It seems like the moment hype about the new iPhone ceases, then it’s the turn of Apple's iPad to be the subject to rumours, blurred pictures and predictions from analysts, as Apple fans and websites alike, try and work out what the new tablet will offer.
Here's our round-up of the latest Apple iPad 3 rumours, along with our take on how accurate the rumour might be.
Apple iPad 3: launch date
We can say with a degree of certainty that this Wednesday, March 7th will see the Apple iPad 3 unveiled at a launch event in San Fransisco. 10am PST, the event will kick off at 6pm here in the UK and we'll be there bringing you news, hands-on pictures and videos as the evening unfolds.
Apple iPad 3: iOS 5.1 and Siri
Apple has a history of releasing significant upgrades to software on new hardware: the iPad 2 launched on Apple’s iOS 4.3 software, the Apple iPhone 4S launched with iOS 5. So it’s highly likely that the Apple iPad 3 will launch with the a significant update of Apple’s software: iOS 5.1, which would then be available on the iPad and iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S.
Details of iOS 5.1 are scant at the moment. It's rumoured to add minor changes like the ability to delete photos from Photo Stream; improvements to the battery (specifically on the iPhone 4S) and iTunes Match synching over 3G.
The most interesting feature iOS 5.1 is rumoured to be bringing to tablets is Apple’s voice-control application: Siri. For many this was of course the ‘killer’ feature of the Apple iPhone 4S, although in the UK Siri hasn't quite reached full functionality because we can't use business features. This rumour gets strong with news the iOS 5.1 beta released to developers included the same terms and conditions found in the iPhone 4S entitled: ‘Dictation and Privacy’ instead of ‘Siri and Privacy.’ This could mean the iPad 3 will launch with Siri, while the iPad 2 will get Dictation.
We think it's highly unlikely Apple would create Siri just for it to be used on phones, it’s not available on the iPad 2, but it would be a natural progression for it to appear on the iPad 3 and a differentiating point between the two tablets.
Apple iPad 3: Screen
Rumours of what screen the next-generation Apple iPad will include have provoked the most discussion. One thing that is consistent is that Apple will add a Retina display. The Apple iPhone 4 and Apple iPhone 4S both include Retina displays, with a pixel density of 326 PPI, meaning sharper text and brighter colours. Rumour is, the resolution of the new iPad will double from 1024x768 to 2048x1536, which means much, much more detail (more than many HD televisions in fact), which takes the resolution higher than any tablet. The highest resolution on a confirmed tablet is the Asus Transformer Prime TF700T with 1920 x1200.
We think Apple will improve the screen, this feature was unchanged between the iPad and iPad 2 and it's highly likely this is the next area Apple will concentrate on.
Apple iPad 3: Quad-core processor
The first Apple iPad had a single core processor, the second jumped to dual-core, so the third edition should make the leap to quad-core - right? Reports from Asia suggest Apple has indeed bumped up the processor and the iPad 3 could include the new A6 processor. This is backed up by rumours the iOS 5.1 update supports a quad-core processor.
Alternatively could it be that the processor will be an incremental upgrade instead? Leaks from someone with an Apple iPad 3 reveal a processor numbered: S5L8945X. It’s the last two numbers that are interesting: the numerical jump between the A4 and A5 processor between the two old iPad's was 30 to 40. The latest indicates that the new iPad probably won't have a quad-core processor but a specced up A5X, perhaps with a third low-core processor (like the fifth core in Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip)?
Apple iPad 3: Design
We had a fair amount of proof that that the Apple iPad 2 and 3 would closely resemble one another after some key components were leaked. What we hadn't seen however were the leaked parts lovingly pieced together and recorded on video. In turn, that's firmed up the rumour that the iPad 3 chassis will very, very closely resemble the iPad 2.
To add to the video, there have also been measurements banded about the internet suggesting the new iPad will measure 0.81mm thicker than its predecessor. That said, at 9.5mm Apple's new tablet will be anything but a beast and is expected to make up for the added size with some pretty juicy spec improvements.
Apple iPad 3: Camera
It certainly makes sense for Apple to improve the camera - the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S all saw improvements over the previous version.
Getting specific, it's looking more and more likely that the iPad 3 will end up sporting an 8-megapixel camera. Apple Daily's images which can be seen below were brought to our attention by 9 to 5 Mac earlier today and illustrate the back-portion of the iPad 3. While it might look nigh-on identical to the iPad 2, a distinctly larger lens portion is evident.
A larger sensor would require a wider lens portion in order to retain a nice wide angle. In turn, an 8-megapixel sensor looks plausible and would also compete directly with the other hot-slate of the moment, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime.
Apple iPad 3: Battery
The Apple iPad 2's current battery can provide 10 hours of web surfing. If the Apple iPad 3 is to get a new quad-core processor and Retina Display, battery performance will need to be improved, at very least to maintain the current life.
As well as showing a different size camera module, the photograph above supports this, showing a different logic board (motherboard) mount, which is smaller on the Apple iPad 3, thus allowing for more space for something else - like a bigger battery perhaps?
We believe Apple will need to provide a different type of battery to cope with a potential performance boost.
Apple iPad 3: 3D
Apple is rumoured to be working on a way of creating a dynamic 3D image based on your eye movements. Motion sensing, face recognition and ambient light awareness work together to create a 3D image adding a Kinnect-like experience. The technology isn't just for tablets, it can also be used for phones, PMPs and televisions. Although this technology looks interesting, it still looks like it's in the early stages of development, so it's highly unlikely to appear in the next Apple iPad.
LTE actually looks quite promising for those folk across the pond. Carrier specific deals seem likely to dictate how agreeable the LTE rate is, whether the 3GB data limit is applied to the Apple iPad 3 and indeed it lands if it lands at all. With the well-suited tablet form-factor and many people expecting the iPad 2 to land with LTE, a number of pundits are playing with fire and taking it as a given that the latest fruity slate will be a fast browser.
NFC however is looking considerably less likely. In the face of this handsome infographic released last year the facts closer to the launch suggest it will land on a phone before a tablet. With so many people's credit card details linked to their iTunes account, it won't be a long stretch to get iPhone users to spend money on their handset, but the logistics of introducing the technology on a tablet seem unrealistic.
When NFC does arrive on an Apple product (probably the iPhone 5), Apple will need it to be so compelling, they can market it like they did FaceTime. An old technology that they communicate as if they invented it. Touching two tablets together? Putting a tablet on a contactless payment stand? We can't see it, though if anyone could sell it, it's Apple.