Kuo: Mini-LED iPad and AirPods 3 Coming First Half of 2021
In a research note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo's latest predictions relate to the fortunes of Taiwanese manufacturer Career Technology, which is expected to be a key partner in the supply chain for Apple's products in 2021, thanks to its flexible soft board technology.
LCP (liquid crystal polymer) soft boards are said to offer a flexible way to connect components together while facilitating high-speed, low-latency data transfer. Career is expected to regain orders for acoustic and optical components in soft boards destined for a mini-LED iPad, which will be mass produced in the first half of 2021, according to the note.
Kuo said roughly eight months ago that Apple has six mini-LED products in its pipeline planned to launch though the end of 2021. The products include a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a 27-inch iMac Pro, a 14.1-inch MacBook Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 10.2.-inch iPad, and a 7.9-inch iPad mini.
However, Kuo has long predicted that a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a fourth quarter 2021 launch timeframe would likely be Apple's first mini-LED product, so this latest development appears to suggest that the analyst's expectations have changed.
As we've outlined in our guide on mini-LED technology, the displays use on the order of 1,000 to 10,000 individual LEDs that offer a number of improvements over traditional LED-backlit displays, coming close to performance of OLED displays without some of the drawbacks of that technology.
With regards to AirPods, the note reiterates Kuo's belief that Apple is working on third-generation AirPods that will go into mass production during the first half of 2021.
The new AirPods will adopt the System-in-Package used for the AirPods Pro, replacing the rigid-flex PCB+SMT design of the second-generation AirPods, and allowing for a form factor similar to the AirPods Pro, featuring a shorter stem and replaceable ear tips.
The AirPods 3 are expected to be more affordable and will lack higher-end features like Active Noise Cancellation. Battery life could be improved, though, and Apple is working on a new wireless chip.
Kuo says Career will obtain component orders for the AirPods 3, which is expected to significantly contribute to the supplier's revenue and profit from the second quarter of 2020.
Kuo's note also mentions that Apple intends to expand its use of soft board technology in next year's "iPhone 13," which is expected to save space and reduce manufacturing costs, with Career again projected to benefit from the wider adoption.