When Apple pulled back the curtain on the iPad 2 to reveal a more powerful, slimmer, but not all-that-different successor to its original tablet, rumors immediately began to swirl around what the company might be planning for its next slate. Now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the iPad 2's launch, the picture for the inevitable iPad 3 has become much more clear. Several reliable sources have shed light on what Apple's new darling will be like, and if even half of them prove to be legitimate, we're in for a real treat. Join us as we run down the list of could-be iPad 3 features and attempt to hash out what's real and what will remain for future iterations.
Before the iPad 2 was officially shown off for the first time, several industry insiders promised that we'd see an all-new, higher-resolution touchscreen on par with the iPhone 4's (and now 4S's) Retina display. But when the dust settled, the screen remained the same as the original device. The current iPad's 1024 x 768 pixel, multi-touch interface is still impressive to look at, but to really sell current iPad and iPad 2 owners on a brand new tablet, Apple will likely have to take this stat to the next level.
Unsurprisingly, many sources who claim to have seen and even handled the new tablet confirm a much sharper and higher resolution display is on the way. Bloomberg's trusted insider even claims that the pixel density is high enough to make the screen look like printed paper.
Specifics on what the final resolution will be remain shrouded in mystery, but in order to support backwards compatibility of older apps without too much developer frustration, Apple may simply double the current measurements to 2048 x 1536. This would give the new tablet the ability to play back content from Netflix and Hulu at a higher resolution than any competing tablet, undoubtedly bringing a considerably more jaw-dropping look to new apps and games.
Power to spare
The iPad 2 was a huge step up from the original device in terms of power and graphical performance. Its Apple A5 processor allowed for more impressive games and apps and faster response when you touch the screen. This same chip eventually found its way into the iPhone 4S, where it helps support new features like the Siri virtual assistant. However, if we are to believe the iPad 3 will see an increase in screen resolution — and perhaps also support new Apple-born features like Siri — the company will undoubtedly want additional power.
The typically reliable industry sources from technology site Boy Genius Report have provided screenshots and specifications of the unannounced tablet that show a brand new chip — the Apple A6 — will make its debut with the iPad 3. The A6 reportedly features quad-core technology, which is big step up from the dual-core A5 chip currently used. Along with an increased amount of memory, this would allow the iPad 3 to offer the same responsiveness on a much higher-resolution screen and would fall in line with Apple's typical chip development cycle.
3G or 4G?
Apple has made it clear that it will not be ready to support 4G LTE technology until it is completely confident in the technology's ability to heighten the user experience. The iPhone 4S does not support full 4G as most people know it, but the iPad 3 may break that barrier for the first time.
A litany of sources — including purported Japanese insiders — have pointed to 4G support for the new slate, and with Apple partners like AT&T and Verizon spending millions to beef up their 4G networks, it seems likely that the iPad 3 will take full advantage. This faster network connection will also be important for streaming higher-resolution videos and mobile content without having to wait for annoying buffering that could plague a 3G tablet.
A sexy new look
Of all the rumors floating around about the iPad 3, the one thing that is least likely to change is the overall look of the device. Apple sliced a good amount off the original tablet with the iPad 2 redesign, and its sleek appearance will almost certainly remain the same for the next generation.
Apple's mobile devices typically receive at least one major overhaul while remaining in the same form factor — iPhone 3G to 3GS and 4 to 4S are perfect examples. The iPad 3 will likely fall in line with this update schedule and focus more on features and capability than a design change, though anything is possible.