Apple Inc. is expected to release iPad 3 anytime in the next two months, as reports and analysts forecast suggest February to March time frame.
According to the DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to release two versions of iPad 3 at the iWorld (formerly known as Macworld) trade show in San Francisco Jan. 26. Other reports speculated that the tablet would be unveiled Feb. 24, the birthday of Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs.
According to the DigiTimes, Apple is set to unveil two versions of its next-generation tablet, one for the high-end segment and one for the mid-range segment. The new models of iPad 3 will join iPad 2, demonstrating Apple's complete iPad series targeting the entry-level, mid-range and high-end market segments.
Substantiating to the DigiTimes report, Barclays Capital has said the Cupertino, California-based tech giant may unveil two iPads in 2012. According to analyst Ben Reitzes of Barclays, while one model of the iPad 3 will come with better cameras, higher resolution display, A5 processor and Siri in March, another one will hit the market later this year, featuring a faster processor and 4G LTE.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek also expects an iPad 3 launch in calendar first quarter while Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland also anticipates iPad 3 will arrive in the same time this year.
Take a look at the rumored features of iPad 3:
Design: Apple, which is best known for its beautiful design, is anticipated to adopt a teardrop design for iPad 3 that is supposed to be thinner than previous models with an aluminum plate casing.
It is expected that Apple is adopting a more uniform design across all of its devices than ever before. For this, aluminum would be a consistent material that will also be used in the upcoming iPad 3, iPhone 5 and iPod lineups as well.
Display: According to Misek, Apple has shifted display production and that Sharp has now become a large panel supplier. He believes that the Gen 6 Kameyama facility has been exclusively taken over for Apple purposes with Apple purchasing $500 million to $1 billion of equipment for the manufacturing of iPad 3 and iPhone 5 LTE displays.
Misek believes production of iPad 3 displays began two weeks ago and is the cause of much of the noise in the supply chain. Also, he believes that Apple and Sharp together have a modified IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc) technology to achieve 330 dpi, which is sufficient for an HD display while not using IPS nor having to include dual-bar LED backlighting.
Going forward, Misek believes that Apple and Sharp will jointly develop OLED panels for use in the iPhone and iPad within the next one to two years. This contrasts with conventional wisdom that states Samsung will have a lock on OLED for that period. The equalizer is a new printing technology based on a combination of daisy wheel and inkjet technology that prints the OLED onto a film that is then deposited onto glass.
In a recent report, MacRumors claimed to have acquired a leaked photo of the iPad 3 suggesting that the device will come with the same 9.7-inch size display but will sport a high resolution screen of 2048x1536 which is four times the number of pixels of the current iPad 2.
The talks about a retina display first reared its head with the previous iPad 2, but Apple had other plans. Now, iPad 3 is being massively speculated to arrive in the retina display with an improvised resolution of 2058x1536 pixels.
Operating System: Apple's iPad 2 has iOS 4 that could be upgradable to iOS 5, which was announced at the WWDC 2011 keynote address on June 6, 2011. The iOS 5 comes with 200 new features that will include Improved Notifications System, Newsstand and iMessage. It will also feature new applications, such as the Reminders app and Newsstand, an application resembling Folders and iBooks.
It is still not known whether Apple will bring out its next OS, presumably called iOS 6, at the WWDC in June 2012. And it is expected that iPad 3 could be upgradable to iOS 6 after June. On the other hand, some analysts and tech enthusiasts even said there are chances that Apple would also introduce OS X Lion for the tablet.
However, Misek expects that Apple is looking to merge iOS (iPhone/iPad) and OS X (Macintosh) into a single platform for apps and cloud services starting either in 2012 or 2013 and complete in 2016.
Users will be willing to pick up any iPhone, iPad, or Mac (or turn on their iTV) and have content move seamlessly between them and be optimized for the user and the device currently being used. Misek believes this will be difficult to implement if iOS and OS X are kept separate.
Hardware: iPad 2 comes with A5 chipset that is powered by 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU with NEON SIMD accelerator and a dual core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU. The A5 package contains 512 MB of low-power DDR2 RAM clocked at 533 MHz.
