Apple released its third- and fourth-generation iPads last year with powerful processors and gorgeous Retina displays. So how will the Cupertino, Calif.-based company improve its full-size tablet in 2013? According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple’s fifth-generation iPad, which we’ll call “iPad 5,” is expected to be “significantly lighter and slimmer” than last year’s 9.7-inch models, and it will be released sometime in the third quarter of 2013.

Let’s get one thing straight: Ming-Chi Kuo is one of the best in the business. He is a consistently accurate analyst: For example, last year, Kuo correctly predicted Apple’s entire product slate for the second half of 2012 -- including two new iPads (the iPad Mini and iPad 4 at the end of the year), the Retina display MacBook Pro, the redesigned iMac and much more -- as well as the respective release dates for each of those devices. Kuo hit the nail on the head with almost every Apple product last year, which means that Kuo’s predictions should be considered when discussing future iDevices.

That said, Kuo believes the design of the next full-size iPad will more closely resemble Apple’s newly released iPad Mini, which features a full aluminum enclosure for lightness, thinner side bezels and a diamond-cut chamfer finish.

Besides the iPad 5, Kuo predicts Apple will refresh the Apple TV experience in the first quarter of 2013 and will wait until the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter to release a slew of new Mac and iOS devices, including two new iPhones, a second-generation iPad Mini, a new MacBook Air, a newly redesigned Retina MacBook Pro, and updates to the iPod Touch and Nano. Kuo believes Apple will reserve the fourth quarter to unveil an updated iMac and a new Mac Mini.

What Others Are Saying About The iPad 5

Contrasting Kuo’s report saying Apple’s chosen iPad 5 release date would be sometime in Q3 2013, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White said on Jan. 11 that Apple would release the iPad 5, as well as the iPad Mini 2, in just two months from now.

“Our checks at CES indicate Apple will release the iPad 5 and the second-generation iPad Mini this March,” White wrote in a new note from CES 2013. “The iPad 5 is expected to be lighter and thinner than the iPad 4 that was released in October, while the form factor of the iPad Mini should be similar to the first generation iPad Mini that debuted in October.”

White’s prediction had lined up with a previous report from Macotakara in December, which said Apple would release a fifth-generation iPad in March 2013 that would have a “thinner and lighter” design similar to the iPad Mini. That same Macotakara report said Apple was also working on the iPad Mini 2, with the same 7.9-inch LCD display, but with twice as many pixels (2048 x 1536) and an A6X processor, the same chip used to power the iPad 4.

Even though Apple’s update cycles for iOS products have shortened over the years, it would be relatively surprising to see two brand-new tablets released just a few months after the first iPad Mini and iPad 4 arrived in October. In all likelihood, Kuo’s prediction of new iPads arriving in late summer or early fall makes the most sense, given how the entire iPad lineup was just recently refreshed. It seems unlikely that Apple would push up the iPad 5 release date to March, which would indicate Apple’s trending toward a bi-annual release cycle for its tablets; last year seems like the exception to the rule, rather than the start of a new trend at Apple.

Back in November, China-based DigiTimes reported on Apple’s plans to release its next generation of iOS devices, including a new iPhone and a new iPad, “around the middle of 2013.”

iPad 5: What We Know

We’ve heard very little about the iPad 5 besides Kuo’s report, but due to the number of reports, we believe Apple’s next-generation 9.7-inch iPad will focus mainly on the display.

Even though the in-cell technologies used to create the iPhone 5’s display made the screen thinner, brighter and stronger, Apple is apparently very interested in switching to Sharp’s ultra-thin IGZO technology:

In late December, DigiTimes and Apple analyst Horace Dediu both mentioned Apple’s alleged investment in the ultra-thin IGZO displays produced by Sharp, predicting the inclusion of the technology in Apple’s next batch of iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. Dediu also pointed to Apple’s recent $2.3 billion investment in “product tooling, manufacturing process equipment and infrastructure,” believing the cash was used to help bail out Sharp, which had been in financial straits in 2012. If Sharp is really going “all in” on IGZO technology as it was reported, it’s possible Apple saved Sharp to leverage its investment in the next generation of displays.

IGZO display technology is not only thin and tough, but it can even handle higher screen densities than Apple’s Retina Display, which is visually stunning on its own. IGZO displays can reportedly handle display densities north of 330 ppi; for a quick comparison, the new iPad 4 can only achieve 264 ppi.

One of the better advantages of IGZO display technology is its lower power consumption. Most Apple products, including the iPad 3 and 4, require cartoonishly big batteries to achieve just eight hours of power -- this is because current-gen Retina displays are extremely power hungry. If Apple wanted its iPhone 6 to not only last longer during the day but also charge faster when plugged in, IGZO seems to be the way to go for the next generation of iOS devices.

Giving credence to these rumors, Taiwan-based AU Optronics (AUO) is reportedly developing a Retina display for the next-generation iPad Mini, which may require IGZO technology to make it feasible.

Besides the display, we know what Kuo’s told us about the thinner and lighter build and form factor, and we’ve also seen a few interesting iPad patents for a built-in stand, and backside controls for gaming. We’ll likely hear more about the iPad 5’s features as we approach the tablet’s release date this year.

Apple sold 14 million iPad units in Q4 2012, and it plans to announce sales figures for the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini during the company’s Q1 2013 earnings report, scheduled to release on Jan. 23.