Apple is reportedly "weeks away" from debuting the iPad 3, although the device's actual release date will come about a month later, in early March 2012.
Fake iPads made of clay were sold to as many as 10 people in Vancouver, Canada Courtesy/

Apple is reportedly weeks away from unveiling its next-generation iPad 3, which is said to debut towards the beginning of February and go on sale in early March. Citing sources from within the company's Asian supply chain, the iPad 3 will also run on an upgraded operating system, iOS 5.1, which will also reportedly launch alongside the new iPad.

The new report is in line with several previous rumors stating Apple would unveil the iPad 3 in February, but release the product in March.

There do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining, said Citi analyst Richard Gardner.

Reports over the last several months have all said the same things about the iPad 3: It will improve upon its predecessor's battery life, it will feature LTE for the first time in any Apple device, and it will double the pixel density of the iPad 2, giving a full HD QXGA display resolution somewhere in the ballpark of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. Apple reportedly solved several issues with heat dissipation and battery consumption of the iPad 2's single LED backlight, so the company decided to add in a second LED bar into the next iPad for resolution's sake.

The larger resolution should provide the company's app developers more convenience, while all future applications will be able to run under any of Apple's machines including the 27-inch iMac, Gardner said.

Apple's iPad 3 is also said to run on a new quad-core A6 chip, which doubles the power and speed of the A5 chip currently found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. The next iPad will also get a better front-facing camera for FaceTime and a rear camera equal to or better than the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S.

One report said that while the iPad 3 will not be a revolutionary device, Apple will take advantage of the iPad 3 launch to slash the price of its iPad 2 to US$399. Apple currently sells the iPad 2 at a base price of $499, but by lowering the prices of its tablets, Apple can better compete against cheaper tablet rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Nook and other tablets running Android's mobile operating system. It'll even need to look ahead to Google's tablet, which will reportedly debut in the next six months, according to the company's chairman Eric Schmidt.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., has sought to bring high technology to the masses since the company's inception in 1976. In October, Apple lowered the price of its high-end iPhone 4 to $99, and made its two-year-old iPhone 3GS model completely free with a two-year contract. In the same way Apple's cheaper iPhone offerings can now compete with other cheap cell phones on the market, a higher-end iPad means older iPads will be more accessible from a pricing standpoint.

Beyond the February and March release dates, Apple's Taiwanese supply chain believes the company will release a second tablet in October, which is said to be a 9.7-inch iPad 4. The iPad 4 will reportedly upgrade its hardware specs throughout the device, and come with killer applications to compete with Android or Windows-based tablets. Older reports said this iPad would be 7.85 inches, which would be similarly sized to e-readers made by Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Code for the iPad 3 and iPad 4 was discovered in November when Apple released its iOS 5.1 beta update to developers, which accidentally revealed references to a next-gen iPhone and two next-gen iPads, internally named iPhone 5,1, iPad 2,4 and iPad 3,3, respectively. The iPad listed as iPad 2,4 is likely the upgraded iPad coming in February, while the iPad 3,3, is believed to be the completely new device slated for October. Reports have called these iPads 3 and 4, but according to the code, Apple could similarly disappoint fans by naming the device the iPad 2S. Fans should not be surprised to see this, given how Apple tempered the hype of the iPhone 5 in November 2011 by unveiling the iPhone 4S instead.

Apple sold 32.1 million iPads in the fiscal year ended Sept. 24. The company will release the results of its first fiscal quarter on Jan. 24.

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