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Rumor: Apple may release 'iPad 2 Plus' with high-res display this year

If Apple does release a new iPad this year, it will be a high-end model with a greater pixel density display rather than an entirely new third-generation model, according to a new report.

Analyst Craig Berger with FBR Capital Markets cited contacts in Apple's overseas supply chain in a note to investors that says Apple could release a so-called "iPad 2 Plus" later this year. He was told that component makers have received requests-for-quotes from Apple for such a device, though no production schedule has been confirmed.

"We hear Apple could migrate the iPad's display resolution from a current pixel density of 132 (pixels per inch) to 250-300 ppi for the 'iPad 2 Plus' (note that the iPhone 4's screen is 326 ppi)," Berger wrote.

But Berger also cautioned that while the information shared is "interesting," he would need to hear more information about a new hardware model before "fully believing" that a new model iPad will debut this year.

The latest suggestion of a new model comes less than a week after a report claimed that Apple will launch a so-called "iPad 3" this October. But if Berger's sources are accurate, that rumored device won't be a full-fledged third-generation iPad, and will instead be an expansion of the iPad product lineup.

The launch of an "iPad 2 Plus" this holiday could diminish production volumes in the fourth quarter of 2011, Berger said, by resulting in screen production constraints at suppliers like LG and Samsung. He said those companies would "likely have difficulties" ramping up production of such high-resolution screens immediately.

Berger had previously heard that Apple is evaluating various touchscreen solutions for the actual third-generation iPad, but prototypes of that hardware are not expected to be built until early 2012.

The iPad 2 first went on sale in March, and Apple was immediately faced with supply constraints, though those have since eased. For the second quarter of 2011, FBR Capital Markets sees iPad 2 production at 10.8 million, while Berger has forecast 17 million units built in the third quarter.

"With total iPad builds of 32.5M units during the first three quarters of 2011, targeted annual builds of 40M-45M units again seems not only possible but perhaps even beatable," he said. "Given the volatility seen in iPad build data of late, we will continue to monitor field checks for any positive or negative revisions."