What will a "Retina" display mean for the iPad mini 2?

What will a
There has been a lot of talk about the iPad mini 2 and the fact that all signs are now pointing to the second generation mini iOS tablet having a so-called "Retina" display. When we first started hearing rumors about the iPad mini 2, the consensus was that the device would not have a Retina display, and the newer rumors are making it look like the tablet should not have one. So, we wanted to take a look at what it will mean for the iPad mini 2 to have a Retina display. 

First off, we need to figure out exactly what the term Retina display even means. The trouble is that it is a very nebulous term that only really has meaning within the marketing language of Apple. In very general terms, it refers to a display where the user theoretically can't see the individual pixels anymore because the pixel density has hit a certain threshold. What that threshold is exactly is up for debate though. 

Does Retina even mean anything?

The general rule for what makes a Retina display is based on a combination of the size of the device and the average distance the user will be when viewing the screen. The devices that will be closest to your eyes are smartphones, so the thinking that you need a pixel density of at least 326 ppi to qualify as Retina (as do the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5c, and 5s). Tablets are held a bit farther away, so they need a 264 ppi (like the iPad 3 & 4); and, laptops are the farthest away on average, so they only need a 220 ppi (MacBook Pro). As you can see, because Apple popularized the term, it seems that its devices get to be the standards for what is a Retina display (not to mention they are the only devices for which the term is ever used. Despite the Samsung Galaxy S4 having a pixels-per-inch measurement of 441, no one would ever call it a Retina display).

Since Apple first made the term Retina display popular with the introduction of the iPhone 4, there have been plenty of competing devices that have blown past Apple's current "Retina" level displays in terms of pixel density, but a few haven't quite passed the nebulous test of being able to "see" the individual pixels. Still, regardless of Apple's definition of "Retina", the mobile ecosystem has new definitions of "high-res". The current leaders (among popular devices) are the Samsung Galaxy S4 with a 441 ppi, the Google Nexus 7 (2013) with a 326 ppi, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX at 339 ppi, the Google Nexus 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 both of which have about 300 ppi displays. But, as we said before, Apple doesn't much care about these numbers. 

Apple's fragmentation of screens

That brings us to the second part of the equation: Apple doesn't want to fragment its ecosystem any more than it has to. Because iOS doesn't bother with responsive design, developers have to create assets specifically for each screen size/resolution combination in the ecosystem. The reason why the original iPad mini had the same resolution as the iPad 2 was so developers wouldn't have to do any more work to get apps running on the tablet (like they had to in optimizing apps for the iPhone 5's new screen size). Technically, a regulation 1920 x 1080 display would get the iPad mini up to "Retina" standards because it would give the iPad mini 2 a pixel density of about 279, but it would also add a new display resolution to the iOS ecosystem, which would mean a lot of work for developers (we've mentioned how annoying it is for devs to not have responsive design in iOS). 

That scenario is possible, but not likely. The more likely scenario (especially given recent rumors) is that Apple is shooting to have the iPad mini 2 match the resolution of the iPad 4 at 2048 x 1536. At the 7.9-inch display size of the iPad mini 2, that would give it a pixel density of about 324. That would make it the highest density display in the 8-inch range (although the competition in that segment is pretty scarce.) Unfortunately, Apple's decision to push for a Retina display in the new iPad mini 2 has already reportedly caused one problem, and may lead to another unintended consequence.

The problems of a Retina iPad mini


The first problem is one that has popped up in the news multiple times: supply constraints. It seems that Apple's component partners have had very troubling yield rates on an iPad mini-sized Retina display. The rumor is that AU Optronics has been building the 7.9-inch 2048 x 1536 displays for Apple, but has been having a lot of problems with production. As a result, many believe that the supply of iPad mini 2 tablets will be very low, and some analysts have even gone so far as to say that Apple would only have about 2 million units available to cover the launch window. 

For comparison, 60% of Apple tablets sold during the 2012 holiday season were iPad minis, which means approximately 13.75 million iPad minis were sold during the holiday season last year. If Apple can only muster up 2 million iPad mini 2 units for this coming holiday season, it could very well be disastrous. Not only would it lead to a huge number of angry customers, but it could end up driving users to competing tablets like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire. One interesting question is whether it would be worse for Apple to have so few available minis, or if the company should just avoid the holiday season all together and release the mini 2 after the new year. Some rumors have said that idea is on the table. 


