Apple (s aapl) has reportedly ordered two million high-res display panels from Samsung, LG and Sharp for November delivery, adding to the one million it is said to have ordered in October, according to DigiTimes. The screens, according to a previous report, are said to be Retina displays, with a resolution of 2048×1536 pixels.
The new iPad 3 display shipments will be joined by touch modules from TPK Holding and Wintek starting in mid-November or December, with targets of over one million units to be shipped per month, according to DigiTimes’ sources in the Apple supply chain. These and other parts shipments will then be combined to assemble final-product versions of the iPad 3 in Jan. 2012 for a first-quarter launch, say the sources.
Last year, we saw similar reports leading up to the launch of the iPad 2, which was initially pegged for January assembly but likely went into full-scale production in February. Even if the DigiTimes source estimates are off by a month, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that preparation for Apple’s iPad 3 is already rolling in earnest.
The timeline also makes sense in light of current developments, because Apple is likely going to want to repeat its annual refresh on time with the iPad if possible, since competition in the tablet space might finally begin to heat up with the introduction of low-cost, 7-inch devices from Amazon (s amzn) and Barnes & Noble (s bks).
Also, it’s a good bet because Apple will definitely want to be first to market with a tablet that can boast Retina resolution; it’s a marketing win that continues to bear fruit with the iPhone 4S, which still uses the same screen technology as the iPhone 4. That kind of longevity in a tech as central to mobile devices as displays would pay big dividends with tablets, too. The sooner Apple can get it to market, in other words, the longer it can lord the advantage over its competition.
Inevitably, people seeing these reports will wonder if it isn’t worth waiting for an iPad 3 instead of buying an iPad 2 now. The short answer is no, because these are still early, unconfirmed reports, and even if they are accurate, next-gen iPads probably won’t reach consumer hands before March. The best gadget in any given category is the one that you can use right now, in terms of most people’s needs.