Speculation about what the next version of Apple's best selling tablet has begun to abate a bit, which means rumour-mongers have more or less settled on what they think the next generation iPad will look like. Here's the consensus.
There's little debate that iPad 3 will have drop dead gorgeous display. Most Apple watchers agree that the 9.7-inch panel will be QXGA quality—2048 x 1536 pixels with 270 ppi—and carry the "Retina" name. To maintain its brightness, it will need two LED bars. Current iPads have only one bar. Since a tablet computer isn't much more than a screen, it's a safe bet that Apple will be taking iPad 3's display to another level to advance its position as the leader in the tablet market.
A new processor is also certainly in the cards for iPad 3. Competing products with very muscular chips will be appearing on the market this year so the next generation of Apple's slate will need more than just a pretty display to stay ahead of the pack nipping at its heels. While there's agreement that the new processor will be called the A-6, opinion diverges on whether it will be a quad core chip or souped-up dual core offering. With quad core processors becoming more and more common in mobile devices, though, it would be a let-down to many if iPad 3 had a dual core product.
Better battery life is also expected in the upcoming iPad. One estimate says that the tablet will sport a 14,000 mAh power plant that will deliver twice the battery life of the current iPad model. However, since new features in the iPad 3 could demand more power—dual LED bars, quad core processor—those battery life estimates could be shaky. Although it hasn't been mentioned much in the rumor mill, there's some speculation that iPad 3 may have cableless charging.
Since Apple's latest iPhone has an eight megapixel camera, it's only logical that the latest iPad have one, too. However, a 5MP camera has been thrown into the mix by speculators, which could mean a couple of things. Apple might make a basic iPad 3 with a 5MP rear-facing camera and make an 8MP unit an upgrade option. Or it could sell iPad 3 with an 8MP rear-facing camera and 5MP front-facing camera, which would really make its video conferencing on the new tablet sparkle. In addition to 8MP stills, the next generation iPad is expected to go the whole nine yards in HD video to 1080p.
The final physical shape of the iPad 3 is a fuzzy area among speculators. Some say the third generation tablet will be thicker to accommodate the extra LED bar, others adhere to historic precedent and argue that Apple products never get thicker, only thinner. Another persistent idea is that Apple will produce an iPad "mini" with a 7.85-inch display, a la the Kindle Fire. That, though, seems unlikely because it violates Apple's vision of what a tablet should be. That is, a device for both content creation and consumption. Eight-inch tablets are okay for consumption, but not so good for creation.
Timing and Pricing
Timing is a subject of endless theorizing among Apple watchers. A betting person, though, would be wise to wager on a March or April release.
As divided as rumorists are about the release if iPad 3, they seem to be in accord that it will be priced as the iPad 2 is. What's not so clear to speculators is what will happen to the Apple's second generation tablet when the new iPad arrives on the scene. Unlike iPad 1, which has gone to the refurbish bin, some say iPad 2 will continue to be made and sold by Apple, albeit at a lower price than it's selling for now. That seems to be a more logical course for Apple that producing a cheap "mini" iPad.