Despite Apple’s inherently secretive nature, the iPad 3 rumour mill has been grinding since before the second version was even released last spring. But with so many tidbits flying about, it can be difficult to know who or what to believe.
We put our best digital detectives on the case to help you distinguish leaked secrets from pure tabloid fantasy.
iPad 3 launch date
Details of previous versions of the iPad have been unveiled in the springtime, with an international release following soon after. Elves at the Chinese manufacturer Foxconn are said to be busy sticking the new tablet together ready for a launch around March, so Apple’s annual spring release schedule is set to continue.
Unusually, there are hints that extra iPad models will be released at the same time, though the evidence is flimsy. In November, hackers found four references to what looks like new iPad models hidden deep in iOS 5.
As a result, pundits are imagining every conceivable configuration of iPad in a bid to predict what the extra models might be. We’ve seen the names iPad 2S, iPad 3 Pro and iPad Mini thrown around like wet pasta, but nothing sticks to the wall so far.
The safest theory we’ve heard is that the iPad 2 will remain on sale at a lower price. This would help Apple counter the growing popularity of cheaper tablets like the Kindle Fire, without committing to a smaller tablet just to shove the price down.
iPad 3 retina display
The iPhone 4S display has a pixel density so high the human eye can’t discern individual pixels at a normal viewing distance. This means bootylicious curved edges and kern-perfect text. It’s a real joy to view. It’s pretty much a dead cert for the new iPad too.
Sources reckon Apple recently bought a tonne of 2,048×1,536-pixel displays from rival Samsung, which makes their litigious relationship all the more complex. We’re happy to see them snuggling up if it means having twice the resolution of the iPad 2.
By our calculations, the iPad 3 display will end up with a 264 dots per inch (DPI) display, which is technically less impressive than the iPhone 4S’s 326 DPI. This may not be a critical drop in resolution by comparison because you’ll probably hold the iPad 3 a little further from your face. But it’s a shame not to see the same crisp standards across the full iOS range. Still, your old apps should scale up to fit the new screen without a hitch while developers prepare their updates in HD.
iPad 3 A6 processor
Apple is busy testing its quad-core successor to the A5 processor, which currently sits cosily in your iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. But after some early issues with its original supplier in Taiwan, Apple has once again had to turn to its rival Samsung to make the A6. If Apple had a Facebook page, its relationship status would say, “It’s complicated”.
The A6 promises to be quite a beast. It’s sure to boast rip-roaring speeds and better power efficiency so it doesn’t drink all of your battery juice in one swig.
Back in August, one pessimistic analyst predicted that the A6 wouldn’t be ready until June 2012, but the iPad will never manage to push all those new pixels around without it. The alternative is to hold off the iPad 3 until the A6 is ready, or release a model without a retina display — something Apple fans might consider unforgivable.
Siri on iPad 3?
Siri, the sassy voice-activated personal assistant that features on the iPhone 4S, is likely to make its tablet debut on the iPad 3.
You will probably need a 3G model if you want it to arrange your affairs while out and about, as it needs to send your demands over the airwaves to Apple for processing. But the prospect of deeper integration on an iPad is tantalising. You might have to wait for iOS 6 before Siri gets a fancy set of full-screen features, but any Siri integration is sure to be the icing on a perfectly formed 10-inch cake.
Thinner battery, thicker design?
According to website BGR, Apple has secured a stash of thinner batteries that hold a longer charge than older models, despite a 20-30 per cent increase in cost. Let’s hope Apple makes those savings elsewhere so we don’t see a price hike.
Slimmer batteries would normally allow for thinner designs, but the new retina display is expected to take up all the extra space. It’s rumoured to use up so much room that some are saying the iPad 3 will be even thicker than its predecessor. Gasp!
It would be very un-Apple to take a step backwards in the design department, but we have faith that Jonathan Ive will limit the damage. You can expect it to be roughly the same size as the iPad 2, with iLounge claiming it will only expand by about 1mm — a fair trade for dazzling HD goodness.
What about the cameras? The iPad might be an unwieldy snapper when you compare it to the iPhone 4S, but iLounge also claims that the new model will sport the same camera as its pocket-sized brother. Even better, the front-facing camera should see a resolution upgrade, given that FaceTime chats will now take place on an HD display.
So far, we’ve discussed the most plausible upgrades to the iPad. But the rumour mill isn’t shy of spewing out other wild ideas. Until Apple lifts the lid on its new baby, some of them could still come to fruition.
iPad 3 curved glass display?
New glass manufacturing techniques mean that sleek, curved displays are finally a commercial reality. Our CNET News cousins from across the pond hear that Apple bought as many as 300 special glass-cutting machines to add a new curved display to its own products.
Observers are quick to assume this means a curved-glass iPad next year, but it’s not a convincing prediction yet. If the rear of the iPad 2 needs to be flat for typing stability, why add a bulbous display to the front and confuse the design? Maybe the curvaceous new displays will appear on something from the iPod range instead.
iPad 3D display?
Hollywood insiders are so sure the next iPad will support 3D that they’re said to be “running around like blue-arsed flies” trying to gear up plenty of 3D content for the next iPad launch.
But does Apple really need to compete with the failing Nintendo 3DS and its measly sales figures?
Apple does have a patent for a special kind of glasses-free 3D, but we think the retina display will be more than enough to pull lustful buyers in this time around. Real-time 3D processing takes some serious grunt so we doubt we’ll see a 3D upgrade until the next-generation hardware of the iPad 4, if ever.
iPad 3 predictions
We think it’s fair to assume the iPad 3 will arrive in spring with a beaming 2,048×1,536-pixel retina display and a feisty A6 quad-core processor. Pin-sharp cameras should deliver FaceTime chats in glorious HD, and a supercharged battery should keep it all running till the wee hours.
Throw a chattering Siri into the mix, and you’ve got a serious piece of portable kit that will give rival Android tablet makers nightmares.