Citing supply chain sources, NPD/DisplaySearch Vice President for the Greater China Market David Hsieh believes
that Apple will rely heavily over the next year or so on display technology innovation to help drive growth of some of its most popular products. He predicts both common changes like the expected upgrade to Retina-quality displays in the next iPad mini and off-beat options like the addition of Retina screens in future MacBook Airs, along with a larger 4.7-inch "iPhone 6" in 2014, echoing other analysts
Hsieh is also among those predicting a larger, 13-inch iPad
sometime next year with a better-than-HD display. The idea would be to combine the iPad with a keyboard case to turn it even more closely into an Ultrabook-class device, now that Apple has moved to 64-bit "desktop-class" computing with its A7 ARM-based processor.
"We believe Apple is planning to revamp nearly all of the displays in its products over the next year. This would indicate that Apple, once again, intends to count on display technology for new product innovation." Hsieh writes on the company's blog. "It is clear from its products that Apple is a strong believer in high resolution, wide color gamut and wide viewing angle displays."
He is predicting that the next iPad mini, expected to be unveiled on October 22, will sport a 2048x1536 resolution display, likely made by Sharp using power-saving IGZO technology -- despite obvious questions about how Apple would achieve the battery life necessary for such a screen. He echoes Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Misek is expecting a larger, 4.7- or 4.8-inch 720p (1280x720) display for the next iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 6" and expected in about a year.
Hsieh also thinks Apple will more formally enter the "phablet" field with a hybrid device that uses a 5.7-inch display at 1280p (1920x1280) resolution for next year's holiday season. Apple has thus far expressed no interest in the "phablet" market, but also dismissed claims it would enter the phone and tablet markets prior to doing so. He is also expecting Retina-quality screens on the lightweight MacBook Air sometime in 2014, alongside both smaller (the "iWatch"
) and larger (an Apple-branded HDTV product
or wholly revamped Apple TV) examples of cutting-edge display technology.
His predictions on those unannounced products include a 1.3- or 1.63-inch flexible AMOLED display at 320x320 for the iWatch, and a 55- and 65-inch 4K LCD television, which he along with analyst Gene Munster think will arrive next summer. The iWatch, Hsieh believes, will be one of next year's hot holiday-season items. He points to Apple's record of "firsts" with some display technologies as evidence that the company is continuing to think about displays as a major selling feature, even as it falls behind some rivals in adoption of new technologies (generally by choice, however).
Hsieh acknowledges the technical challenges behind his predictions, but is confident Apple can meet the challenges. "What Apple does better than any company," he said, "is integrate the hardware and software, as well as the implementation of the user interface, and finally the content ecosystem." He believes that in the face of increasing competition using both physically larger as well as higher-resolution displays, Apple will need to "step up" and compete directly on those sizes, preferably with technology that provides an even more color-accurate, rich and high-quality image than its competitors.