while leaked photos of the alleged 7-inch tablet show up on the Web.

Just days after a Wall Street Journal article reported production had begun on a long-rumored smaller iPad, informally dubbed the iPad Mini, a spate of renderings illustrating the device appeared on the Web from graphic designer Martin Hajek.

Hajek drew attention earlier this year with his renderings of the iPhone 5 before its release. The unofficial renderings, done in the same style Apple displays its products, show a Lightening connector port on the bottom of the device, redesigned speakers and a version of the tablet in a teal-blue shell.

Adding more grist to the rumor mill was a report in Fortune that quoted an unnamed “major Apple investor” who said press invitations for the official unveiling of the iPad Mini would be mailed out Oct. 10, which could mean the media event could come as early as Oct. 17. Apple would likely want the iPad Mini available to consumers ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Earlier rumors about the iPad Mini suggested the device would have a 7.85 inch display, which would have a lower resolution than the 9.7-inch high-definition Retina display on the full-size iPad. Photos posted Monday to UkranianiPhone.com, which claimed to show front and back panels belonging to the smaller iPad, also showed what could be slot for a nano SIM tray, a rear-facing iSight camera and the back panel featuring the Apple logo with just the word iPad, suggesting Apple won’t add an additional product name such as “Mini.”

A report by Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White, which was picked up by Mac-centric blog AppleInsider, said production of the 7.85-inch display has caused headaches for suppliers, which include LG Display of South Korea and Taiwan’s AU Optronics. Both companies have allegedly begun production on the device’s LCD panel, but White said the yields on production have been frustrating, causing the release date to be pushed to October from September.

"Despite continued yield challenges, the supply chain feels the much-anticipated iPad Mini is on track to reach acceptable volume levels for a launch over the next month," White wrote in the investor’s note. "That said, we believe that supply constraints will initially hold back the full sales potential during the first month or so of the launch."

The full-size iPad, which starts at $499 and represents 68 percent of the worldwide tablet market, is facing new competition from Amazon, with its Kindle Fire Tablet, and Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, both of which retail for less than $200 and feature smaller displays. Apple’s iPad Mini could renew competition in that space, although a survey from Pricegrabber earlier this year indicated consumers would be willing to pay a bit more than $200 for an iPad Mini.

If the rumored release date of the iPad Mini is true, it will be Apple’s second high-profile product launch in as many months. The company launched the iPhone 5, the latest iteration of its popular smartphone, in September, drawing mostly positive reviews. Apple sold more than 5 million of the devices just three days after its Sept. 21 launch.