The other problem is one that most don't really consider: a Retina display on an iPad mini, especially a display running at 2048 x 1536, could make the tablet more annoying to use. We've already seen this with the current iPad mini to a certain extent: because it shares the resolution of the iPad 2 but has a smaller screen, some UI assets that were designed for the iPad 2's 9.7-inch display are awkwardly small on the iPad mini's 7.9-inch display. A Retina display on the iPad mini 2 would double the display resolution, but it wouldn't do anything to fix the issue. 

The first iPad mini uses the same resolution, and the same assets as the iPad 2, which means that apps that were designed for use on a full size iPad aren't changed at all and are just displaying on a smaller screen. That makes for some awkward instances where items designed for the iPad 2 just aren't big enough for the iPad mini.

Assuming the same thing holds true for the iPad mini 2, it will be using Retina assets designed for use on the iPad 4, so the same issue could occur. The smaller a touch element gets, the harder it is to accurately hit that touch element. This isn't as much of a problem on Apple's hardware, because the touch responsiveness tends to be top notch (a benefit of a closed and controlled ecosystem), but it could still be a point of frustration for those with big fingers just as it could be frustrating for older users with bad eyesight who would prefer bigger screen elements. 


More than likely, Apple is trying to push hard with the iPad mini 2 display and is going for the full iPad resolution of 2048 x 1536. We have been asking for Apple to be more aggressive with its updates, but early reports are making it sound like the company might have been better served to be more conservative on this one. It could be that the supply issues have been misreported, or exaggerated. But, if the supply issues are as bad as the reports say, Apple may end up with either no new iPad mini on store shelves this holiday season, or it will end up with a lot of angry customers who are unable to purchase the device they want. 

We finally have a date for the announcement. October 22nd is when Apple will be holding the event to announce the new iPads. We'll be keeping a close eye on both the release date given for the iPad mini 2 as well as if Apple even offers a pre-order for the device, both of which could indicate supply issues. 



1. Kurai unregistered

it will have more pixels, and apple will call it resolutionary. . . !

12. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Retina is garbage on the phone market, it will be garbage as android tablets switch to 2k displays and apple stays at their current resume.

37. DukeX

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

Lol exactly. Iphone is only getting away with a nice looking screen because it's so small of course they can pack a lot of pixels on it. I wish Apple would make a 4.8 inch iphone with a 640P screen and call it revolutionary.

67. MobileKicker

Posts: 212; Member since: Sep 19, 2013

You are all fools Retina is brighter than any display The display on my sgs4 is garbage Means super amoled is garbage

18. jonatankarter

Posts: 5; Member since: Dec 21, 2011

Jaja! I see what you did there. Very clever indeed!

68. MobileKicker

Posts: 212; Member since: Sep 19, 2013

This is just your 3rd post dude calm down

21. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

What will a "Retina" display mean for the iPad mini 2? Answer: Nothing

22. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

Pretty much. I don't even remember the last time I give 2 sh*t about my HDTV's image haha

27. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

This article states that the s4 is the PPI leader. Wrong! The HTC one is. And I bet my 2013 n7 will have a higher PPI than the iPad mini 2.

53. Caralho

Posts: 119; Member since: Jun 18, 2012

It will mean an obscenely high price point...

58. underbc

Posts: 22; Member since: Nov 28, 2012

something truly new .. because they pixels are different of other any pixels .. something that will change the world .. it's gonna be the NEW RETINA

2. Eonnaydra

Posts: 217; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

The display is not just about the number of PPI,it is about many other things like brightness,color calibration where the Apple's lcds are the best. C'mon Apple,just release the iPad Mini with A7X and Retina.

5. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

iPad Mini 2 will definitely not have a A7X chip I can guarantee you that. The iPad 4/5 sales will be cannibalized if they did.

