Strong demand for the latest iPad mini, more than for the much-ballyhooed iPad Air, could provide a big boost to Apple's media tablet sales on the mainland this fourth quarter, analysts say.
Apple this week released on the mainland the Wi-fi version of the iPad mini, which now features the technology giant's high-definition Retina display.
"While the iPad Air could give a small bump to fourth-quarter shipments in China, the iPad mini with Retina display has a bigger potential to move the needle on the mainland, given the market's preference for smaller-screen-size tablets," said Avinash Sundaram, a senior market analyst at IDC Asia-Pacific.
The Wi-fi version of the iPad Air, which sports a 9.7-inch display compared with the iPad mini's 7.9-inch screen, is also available on the mainland. Both devices run Apple's desktop computing-class A7 chip and the new iOS 7 operating software.
Supplies of the iPad mini remain tight. In a report, IHS analyst Rhoda Alexander said production was still ramping up on the 7.9-inch Retina panel, which means iPad manufacturing will lag behind in the fourth quarter.
IDC forecast mainland tablet shipments would reach 24 million units this year, led by Apple. "The new product launches could help Apple gain share in the short term, but the firm's decision not to compete on price means that its share in the local market will continue to erode in the long term," Sundaram said.
The latest China retail audit data from research firm GfK showed tablet sales in the third quarter reached 9.29 billion yuan (HK$11.7 billion) on shipments of 4.56 million units.
Sandy Shen, a research director at Gartner, said tablets running Google's Android operating system had more users on the mainland. "We expect the full-year split for Android and iOS will be 64:36," Shen said.