At a time when the iPhone 5 release date and specification rumors are spreading like wildfire, many have forgotten about the iPad 3, Apple's successor to the iPad 2.

New reports about the next-generation iPad 3, which Apple may launch in the first half of 2012, claim that it will have thinner, lighter and longer-lasting batteries but will be 30 percent more expensive than those found in the current iPad 2.

One speculation making rounds is that Apple may fit an A6 chip into the iPad 3. The A6 chip is speculated to provide 30 percent more power while cutting power consumption by around 50 percent. They're also expected to be cooler in operation.

But a Wall Street Journal report refuted this and said iPad 3 would still sport only an A5 processor that powers the iPad 2.

We are seeing signs that production for iPad 3 will begin in 4Q; however, it does not appear that the new A6 chip will be ready by 4Q, which means iPad 3 would likely stay with the A5 processor manufactured by Samsung, Susquehanna Financial analyst Chris Caso wrote in a recent note to clients.

Caso said the iPad build plans remain robust and he has increased its third-quarter forecast from 17 million to 19 million units from prior forecast of 13.5 million units. For the second half of 2011, in total, iPad production appears to average out at a 15 million unit/quarter rate, which continues to look favorable.

The analyst also said production for iPad 3 is scheduled to begin production in the fourth quarter, which would allow the tablets to be in the hands of consumers by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, Apple is expanding its presence in China and is set to launch 3G iPad 2 in China to be carried by its Chinese iPhone partner, China Unicom, a Wall Street Journal report said.