Apple iPad 3 Preview

Even though devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Amazon Kindle Fire have been able to make a small dent in the growing tablet market, the Apple iPad continues to be the hottest seller. So, it’s not really that much of a surprise that we’re all anxious to see what Apple is going to bring to the table for the upcoming iPad 3. How will it improve over the iPad 2? What’s going to be different?

Let’s get one thing clear before we proceed any further: the fact of the matter is that we know absolutely nothing about the iPad 3 and we won’t know anything about it until it’s formally announced. That’s always been the way that Apple has operated and there’s no reason to believe that they’re going to change that any time soon. With that in mind, past history and current rumors do tell us a lot about the newest addition to the iPad family.

iPad 3 Release Date and Pricing

Apple follows a pattern, releasing updates to each of its product lines on an annual basis at right around the same time. The iPad 2 came out last March, so it’s sounds reasonable to assume a March to April window for the iPad 3. In fact, Your Daily Mac is reporting a rumored release date of March 9, coinciding with the release of iOS 5.1.

UPDATE: Apple has sent out an invite for a special event on March 7. We can now assume that will be the formal announcement of the iPad 3.

Front View of Apple iPad

Front View of Apple iPad

The other thing that has been fairly standard with Apple is to keep the price point where it is from the previous generation and simply bumping the specs. That could change with the iPad 3, according to iPad in Canada, with the entry-level iPad getting bumped to $579. The top model is rumored to cost $899.

The expectation is that Apple will follow a simple model lineup as what we’ve already seen with the iPad 2. What this means is that you’ll get various capacities, as well as two parallel lines: one with just Wi-Fi and the other with both Wi-Fi and 3G wireless connectivity. It’s still unclear if there will be any additional differences between these two main lines.

Processing Power

The iPad 3 is expected to get an upgraded processor over its predecessor, but the exact name and nature of this processor is still unknown. We had assumed that it would be called the Apple A6, following the A5 and A4 that came before it, but more recent leaks show an Apple A5X processor. So, that’s still up in the air.

Back View of Apple iPad

Back View of Apple iPad

Also up in the air is whether this will be a dual-core or quad-core processor. To keep up with the newest and upcoming Android tablets, like those that use the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor or the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, Apple would need to go with four cores. At the same time, we also have to recognize that Apple has never really fought competitors with specs; it fights with a user experience.

Retina Display for iPad 3?

One of the biggest advances with the iPhone 4 was the introduction of the “Retina Display.” That same kind of technology sounds like it’s heading to Apple’s tablet too.

iPad Retina Display

iPad Retina Display

The current rumor points toward the same 9.7-inch sized display, but it will have four times the number of pixels. This doubles in both the horizontal and vertical direction, resulting in a resolution of 2048×1536. The display panel will reportedly come by way of Sharp, and not LG or Samsung.

The higher resolution display could mean that apps once coded for the iPad and iPad 2 may not display properly on the iPad 3 or they may not work at all. Just as there was a transition period for the iPhone’s new (at the time) Retina display, the same transition would have to take place for the iPad 3.

What Else Do We Know?

Rumors run rampant, of course, but here are a few of the bigger highlights:

  • Support for 4G LTE with Verizon and/or AT&T
  • A bigger battery to handle the increased power demands
  • A new, smaller dock connector (or Thunderbolt)
  • NFC support
  • A 128GB version to accompany the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions
  • Eight-megapixel rear camera
  • Touchless gesture controls using the front camera
  • No home button

It’s also quite possible that Apple is also working on a smaller (perhaps 7-inch) variant of the iPad that would compete on the lower end with devices like the Kobo Vox, Kindle Fire, and Nook Tablet. There’s also the possibility of a slightly upgraded iPad 2 — to be dubbed the iPad 2S — rather than a full-fledged iPad 3. Of course, as mentioned, we won’t know until it’s all official.

So, do you want the Apple iPad 3? Or are you more interested in one of the Android-powered tablets? Maybe you’re waiting for a Windows 8 tablet instead?