52. ardent1

Posts: 2000; Member since: Apr 16, 2011

Because of the smaller screen, the mini doesn't need all that horsepower; however, it would be nice to futureproof the device with a 64-bit processor. I have the mini and iPad 2 and I use them differently; for gaming, I like the larger screen; however for daily use, the smaller and lighter mini is the go to machine. That may all change with the new iPad.

57. grahaman27

Posts: 364; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Read the article- it would if it used a retina display.

60. DaHarder

Posts: 177; Member since: Oct 10, 2009

Enough With This "Future Proofing' Nonsense. The ONLY way that buying an Apple device currently utilizing the A7 SoC would be 'future proof' is if there was some way to add RAM to the device at a later date, which is simply NOT possible. Apple's use of 64bit architecture at this point is primarily for bragging rights/marketing to the ignorant as it offers little-to-no performance benefits on their curent iOS lineup, none of which have more than 1gb RAM. As for the iPad Mini, which currently has but 512mb RAM, its positioning within Apple's product hierarchy essentially assures that it will NOT feature the A7 SoC... More likely would be the A6/A6x, which (at the time of its announcement last year) was also touted as being 'future proof'. *rolls eyes* Additionally: It can also be expected that the current iPad Mini, which uses the iPad 2 A5 SoC with 512mb of RAM, will not even be hardware compatible with next year's iOS 8, meaning that its update lifespan wasn't even 2 years... That's some seriously premature obsolescence.

62. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Arguments that the 64-bit A7 SoC is just a marketing gimmick is for the ignorant who only understand what shallow tech sites tell them. Even Qualcomm has come out and corrected their marketing director. Addressable RAM is hardly the "Be All, End All" of 64-bit OSes. As for your predictions, I'm guessing that they are somewhere in the neighborhood of the boasts of the Kim Dynasty of North Korea: Guesses with no basis in reality.

65. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

Really.. 2 tablets..

7. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

I hate the retina term. PA stop spewing Apple's garbage and do some research please. Stop the lies. http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/06/iphone-4-retina/

16. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Retina on the iphone is a fail because they stopped updating it. Iphone 5, 5C and 5S: 1136x640 or 727040 pixels. Any phone 5" android flagship since around this time last year has been 1920x1080 which is 2073600 pixels or 440ppi on a 5" display. If the iphone was keeping up with screen technology and was 1080p it would have 550PPI. The only reason the iphone wins in onscreen graphics test compared to a snapdragon 800 is because android phones are pushing 2.85x more pixels which on a PC game would be around half the FPS on the same setup.

3. Atlas

Posts: 158; Member since: Apr 15, 2012

Absolutely nothing, besides to sell it to the people who think retina display means something nowadays.

33. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Kinda the same way octa core and 5" 1080p phone screens, huh?

4. Googler

Posts: 813; Member since: Jun 10, 2013

Looking beyond the Retina name and simply referring to high res. screens, I'd vote yes for the Mini having one. If people can get used to high res. screens on phones, and iOS runs the same on phones and tablets, why not? Developers need to get out of their comfort zones and step up to the new standards, there's plenty of money to be made by doing so.

6. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

I am going to be poor this holiday season. iPad mini 2 for my wife. Nexus 5 for me. Need a new laptop maybe a gaming one. I would love to get a windows tablet but I'm going to hold off on that because nothing is out that impresses me. Though dell does have some upcoming 8.1 tablets that are pretty close to what I want.

8. joaolx

Posts: 364; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

The usability problem is not a good argument. When the iPad 3 came out with the Retina display the pixel density doubled but the UI stayed the same. Nothing got smaller with Retina in iOS. Why would that change? btw the HTC One is the device with the highest ppi to date with 468ppi and not the SGS4 441ppi.

10. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Nope. Web browsing on the iPad 3/4 is substantially different than on the iPad 2. And the current leader in PPI is 492 or 493, a phone that was announced last week.

9. 90ninjas unregistered

I like that they completely glossed over the fact that the HTC One is a popular device that has a pixel density of 468. Good job Phone Arena.

11. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Lol. +1

14. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Probably because suck T C sucks and nonoine really gives a crap about it besides some websites run by Samsung haters and HTC fans. Most articles cater to people that know HTC sucks so they can safely leave them out of every and all conversations.

28. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012


* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.