You should consider yourself lucky if you manage to get your hands on the new iPad Mini before the holidays; analysts at IHS iSuppli say production of the tablet's new Retina screen is nowhere near enough to satisfy demand.
While perhaps tens of millions of customers will be hoping to purchase the Mini over the next few months, supply line issues mean that the actual number available could be less than 3 million, says the firm. That's a huge shortfall, one that could lead to consumers going with a comparable tablet from Google or Amazon instead.
The report from IHS iSuppli doesn't come as a surprise: Although the larger $499 iPad Air was promised on Nov. 1, Apple opted to provide only a more vague "later in November" availability for the hot little $399 tablet. NBC News contacted Apple for more information, and will update this story if we hear back.
The question is, why? What can the most production-savvy electronics company in the world be struggling with? Blame the screen: It seems that manufacturing the iPad Mini's new Retina screen is a bit more difficult than expected.
The result is a low yield rate, meaning lots of screens with dead pixels and other malfunctions. For a mature production process like the larger iPad's, perhaps only 5 percent of the screens will have to be rejected. But manufacturers are still working out the kinks for the 7.9-inch version.
"Yield rates vary but reportedly range from 50 percent to as high as 70 percent," wrote IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander in an email to NBC News. That means that of 1 million screens that come off the line, as many as 500,000 may have to be scrapped.
Getting these things straight takes time, so it'll be several months before yields improve. In the meantime, "supply of the new Mini is going to be ridiculously tight in the fourth quarter," Alexander wrote in IHS iSuppli's report.
What can you do? Check with your local Apple store regularly once the Mini goes on sale, and if they have any in stock, jump in the car and go grab one. And don't forget that other stores, like Walmart and Target, also carry the devices — so while there may be none online or at Apple retail, a few could still be around for the finding.
If you're not in a hurry, you can always wait until spring, when Retina-screened iPad Minis should be thick on the ground.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published October 24 2013, 2:09 PM