UPDATE: The New iPad is real. Click here for details, facts, new features, pricing, and more.
Ever since the release of the iPad 2 in March of last year, the consumer electronics press has been in something of a constant frenzy regarding the next-generation iPad's specifications, size, and more.
Naturally, these suggestions and rumors vary from the exciting and possible to the dull and impractical. With that in mind, TabTimes sifted through the rumors to identify the most and least truthful. Let's get started.
What's in the iPad 3?
High resolution display
Rumors of an extremely high resolution display have been making the rounds for some time now, upon claims from within the channel that the iPad 3 will be fitted with a HD-beating 2048 x 1536 resolution display that will qualify it for "Retina" status.
The quality and pixel density of such a panel is so high, however, that reports and rumors towards the end of 2011 indicated that Apple's panel manufacturers were struggling to make these displays. Those rumors were curtailed somewhat when Reuters claimed that a million of the 2048 x 1536 panels, made by Sharp and LG Display, were shipped to manufacturers in Q4 2011, with a futher 7-8 million panels expected to be shipped this quarter.
This in itself raises the possibility that panel manufacturers are ramping up to cater for iPad 3 demand.
It is worth noting one of the potential downsides to this high resolution display, and this is that, if utilized, the new iPad is likely to be 0.7mm thicker, due in part to the fact that the tablet will need slightly larger light bars.
Quard-core A6 CPU
The iPad 3 is likely to sport an A6 processor from either TSMC or Samsung, depending on who you believe, with Samsung behind the A5 chipset for the iPad 2. It looks likely that this CPU will be a powerful quad-core processor either way.
4G LTE support on iPad 3
This week, rumors broke that appeared to confirm what many have speculated for some time: that the iPad 3 will offer 4G LTE support, offering fast and reliable data connection, and rapid download speeds. Our take? 4G LTE support seems like a no-brainer. What's not clear is whether or not both AT&T and Verizon's 4G networks will be supported.
HD camera, but 5MP or 8MP?
One rumor that is not going away is speculation, that Apple looks likely to mirror the move it made with the iPhone 4S, by applying a bigger and better camera to the next-generation iPad. Rumor sources say the camera will be located in the top left-hand area of the iPad 3 and will come with either a 5MP CMOS sensor from Samsung or an 8MP CMOS sensor from Sony.
Siri in iPad 3
According to a 9to5Mac report, Apple may add Siri Dictation to the iPad 3. The news site said that a source noted a “Privacy and Dictation” section when looking through the iOS 5.1 beta 3 settings application on the iPad, and found legal and feature information for Siri included within this section. Siri has already been an enormous success with the iPhone 4S and could certainly revolutionize data entry on Apple tablets.
Near Field Communications
One of the more interesting rumors on the iPad 3's specifications is the possibility that the device might include an NFC chip for mobile payments and other uses.
Reporters at the Cult of Mac claim to have 'received a tip' that Apple will incorporate an NFC wireless chip in the iPad 3. This would turn the tablet into an electronic wallet, while allowing users to wirelessly request and share information when in very close proximity to other nearby devices. This could be a potential boon for workplace environments.
iPad 3 stylus? Probably
Some reporters believe that an officiall Apple iPad stylus could pop up with the iPad 3, which is a slightly heretical belief, given Steve Jobs' comments on stylus-supporting tablet manufacturers back in 2010. (“If you see a stylus, they blew it.”)
The suggestion is that the stylus (if there is only one, which has been debated) may have a heated tip for greater precision, and could even be docked in an iPad to charge.
It's a fanciful idea, and not one without promise or foundation, with Apple having reportedly filed two different patents for stylus technology earlier in 2011. The battery-powered, heated stylus design would certainly produce more receptive contact with the iPad, while the rumored Wi-Fi design is interesting because it would theoretically allow users to write on any surface and beam to the tablet over wireless.
This said, it begs the question: What kind of changes would an official Apple stylus have on iOS and its polished UI? And would an official stylus pave the way for native mouse support?
Our take? A more likely official Apple extension for the iPad3 would be a keyboard. Given the number of accessory manufacturers making $$$ off of keyboard designs, and given Apple's tendency to bring close-to-the-device peripherals in-house (hello Smart Cover), we're not ruling this out.
What's not in the iPad 3?
Thunderbolt high-speed data transfer
A Thunderbolt port would be revolutionary for the iPad, but appears unlikely at this stage. Intel's Thunderbolt (also known as LightPeak) is capable of data transfer rates up to 10Gbps (or 1.25GBps), supports high-resolution displays and can effectively transfer a full-length HD movie in well under a minute. Apple has already brought the technology to the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini to date, but the technology is still in its infancy, and is not cost-effective for tablets.
Suggestions of a 3D display are also probably wide of the mark, although French researchers have found a way to do 3D on the iPad 2 without the need for any new hardware. With 3D yet to become truly established however – both on large and small screens – it would seem unlikely that Apple will tackle something still considered a fad in certain sectors.
RCR Wireless recently spoke to an unnamed "Hollywood insider" who said "big film studios were currently running around like blue-arsed flies trying to gear up to release plenty of 3D content in time for Apple's next launch." Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.
Multiple iPad models and sizes (in 2012)
Digitimes says that different models of the iPad will be introduced early this year, with a lower-cost iPad 3 entering the market in March and the iPad 4 coming to fruition in October.
One source claims that the new launch won’t even be for the iPad 3, but for a slightly modified tablet, akin to the iPhone 4S. Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief of iLounge.com claimed to have seen an unspectacular next-generation iPad at the Consumer Electronics Show.
"I'd show you a picture, but there's honestly nothing to be seen," he says. "Think iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S: this device so resembles the iPad 2 that differences are only obvious when they're placed next to each other. From the back, you could walk past this new iPad on display and have no idea that anything had changed."
Other rumours center around sightings of tablet covers for an ‘iPad 2S’ tablet in China. Case manufacturers have been right before when it comes down to guessing Apple’s next hardware move, however.
When will the iPad 3 ship?
As always, there have been numerous questions and rumors as to when Apple intends to launch the iPad 3.
Rumors have circulated that Apple could celebrate the life of the late Steve Jobs by holding the launch event on his birthday on February, 24 while other, more likely, reports suggest that it is likely to be early March.
Either way, given Apple's last two tablets have launched in early April and early March, it would be fair to assume that the iPad 3 will be with us within the next six weeks or so.