Apple roundup: 12.9" iPad, Air margins, Deutsche's checks, sapphire

|About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)|By:, SA News Editor

Chinese site PadNews has joined a growing list of sources (previous) reporting a bigger iPad (AAPL -0.3%) is on the way. The site reports (translation) Foxconn is testing a 12.9" iPad, and that the tablet will launch in March '14.

The fact Apple chose to name its 5th-gen 9.7" iPad the iPad Air has already fueled speculation a larger "iPad Pro" is on tap.

After tearing down the 4G and Wi-Fi-only iPad Air units, IHS thinks the tablets carry higher margins than older iPads did at launch time. IHS estimates the cheapest Air model (16GB Wi-Fi-only, sells for $499) costs $274 to make, and thus has a 45% gross margin. The most costly model (128GB 4G, sells for $929) is believed to cost $361 to make, giving it a 61% gross margin. For reference, Apple is guiding for a total Dec. quarter gross margin of 36.5%-37.5%.

Deutsche's checks indicate channel supplies for the Air are healthy, save for the 128GB model; stronger demand for high-capacity models boosts margins/ASPs. The firm also reports iPhone 5S demand is outpacing supply in all of its carrier, online, and retail checks. Lead times remain high for gold 5S units.

Speculation is swirling about what Apple plans to do with the sapphire GT Advanced will be producing for the company at a Mesa, AZ plant to be built by Apple. Those who think the material will be used to cover iPhone/iPad displays point to the fact Apple has mulled using sapphire for this purpose before, but held off because the material couldn't be produced in sufficient volumes. Others think sapphire will only be used in an iWatch for now, given its high costs and the huge volumes needed to handle iPhone/iPad production needs.

Previous: iPad Air activation/usage data; 5S/5C production changes