According to a DigiTimes report, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (TSMC) is expected to quietly secure Apple's contract, and even succeed in extending the deal to cover the manufacture for the A6's successor. But Jefferies analyst Robert Lea cautioned that this is an unconfirmed story and that DigiTimes has in the past been inaccurate.
Apple's next iPad will be faster and more power-efficient thanks to its new, quad-core A6 processor, but the new tablet may not be ready to ship until next June, Linley Gwennap, founder and principal analyst at The Linley Group, told the PCWorld.
The A6 should bring more performance to Apple devices while preserving battery life. Many of the improvements would come from TSMC's 28-nanometer manufacturing process, said Gwennap. The process will shrink the circuitry compared to the A5, which is manufactured on a 40-nanometer process, making the A6 smaller and faster.
We expect the A6 will be a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 design, which would be competitive with next year's best mobile processors. In 2012, Nvidia will offer a quad-core Cortex-A9 processor, and Qualcomm will have the aforementioned MSM8960, a dual-core A15-class processor operating at 1.7GHz, said Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst at The Linley Group.
Fabricating Apple's A6 in 28nm (instead of the 40nm process Nvidia is using for its quad-core part) will reduce both die cost and power, yielding a much better product, added Krewell.
It is expected that iPad 3 will integrate a fast 1.2-to-1.5 GHz quad-core A6 chip, with probably 1GB or more of RAM.
Camera: iPad 2 comes with a 0.7 megapixel with 720p video capture capabilities and a secondary VGA one for video chat. It is rumored that iPad 3 will come with 5 megapixel or 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video capture. Added to that, iPad 3 is expected to have a dual-LED flash and the flash unit will be separated from the camera sensor. Along with the rear-facing, speculation suggests that iPad 3 will have a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting.
According to the DigiTimes, the two new iPads will share some common features - a 10.7-inch QXGA screen (1536 x 2048) and A6 processor. However, one will boast a 5 megapixel camera whereas the other will feature an 8 megapixel one.
If the rumor is true, it means Apple will offer three kinds of iPads at the same time - iPad 2 with A5 Chip, XGA panel and a 0.7 megapixel camera (for the entry-level market), and two iPad 3s - A6 chip, XGA panel and 5 megapixel camera (for mid-level market) and A6 chip, QXGA panel and 8 megapixel camera (for high-end market).
Another rumor indicated that iPhone 5 and iPad 3 will have a 3D camera. Apple has filed a patent application related to 3D picture with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March last, according to an AppleInsider report. The filing described a system that would be capable of capturing, processing and rendering 3D images with the additional dual-camera hardware.
iCloud: iPad 2 is featuring the new iCloud service for operating iTunes, providing wireless remote access of music from all computers and mobile devices. The iCloud will also store photos, apps, calendars and documents without using the phone's memory storage capacity.
The cloud will form the center of Apple's strategy, allowing users to effectively keep their identity and content profiles in the cloud, Misek believes. Users will log on to a device where the profile, content and apps will be customized and optimized for the device.
A preview of a beta version of iCloud shows the merger of iOS and OS X is happening with syncing across platforms. Misek said his preliminary view was that Apple could use a 32-bit ARM architecture to address the vast majority of the OS X ecosystem's needs in 2012 and 2013, except for the high-end professional devices.
It is expected that Apple will upgrade its iCloud service this year and iPad 3 will also feature a better service.
4G LTE: Apple's iPad 2 only offered 3G technology, but the rumor is rife that iPad 3 will have 4G LTE. LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, provides significantly faster download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies.
Apple's Chief Executive Tim Cook said in April that the first generation LTE chipsets forced a lot of design compromises with its devices and that the company was not willing to make those compromises.
Luckily, Qualcomm is reportedly developing a new, thinner LTE chipset. The chip, dubbed the MDM9615, will likely be a 28-nanometer process, which is considerably smaller than current LTE chipset's 45nm designs. The new LTE chip is expected to debut in the second or third quarter next year.
