Rumors about the launch of iPad 3 have gained momentum over the last few months. The latest is that the tablet is expected this spring. With a host of new features, the tablet could be Apple's biggest release this year if the rumored specs are true.

Here's a look at what is known so far.

Quad-core processor: In all probability, the upcoming tablet from Apple will boast of a brand new processor - Apple's new A6 processor, and it is certain that it will be a quad-core ARM-based processor.

It is believed that the quad-core designs will be arriving from various ARM partners. Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4 have already been launched by Nvidia and Qualcomm respectively. An earlier report in Korea Times said the new A6 processors will be manufactured by Samsung, notwithstanding the bitter rivalry between the companies.

Display and Thickness:  iPad 2 was widely predicted to arrive with a retina display, but that never came. Now it is widely believed that the next iPad will arrive with a retina display, which is, at the moment, only available in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

Apple was previously reported to have tested suppliers' current shipments of 2048 x 1536 resolution 9.7-inch displays. The device could also arrive a bit thicker compared to current generation iPad so as to house a higher resolution display.

Back in May last year, it was reported that iPad 3 could be launched with a Samsung-made AMOLED screen. This was followed by rumors that Apple was in talks on the matter with Samsung executives. However, according to the Wall Street Journal in late November 2011, Sharp is set to manufacture panels for the device, and that the company is investing in infrastructure at Sharp's LCD plant.

Some reports also said that Apple is looking to implement some effective dual LED lightbar technology into iPad 3, which is an attempt to counter-balance the brightness issue that the tablet could have due to its super-high pixel density.

iPad 3 or iPad 2S?: The latest rumor started regarding the name of the device and an iPad case maker in China, Chinee, also, reportedly started to sell a cover for a device called 'iPad 2S'. It is believed that the new device might be called iPad 2S after Apple did the same thing with iPhone 4S last year. It may be so because the new tablet could end up looking like the current generation iPad.

NFC Chip and LTE: It is rumored that Apple will introduce the Near Field Communication in both the upcoming iPad 3 and iPhone 5.

The company is said to be introducing this technology to make compatibility with Macs even easier. As far as LTE is concerned, a Cnet report claimed that the new iPad may feature a Qualcomm 4G LTE Gobi 4000 chip.

Thunderbolt Port: Apple could end up adding a much talked about Thunderbolt port to its newest tablet after the 2011 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air were introduced with thunderbolt ports. If this happens, then an amazingly fast performance is expected.

Better Camera, SD Card Slot and Gesture Controls:  A better camera is expected in iPad 3, the specification of which is still unknown. Although a SD card slot has been rumored, it is highly improbable. But a Kinect-style gesture control is a futuristic bet to make at this point.

And finally, Release Date: According to a DigiTimes report in November 2011, the device's panel makers had already started shipping panels for the new iPad 3. A million were shipped in October while another two million were shipped in November.

Foxconn, Apple's major manufacturing partner, is said to have started production of the iPad 3 in January 2012. Another source at one of Apple's partners also told Bloomberg that the company began production of iPad 3 in January, with an aim to reaching full volumes in February.

The device could be released, in all probability, this spring. Citi analyst Richard Gardner also predicted that the tablet could arrive in February.

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