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/

The iPad 3 release date speculation has started to build, with most sources hinting at a March release.

The third-generation iPad is one of the most anticipated gadgets of the new year after the recent release of the ASUS Transformer Prime Eee tablet and Amazon Kindle Fire has increased competition in the tablet market.

The most popular rumor surrounding the iPad 3 is that it will be launched in March with a much improved display screen, leading many to speculate about a possible iPad HD.

The new iPad is expected to employ an indium gallium zinc oxide display panel, according to the DigiTimes, which claims to have received information from Apple's supply chain. The panels will apparently be manufactured by Sharp.

The iPad 3 was initially rumored to be thicker than its predecessor in order to accommodate an alleged retina screen, but new reports have revealed that the tablet's new design will be slightly thinner than the iPad 2, the DigiTimes reported.

The iPad 2's critics have complained that the tablet is thick and heavy compared to its competitors, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the ASUS Transformer Prime, so a thinner display and body could be a popular move for Apple.

As far as rumors go, the initial production of the iPad 3 is thought to have begun with around 1 million to 1.5 million units, according to a report obtained by the Daily Mail. While the latest Apple tablet will be competing with other Android-based tablets such Amazon's Kindle Fire, a survey carried out by Forbes indicates that Apple will still be in the lead with its new tablet.

More than 40 percent of smartphone owners who use Research in Motion, Blackberry, Microsoft, Windows Phone and Google Android prefer Apple's iPad to tablets from their current operating system, Forbes reported.

Forbes estimates that the new iPad will be able to sell around 50 million units in 2012.

But what should we expect from the new iPad 3? Here's a rumor roundup:

Redesign: While initially it was thought that the iPad 3 would look much the same as the iPad 2, prognostications circulating the Web have suggested quite the contrary.

This is how Mike from the Cydia Blog interpreted it:

The new part, when compared with iPad 2, shows a different arrangement in internal circuitry, hinting a major redesign. The tail end of the part makes a 'U-turn,' whereas the iPad 2′s Microphone Mic Flex Cable makes almost 90-degree turn both ways.

Siri: The iPhone 4S's most popular voice assistant feature may be coming to the new iPad. Although the Huffington Post says the rumor is far from certain, as voice command is far less useful on the tablet than on a cellphone. 4G LTE qualities and a larger battery are also among the rumor mix.

Better camera: iPad 2 uses a VGA-capable camera on the front and an HD camera that can do 720p video 1 MP in the rear. According to Zdnet, competitors are shipping tablets with 3MP and 5MP camera and therefore Apple needs to do better. A flash is another feature missing from the camera that many experts believe needs to star in the new tablet's release.