March 5, 2012 at 10:54 AM ET
On Wednesday, Apple will be hosting a press event in San Francisco. At that time, the Cupertino-based company is expected to announce the next generation of the iPad. Here's what we think we think we know about the highly anticipated device (and about the press event as a whole).
What will it be called?
There's not much disagreement when it comes to the name of the next-generation iPad. Most folks are sticking with the assumption that it will be called the iPad 3.
There are some reports — such as one by iLounge, in particular — which suggest that the next-generation iPad will be so similar to the iPad 2 that it might as well be dubbed the iPad 2S or iPad 2HD, but such claims appear to be unsubstantiated.
When will it ship?
The first generation iPad was announced on Jan. 27, 2010 and became available in the U.S. on April 3, 2010. The iPad 2 was announced on March 2, 2011 and became available in the U.S. on March 11, 2011. Apple's big iPad 3 announcement will be on March 7, at 10 a.m. PST and it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect the next-generation device to become available roughly a week after the cat's fully out of the bag — say, by March 16.
In support of that theory, Apple-centric site MacRumors and Japanese blog Macotakara suggest that production of the next-generation iPad has began in January and that the device is "targeted for shipment in early March." The folks at Bloomberg say that "three people familiar with the product" have confirmed that it will arrive in March as well.
How much will it cost?
While MacRumors briefly reported that the iPad 3 will be priced higher than the iPad 2, based on images which appeared on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo, there seems to be a general consensus that the gadget's cost will be consistent with the prior generation's.
9to5 Mac explains that it's own sources say that "iPad pricing is going to be the same across the board as the current iPad 2 models."
How will it look?
iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz claims that he had the opportunity to see "what's supposedly the next-generation iPad" at the Consumer Electronics Show: "Think iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S: This device so resembles the iPad 2 that differences are only obvious when they’re placed next to each other. From the back, you could walk past this new iPad on display and have no idea that anything had changed."
Horwitz describes the device as being roughly 1 millimeter thicker than its predecessor (a barely perceptible difference). He also remarks that the rear-camera seems to be slightly bigger and resembles the rear-camera of the iPhone 4S, sans the LED flash.
Japanese blog Macotakara backed up these claims, but also noted that "tight-fitting iPad 2 cases will apparently not fit the new model but that the Smart Cover will be compatible with the new model despite an adjustment in the location of the device's magnets," according to MacRumors. (I'll assume that MacRumor's description of Macotakara's report is accurate as my Japanese translation skills are lacking.)
The folks at M.I.C. Gadget — a website known for silly antics, such as attempting to sell Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs action figures, as well as for an uncanny habit of acquiring Apple device components — claim they got a look at the iPad 3 case and rear shell recently. Based on this sneak peek, M.I.C. Gadget says it confirmed that the iPad 3 will indeed be slightly thicker than its predecessor, but have tapered edges which will actually make it feel equal — if not thinner. M.I.C. Gadget also says that the device will definitely have a physical home button, despite scattered rumors of the contrary, not to mention the potentially misleading image on Apple's press event invitation.
What kind of display will it have?
The iPad pictured in Apple's press event invitation has a suspiciously sharp display. Could this mean that the next generation device will have a display better than the 1024 x 768 version found in the iPad 2?
According to Bloomberg's sources, yes. They say that the new device "will sport a high-definition screen." Those sources add that the device's "new display is capable of greater resolution than the current iPad, with more pixels on its screen than some high-definition televisions." Cult of Mac backs up these claims and says that the expected resolution for the iPad 3 is 2048 x 1536.
Ars Technica also offers that its recent browser stat reports show visits from a mysterious device with a screen resolution of 2048 x 1536. Take that to mean whatever you will.
What sort of guts will it have?
Better, faster, stronger. That's the theme when it comes to rumors about the next-generation iPad's insides. And quite frankly, that's right on par with rumors about any other next-generation device.
Bloomberg's got multiple sources claiming that the "tablet will use a quad-core chip" and that "Apple is bringing LTE to the iPad."
LTE (the technology behind Verizon's 4G network, and new networks by AT&T and Sprint as well) would be a big move for Apple, which famously rejected any 4G technology for the iPhone 4S. If the iPad 3 has LTE, it is not only a sign that Apple can keep up with the competition, but that it has accepted the technology for its next iPhone, too.
Of course this technology is a known battery hog and would mean that the iPad 3 would likely have to contain a higher-capacity battery in order to compensate for the power drain. The Digitimes' sources in the component maker world support this line of thinking.
(Of course, the Digitimes runs numerous misleading or false reports about Apple products, including the recent claim that the next-generation iPad would come in 8GB, 16GB and 32 GB configurations — which would deviate from Apple's current pattern — so adjust the weight that a Digitimes report holds accordingly.)
We believe the March 7 press event will be when Apple will launch the iPad 3, and no other new products. The iPhone 5 that is very likely coming this year probably won't arrive until late summer, or possibly as late as October. Even the rumored iTV isn't likely to surface until this summer or fall. Meanwhile, these days, Apple refreshes its computer lines with little more fanfare than a press release.
We'd be delighted, though probably not too surprised, if Apple announced that the iPad 2 would stay on the market, at a lower price point. It would make sense, since it's what Apple's been doing with iPhones for several years, and the competing Android tablets are only getting cheaper and cheaper.
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