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When has curiosity ever actually killed the cat?

The Apple iPad 2 has been out for almost a year now, so it’s time to say hello to iPad 3 (or possibly the iPad HD, if new rumours are to be believed).

And we’ll be doing just that at aniPad 3 launch this week (Wednesday to be exact) – the subject of the event is “something you really have to see. And touch” says Apple.

The web is teeming with rumours about the new iPad 3 / iPad HD processor, cameras and display, so we’ve gathered together as many details as we can on its possible specifications.

Of course, some of these can be taken with a pinch of salt, but there’s definite patterns occurring and we’d say the final iPad 3 release won’t be that far removed from many of these rumours.

It’s time to place your bets, what do you think the iPad 3 / iPad HD will bring? But wait, what’s this – Sky Bet has pulled its iPad 3 betting after certain trends occurred: “If the money is correct, then the new hardware will definitely not have a new carbon fibre casing, will not be called the iPad 2S and will have 128GB of storage!”.

So what’s the word on the street about the iPad 3?

Apple iPad 3 release date

The iPad 3 release date will be March or April 2012. We now know there will definitely be an iPad 3 launch event on 7 March and we’ll probably also see the release of iOS 5.1 at the same time.

We’d expect the iPad 3 US release date to be in early March and the iPad 3 UK release date later in the month.

Apple news site iMore was right in saying the announcement would be 7 March, citing sources “which have proved reliable in the past” have confirmed the date ahead of any official announcement from Cupertino.

On 27 February it was reported that the iPad 3 was ready to ship from Foxconn in China and a shipment would arrive in the US on 9 March.

Digitimes reported in late November 2011 that panel makers had already started shipping panels for the new iPad 3 – a million in October and two million in November.

Foxconn, Apple’s major manufacturing partner, is said to have started production of the iPad 3 in January. 2012. A source at one of Apple’s partnersalso told Bloomberg also stated that the company began production of the iPad 3 in January, with a view to reaching full volumes in February.

Digitimes reckons the new model is expected to meet the heady heights of 9.5 to 9.8 million units over the course of Q1 2012.

The Apple iPad 3 will have a quad-core processor

It’s probable that the iPad 3 will have a brand spanking new processor, Apple’s A6 – which will surely be a quad-core ARM-based processor. Quad-core designs are coming from various ARM partners and the Tegra 3 has already been launched by Nvidia, as well as the Snapdragon S4 from Qualcomm.

According to the Korea Times in November, the A6 processors are to be manufactured by Samsung, despite the companies’ ongoing patent battles. Could it be based on the new ARM A15 core design?

Apple iPad 3 display

A retina display was widely predicted for the iPad 2, but of course the current iPad doesn’t have a double-resolution display: for now, that’s something you’ll only get in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Could an iPad 3 Retina Display be on the way? It’s the very first thing on our iPad 3 wish list.

The exciting news is that it looks as though it is happening, with Apple reportedly testing suppliers’ current shipments of 2048 x 1536 resolution 9.7-inch displays. Now that iBooks 2 has been launched (as of 19 January 2012),we’ve also seen further references to 2x iPad screen images – these will, most likely, be for iPad 3.

However, it’s not always been plain sailing for the display – rumours continued over the summer and autumn of 2011 that the retina display in the iPad 3 wascontinuing to be a challenge.

Back in May 2011, we reported that the iPad 3 could launch with a Samsung-made AMOLED screen, following rumours that Apple was in talks on the matter with Samsung execs. There have also been more LG and Samsung rumours, too.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal in late November 2011, Sharp will manufacture panels for the device. Apparently Apple is investing in infrastructure at Sharp’s LCD plant. Further rumours said that Apple is looking to implement some nifty dual LED lightbar technology into the iPad 3, apparently in a bid to counter-balance the brightness issue that the Apple tablet may have, due to its super-high pixel density.

A part leak in early December again pointed to a Sharp-manufactured 2048 x 1536 retina display and dual lightbar. More display details then leaked on 24 February 2012.

iPad 2

iPAD 2: We wanted a retina screen, but didn’t get it – what about for iPad 3?

The next iPad is the iPad HD

The new iPad could actually be called the iPad HD if leaked data from iPad accessory manufacturers is to be believed.

The latest speculation comes from leaked parts listings of iPad accessory manufacturers Griffin and Belkin, who only get information on Apple devices a week or two before they are announced.

The listing shows the product name “Griffin IPAD HD”, which upholds other rumours that the iPad 3 (or is it the iPad HD now?) will sport at retina-like display, as seen on the iPhone 4S.

