There has been no shortage of rumors regarding Apple’s anticipated iPad 3, with numerous reports claiming to reveal details about the device and its expected launch date. But what should we really expect? Here’s what we think we know so far.
What’s in a Name?
Will Apple’s next-gen iPad really be called the iPad 3? While most reports have referred to the device as the iPad 3, a number of reports have suggested that the device may be a revised version of the iPad 2, and could be called the “iPad 2 Pro” or “iPad 2 HD“. Chinese case manufacturers have reportedly already begun manufacturing cases for a device they refer to as the “iPad 2S“.
Personally, I’m banking on the iPad 3 moniker, but whatever Apple decides to call their next tablet, it will still be the third generation of the iPad, and should feature some impressive improvements over the iPad 2.
One Lump or Two?
While most people tend to think that Apple will only release one next-gen iPad, some reports have suggested that two separate next-gen iPad models could hit the shelves. Early beta versions of iOS 5 hinted at two separate iPad models, and later sources have provided two separate code names (J1 and J2) for currently unreleased iPads. However, those two code names may simply represent a WiFi and a 3G or 4G version of the iPad rather than two completely separate models.
Some sources, such as DigiTimes, explain this by suggesting that Apple was working on two prototype iPads using different high-resolution displays, while other sources have suggested that Apple may introduce an “iPad 2S” or a budget version of the iPad 2 alongside the iPad 3.
Plenty of reports have claimed that the iPad 3 will feature a Retina display with four times the pixels of the current iPad 2 display. Early clues were discovered in developer builds of iOS 5 that an iPad with such a display might be in the works.
The Korea Times reported last July that Samsung and LG were working on a Retina iPad display. Since then, reports went back and forth about whether Samsung and LG would provide the displays, or whether Sharp would supply Apple with thinner and lower-powered IGZO displays.
Reports have since butted heads over supply issues, with some reports suggesting manufacturer might be struggling to provide enough Retina display panels for the device in time for Apple to meet their desired launch timeframe. In November, CNET reported that iPad 3 ‘Retina Displays’ were already in production.
MacRumors and iFixit recently got their hands on a leaked iPad 3 Retina display, and looked at it under a microscope, finding that it does indeed contain 4 times as many pixels as the iPad 2 display. This seems to confirm that Apple’s next-gen tablet will feature an ultra high resolution screen. Apple also seems to have hinted at a Retina display in their annoncement of the iPad media event to be held on March 7th.
Design has been another significant topic of speculation for the iPad 3. Reports have gone back and forth over whether the iPad 3 would be slightly thicker or thinner than the iPad 2. It will likely be thicker, some argue, due to the need for dual light bars to support a Retina display. Other reports argue that a thinner and lower-powered Sharp IGZO display or a new thinner and lighter battery would eliminate the need to make the device thicker.
Numerous iPad 3 casings have recently been leaked, including side-by-side images of the new casing compared to the iPad 2. It is thought to be likely that these are authentic casings, suggesting that the iPad 3 will be slightly thicker than its predecessor, but that the difference will barely be noticeable. Apple.pro even took a caliper to the iPad 3 rear shell, and found it to be slightly thicker than its iPad 2 counterpart.
Features and Specs
There have been many rumors regarding exactly what could be inside of the next iPad. The only rumor that is relatively certain is that the iPad 3 will pack a more powerful processor – likely a quad-core Apple “A6” processor. Other rumors have suggested that Apple is also working on an A5X chip, however, and a leaked iPad logic board from last year shows an A5X in an iPad 3 prototype. Some even suggest that Apple may be working on two seperate chipsets for future iOS devices.
Other rumors have suggested that the device will include improved front and back cameras, will support high-speed 4G LTE mobile data networks, and may feature a larger battery capacity. From the software side, Facebook integration has cropped up as a possible new feature for the iPad 3, with references to such integration having been discovered in iOS 5.1 developer builds.
What About the iPad 2?
With the iPad 3’s anticipated release drawing closer, questions have come up about the fate of the iPad 2. Some reports claim that Apple has already begun reducing iPad 2 orders, and may be phasing out the device, while others suggest Apple may keep the iPad 2 around and drop the price, providing a less expensive option for customers, as they have done with the iPhone in the past.
Other rumors suggest that Apple will release a new low-end iPad for around $300 that features some of the improvements of the iPad 3, but leaves some features off in order to reduce the price and provide a mid-range product choice. Rather than releasing two new models, it seems to make the most sense for Apple to simply continue offering the iPad 2 at a reduced price.
Reports published in November of last year suggested that iPad 3 production would begin in January. Bloomberg later stated in January that production had indeed begun. As such, sources seem to agree at this point that Apple has already started manufacturing on their next-gen tablet, which bodes well for a release in the near future.
Recent reports claim that iPad 3 shipments are already en route to the U.S., and are set to arrive on March 9th.
The most diverse set of rumors seems to have been regarding the release date of the next-gen iPad. While most reports have pegged the release for early 2012, the specifics have differed significantly.
Most reports have suggested that the next iPad will launch in March. While some sources (such as Gardner) have claimed Apple could be preparing a February release (perhaps even in time for Steve Jobs’ February 24th birthday), more recent information suggests that Apple does not have an event scheduled for that month.
On February 28th, Apple announced an iPad-related media event would be held on March 7th. Apple will discuss the next iPad at this event, as well as possibly announcing a new Apple TV, and an unknown “mystery product.”
Wrapping it Up
While nothing is known for certain about the iPad 3, its features or design, or its release date, there are a few safe bets. For instance, it’s nearly certain that we’ll see such a device in March, and that it will feature a faster processor and improved graphics, whether the improved chip is a dual-core A5X or a quad-core A6 chip.
It’s also reasonable to assume that the device may feature a high-resolution Retina display, and that Apple will have made some improvements to things such as battery life. These are natural progressions.
In the end, it’s a crap shoot. But hey – most of our questions will be answered on March 7th, and I, for one, will be ready.