Apple finally announced on Tuesday that it will unveil its next-generation iPad -- the iPad 3 -- on Wednesday, March 7 in San Francisco. In the company's invitation to media members, the iPad's design appeared to lack a home button, unlike every iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch currently available.
The invitation's sole message said: We have something you really have to see. And touch.
To celebrate the new iPad announcement, San Francisco-based 3D animation and design firm Aatma Studio conjured up a concept video of what the iPad 3 may look and feel like. Even if this isn't what Apple unveils on March 7, it's still pretty dang cool. (You can view the video at the bottom of the page.)
In the video, the back of the iPad 3 looks normal, but when it's turned around and turned on, the front screen is missing its iconic home button -- just like the tablet from Apple's invitation. The Retina Display is big and beautiful, and reaches across all of the edges of the 9.7-inch tablet.
But without a home button, how does the iPad 3 wake up? Aatma Studio's concept simply wakes up with a touch to the center of the screen; however, Apple would never settle on a design where the controls are not tight or clear.
If Apple actually dumps the home button, the iPad 3 could use magnets to awake from sleep. Apple introduced this idea in the iPad 2 with the Smart Cover, which would wake up the iPad if any part of the cover was peeled away from the screen. Apple could use this magnet approach in conjunction with its infamous Slide to Unlock design to turn the iPad on without needing a home button.
The invitation to the iPad 3 event -- something you really have to see -- all but confirms the rumors of an incredibly high-resolution Retina Display boasting a pixel resolution of 2048 x 1536 ppi. The concept video brings this beauty to life, and lets users see big beautiful videos across the entire display of the tablet.
Better yet, Aatma's design uses magnets once again to make even bigger, more beautiful displays. When two iPad 3s are placed next to each other, internal magnets within the device and near-field communication chips transmit information between the iPads to play a movie that uses both screens. The end result is seemless, and the stunning display keeps its high resolution while expanding the size to accommodate a landscape or theatre-style video watching experience.
The magnets within the iPad 3s are so strong that the user in the video can lift up one tablet, and the other one lifts up without any wobbling. The video continues to play despite this movement.
When both tablets are attached together, Aatma offers another cool concept feature that allows the two iPad 3 owners to play together. Within an app, the user taps the screen twice to bring up a dock of other apps, and clicks an app icon to launch a game. In the concept video, the game chosen is a high-definition football game, which uses the length of both iPads to create a realistic football field.
One of Aatma's favorite design concepts for Apple devices is the use of lasers and projectors to control the iPad outside the device. This same idea was used for the Aatma's iPhone 5 concept video, which showed how the iPhone 5 could project a virtual keyboard out of the bottom of the device, which could be expanded and typed on like a real keyboard.
In the iPad 3 concept video, both tablets project game controls onto the surface around the iPads, which is then controlled by the user to control the players on screen. In this way, the users can participate in a beautiful-looking game without covering up the action on the screen itself.
The end of the video shows how the game's football player characters are actually holograms projected above the iPad 3 screens. While this is idea is beautiful, this is a concept is far too ambitious for this current iPad design.
Besides the display's size and look, the iPad 3 is said to feature an improved camera system, a bigger battery, and a dual-LED backlit system to power the true HD display that looks, according to a source who spoke to The New York Times, truly amazing. Apple's dual-LED solution makes the iPad's screen noticeably brighter, but it also apparently solved several puzzling issues with heat dissipation and battery consumption.
Apple has reportedly built two new processors -- a new dual-core A5X processor and a new quad-core A6 processor -- but there's been confusion over which kind of chip will power the iPad 3. Most believe the powerful A6 is reserved for the iPad 3, while the A5X will power the new 1080p HD-compatible Apple TV.
The iPad 3 will also apparently be the first Apple iOS device to feature the high-speed 4G LTE network. The Wall Street Journal confirms that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are getting ready to sell an LTE-capable iPad, which could achieve faster download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies.
Apple hoped to include LTE in the iPhone 4S, but the current implementations of LTE in phones caused very short battery life, which was a major complaint by users. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a company earnings conference call in April 2011, said first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.
The iPhone 4 PCB [printed circuit board] is already incredibly small, not leaving any room for an extra chip to enable LTE without shrinking the size of the battery, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and CEO of Anandtech.
Fortunately, Qualcomm recently unveiled the fifth iteration of its new chip, which supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, HSPA+, EV-DO, embedded GPS, and LTE on TDD and FDD networks worldwide. The chip works with Android and Windows 8 devices, but by targeting so many different carriers, there's a high degree of likelihood that this will be the same chip inside the iPhone 5.
Apple has also reportedly upgraded its front and rear cameras for better Facetime and pictures. This is no surprise -- the camera system on the iPad 2 is now considered low-end, given that it only records up to 720p HD and requires tapping to focus. Assuming Apple outfitted the iPad 3 to shoot stills and video like the iPhone 4S, expect autofocus, video stabilization and full 1080p HD video recording.
Another reason to believe the iPad 3 will shoot 1080p video: Starting late last year, Apple reportedly asked several movie studios to submit content to the iTunes Store in 1080p.
Thus far, 1080p HD content has largely eluded users of Apple products, with HD versions of videos on the company's digital download service maxing out 720p (1280 x 720) and chief executive Steve Jobs balking at adoption of Blu-ray on Macs due to licensing complications and other challenges that he said threatened to translate into a 'bag of hurt.' But that could begin to change later this year, as a handful of feature films being submitted to the iTunes Store for a release in the September and October timeframe are being sent with documentation for an optional 1920 x 1080 resolution, according to people familiar with the matter.
Apple is expected to launch a new version of its operating system, iOS 5.1, along with the iPad 3 on March 7. If this is true, iOS 5.1 could offer support for 1080p HD videos. If this is the case, the update would also apply to the Apple TV device, which currently maxes out at 720p HD. In this way, users could start watching full HD videos on their Apple TVs, Mac computers and new iPads starting in early March.