Although this by no means guarantees the iPad 3 will be the iPad HD, server logs have also turned up which make reference to a device called iPad HD and discloses the tablet’s resolution as 2048 x 1536.

Rumours of an iPad HD release grew stronger on 6 March with reports via Venturebeat and Cnet claiming that sources close to Apple have confirmed the iPad HD moniker.

Or will it be the iPad 2S?

An iPad case maker in China, Chinee, has started to sell a cover for a device it’s calling ‘iPad 2S’.

Case manufactures have a good history of being on the money when it comes to pre-empting Apple’s hardware plans, with last year’s iPhone 5-gate being an exception to the rule.

There is no confusion of where the iPad 2S name derives from – following the way of the iPhone as we saw Apple announce the iPhone 4S last year.

According to several rumours the iPad 2S will sport the same look as the 2, with a boost in internal gubbins but slightly more portly in depth.

There may be an iPad 3 LTE version

Persistent rumours suggest LTE support will be provided for the US. Great for the US, though it will leave the UK behind as there’s no 4G connectivity as yet.Cnet.com believes that the new iPad may feature a Qualcomm 4G LTE Gobi 4000 chip.

On 14 February 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that: “Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. will sell a version of the coming iPad that runs on their newest fourth-generation wireless networks, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The iPad 3 will usher in iOS 5.1

Alongside the much anticipated iPad 3, Macotakara sources seem convinced we’ll see iOS 5.1 come out of beta in March too.

The iPad 3 will have a bigger battery

A casing supposedly for the iPad 3 was posted online in February, with its size suggesting we’re in for an increase in battery and graphics power in the new Apple tablet. Some say the new casing appears to accommodate a larger battery.

Will the iPad 3 have a smaller dock connector?

Parts previewed on some websites indicate that, although the iPad 3 will still have a 30 pin dock connector, the packaging is streamlined. Well, if this is true, we knew it would happen sooner or later.

The iPad 3 hardware could include an NFC chip

Apple’s very interested in Near Field Communications, and one particularly tasty rumour at Cult of Mac suggests that the iPhone 5 will use NFC to take over nearby Macs, enabling you to use your data and settings with a flick of the wrist.

The iPad 3 specifications will include more storage

The iPad 2 has the familiar 16/32/64GB storage options. A 128GB option for the iPad 3 isn’t impossible – although that might depend on the situation in Asia, where natural disasters caused chaos in parts of the electronics industry last year.

The iPad 3 features could include a Thunderbolt port

Two generations of USB-free iPads suggest that Apple just isn’t interested in adding one, but the new Thunderbolt port found in the 2011 MacBook Pro andMacBook Air could be another story: it’s a combined accessory/display connector with astonishingly fast performance.

There could be more than one iPad 3

TUAW says the iOS 5 code features new code files for USB devices in the iOS 5 firmware, Through this, TUAW found references to an iPad 3,1 and an iPad 3,2. Is this latter variant the LTE version?

The iPad 3 could be thicker

The iPad 3 might be bulking out, reportedly so it can house a higher-resolution display than the iPad 2, and the extra girth is all down to pixel density.

iPad 2

THICKER?: Could iPad 3 be thicker than iPad 2?

The iPad 3 specs might include an SD card slot

This was widely predicted for the iPad 2 and, like the Retina Display, didn’t materialise. One for version 3, perhaps? Using a separate adapter to read camera cards is rather inelegant and clunky.

The iPad 3 specification should include a better camera

The rear-facing camera on the iPad 2 isn’t brilliant: an iPhone 4S-style camera and flash would do nicely.

Several reports are suggesting the new device will have an 8MP camera.

The iPad 3 might use gesture controls

Could the iPad 3 have Kinect-style gesture controls? We’re not so sure, butrumours suggested so in late October 2011.

The iPad 3 could feature a carbon fibre case

Apple has hired a carbon fibre expert, senior composites engineer Kevin Kenney, fuelling speculation that the next iPad could be encased in the lightweight material.

iPad 3 price

Speculation suggests that the iPad 3 price will be $579, rather than the $499 users are currently paying for a Wi-Fi-only 16GB iPad 2.

More than just an iPad 3

Reports are suggesting that a cheap iPad 2 could be launched alongside the new iPad 3 – sporting 8GB of internal memory in an attempt to tackle the budget tablet market.

There’s also talk that Apple is lining up an iPad mini for later this year, which could start production in Q3. Could we see its first outing on Wednesday?

(Credit: TechRadar)
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