Misek stated that Apple will likely launch an iPad refresh in calendar first quarter with a new screen, quad-core A6, and LTE.
Near Field Communication: NFC allows simplified transactions, data exchange, and connections with a touch. A smartphone or tablet with an NFC chip could make a credit card payment or serve as keycard or ID card. Globally, 100 million people use mobile payment outside the U.S., but only 3.5 million use the technology in the U.S. It is expected that iPad 3 will have NFC capabilities.
Wireless Charging: A revolutionary way of charging devices may see iPad 3 gain mass appeal. The inductive wireless charging technology for the iPad could juice up its battery without the use of cables or plugs. By utilizing a charging dock, the iPad can charge its battery as well as share, sync or back up data at the same time.
According to Tech Labs, iPad 3 is expected to have wireless charging technology, allowing for easier data transfer and charging of batteries.
Just as HP has built wireless charging into its TouchPad (all that TouchPad owners need to do is place their tablets into the HP charging dock), Apple should integrate wireless charging into the iPad so that it would charge right up without the need to plug any cables into the device itself.
Fire-proof iPad 3: Another rumor is that iPad 3 will be a fire-proof tablet. Apple has filed a patent application for an advanced halogen-free flame retardant material which could be used in future Apple products.
Rumors suggest that the new material will be integrated into the manufacturing of Apple products like keyboards, mouse, iPods, the iPad, cabling and more. Apple's invention provides for a halogen free resin composition that includes at least one thermoplastic polymer, an inorganic filler and a flame retardant additive that is described as being self-fire extinguishable.
Fingerprint Proof: Apple has already been granted patents on this technology, and is working real hard to make the iPad 3 fingerprint proof. The touch screen will be coated with oleophobic materials, which will reduce the oil and fingerprints on the screen.
Face Recognition: It is rumored that iPad 3 will recognize users by face. According to MacRumors, a patent had been filed in 2010 that says a user profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user's face.
The face detection system could be a low-power system that is always active, allowing face detection to be the primary method to unlock your iOS device.
Siri: The iPad 3 is rumored to come with the latest voice command technology, Siri. However, it is expected that the device will have an upgraded version of Siri.
Siri, which is currently in beta version, is a voice-command personal assistant that helps a user get things done just by asking. It is also expected that the upgraded version of Siri will have additional languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Spanish.
Battery: iPad 2, which has a Li-Po 6930 mAh battery, gets up to 10 hours of talk time and up to 720 hours of standby. Apple seems to be investing heavily in battery technology as the rumored iPad 3 will offer better features and have power hungry components.
DigiTimes' report cited sources at Apple's supply chain partners who said the new iPad was expected to have enhanced battery life, with a capacity of as high as 14,000 milliampere-hour (mAh) used in the new iPads. The report even stated that Simplo Technology and Dynapack International Technology had both secured orders for batteries.
The newly developed battery is also expected to be thinner and lighter, which could prove to be beneficial for further slimming and weight reduction. Misek expects iPad 3 to have better battery life that should be longer, and the overall experience for users should be meaningfully improved.
HDMI: Apple introduced the HDMI playback in iPad 2, but it had problems. The user needed an additional digital AV adapter which was available for $39. The upcoming iPad 3 is expected to end the problems regarding the additional HDMI cable with an evolved HDMI port.
Pricing: iPad 2 is priced at $499 for 16GB version, $599 for 32GB version and $699 for 64GB version. When iPad 2 was launched, Apple's first-generation iPad got a $100 price cut until units ran out. It is expected that Apple will price iPad 3 in the $499 to $699 range.
Speculations are rife that when iPad 3 is launched, the price tag of iPad 2 might be dropped to $299. Even after the iPad 3 launch, Misek believes Apple will continue to produce iPad 2 and will lower the price by $100 to $200.
The consumers won't be surprised if the $299 iPad has 8GB storage capacity as Apple also launched an 8GB iPhone 4, which carried a price tag of $99 after iPhone 4S was released, to compete with entry-level smartphones.