iPAD 3 RUMOR ROUNDUP: EVERYTHING WE THINK WE KNOW
PLANET INTERNAT, MARCH 7, 2012 (ARSTECHNICA) By Jacqui Cheng - Apple's special media event—one that many believe to be for the next-generation iPad—is now mere days away. By this time next week, we'll know once and for all how many of those pesky pre-event rumors were true and which ones were made up by "optimistic" sources.
Because there are so many elements to consider for the as-yet-unannounced iPad, which is colloquially being referred to as the "iPad 3," we thought we'd round them up in one spot to talk about what seems most plausible.
The rumor that has probably received the most coverage and had the highest number of "confirmations" across reliable publications has been the one that states the iPad 3 will have a high-resolution "retina" display similar to the one in the iPhone 4 and 4S.
An iPad with a retina display has actually been rumored since before the iPad 2 was introduced a year ago, and some observers were disappointed when the iPad 2 appeared with the same resolution as its predecessor.
Numerous sources—and evidence found within the iOS SDK itself—hint that the iPad is destined to join the "retina" display clique this time around, though.
What does that mean for prospective iPad 3 buyers?
The original and second-generation iPads both had a screen resolution of 768x1024, but all signs point to the iPad 3's resolution being 1536x2048—double the number of pixels in both directions for a pixel density of 260ppi.
As we wrote last year, this pixel density isn't exactly the same as the iPhone 4, which sits at 326ppi, but it's close enough to look nearly as sharp to the naked eye.
Higher megapixel camera(s)
The camera rumors haven't been quite as prolific as those of the "retina" display, but a consensus is slowly building that the next-gen iPad will indeed have a better camera or two.
Rumors from the beginning of the year claimed the front- and rear-facing cameras would both get an upgrade, with a later rumor suggesting the rear-facing camera might go up to 8 megapixels. (It's worth noting that the camera currently in the iPhone 4S is also 8 megapixels.)
We don't know a lot of people who use their iPads for photography à la the iPhone 4S, but perhaps that's because the iPad 2's camera isn't much to write home about.
When we reviewed the device last year, we were left unimpressed, but perhaps Apple is looking to expand people's use of the front- and rear-facing cameras for things like FaceTime and other casual camera use.
We would hardly be surprised to see some kind of camera bump this year, even if only to help keep the iPad's specs from getting too stale.
For many Ars readers, the iPad 3's rumored processor bump is one of the more interesting aspects of the new device. The processor is also one of the more talked-about elements while also being one of the most inconsistent.
Earlier rumors suggested Apple might move to a quad-core design for its next-gen mobile processor—rumors that were bolstered by evidence found within Apple's Xcode late last year.
Newer reports, however, indicated that the processor might retain the same dual-core processor as the one in the iPad 2 with improved Imagination Technologies GPU cores, and the rumored "A5X" could fit that description.
As Chris Foresman wrote last month of the A5X: "The A5 is no slouch in general processing, but improved graphics processing would be especially useful if the iPad 3 contains a 2048x1536 pixel 'Retina' display."
Even newer reports, however, suggested that Apple might be developing an improved, dual-core "A5X" processor alongside a quad-core A6 processor after all.
Hints were buried within the developer previews of iOS 5.1 that Apple is working on both processors at the same time, indicating that it might have plans for a lower-powered iPad alongside a higher-end iPad 3. Or, the A5X could be destined for something else entire, like a revamp of the Apple TV.
Up until now, the iPad has always come in WiFi-only and WiFi+3G flavors, but the latest rumors out of proven publications like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal have pointed towards 4G/LTE support in the next-gen iPad.
If true, it would make the iPad 3 the first of Apple's mobile products to make use of these high-speed networks being built by Verizon and AT&T.
We recently made case for why the iPhone, hasn't gained LTE support. For one, LTE is currently largely limited to the US, and although Apple has made some exceptions to this policy, it generally frowns upon manufacturing too many variations of the same product for different markets.
But the iPad may be different in this regard. Because it's not a phone and therefore has a lower volume of sales (Apple sold 15.43 million iPads last quarter compared to 37.04 million iPhones), Apple can afford to take bigger US-centric risks like adding LTE support to the iPad.
And the timing makes sense: both AT&T and Verizon are vastly expanding their 4G networks this year, so extra-high-speed data should be easier for many Americans to access by year's end. Packing LTE into the next generation of the iPad would begin to put more pressure on the two carriers' 4G networks, but not iPhone-level pressure just yet.
Here's some bad news for reverse-sizequeens: multiple rumors have now stated that the iPad 3 will be ever-so-slightly thicker than the iPad 2.
The latest numbers put it at 0.81mm thicker than the iPad 2—yes, less than one millimeter—but the change will undoubtedly frustrate those who always count on Apple's devices to get thinner over time, not thicker.
As for why Apple might choose to make the iPad 3 thicker than its predecessor, it would likely be due to all the factors we've just discussed.
Faster processors and higher-speed LTE chips take up space, as do higher-quality cameras. On the upside, 0.81mm (assuming that's the final number) is small and probably won't even make a difference for most iPad cases and accessories if you've already invested money in them. Hard cases might be a problem, though.
In addition to the major rumors we discussed above, there has been a peppering of various miscellanea related to the iPad 3. Some of them are a bit more plausible than others, though.
On the "more plausible" side is Siri support: ever since Apple's virtual personal assistant was introduced with the iPhone 4S in October, people have been talking about Apple bringing Siri to the iPad.
Apple currently limits Siri to the iPhone 4S and the reasoning is believed to be due to processor capabilities (though before Apple bought Siri, it was available on much older hardware).
Either way, the iPad 3 would no doubt have the same or better hardware than the iPhone 4S, so if that's the reason to limit Siri, it almost surely wouldn't apply for the iPad 3.
In the middle is an alleged price increase that might come with the next-gen iPad. Rumor has it that the iPad 3 will see an increase of $80 for WiFi-only models and $70 for WiFi+3G models over the current iPad 2, putting it at a theoretical $579 for the WiFi model. We don't actually believe the sourcing on this rumor—it comes from what amounts to the Chinese version of Twitter—but we think it's possible only because it's not impossible.
And finally on the least likely end of the scale is the so-called "iPad mini." This one has been buzzing in the background for over a year, but claims of a 7-inch iPad recently sprung out of Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil once again. Even more recently, DigiTimes claimed that Apple was planning a 7.85-inch iPad for late 2012.
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs repeatedly trashed the idea of a smaller iPad, however, saying that the current iPad's screen size is ideal for most users. That doesn't mean Apple hasn't considered it, but for the time being, a 7-inch iPad seems unlikely during a time when Apple can barely keep up with iPad demand as it is already, with a 10-inch screen.
As with all unannounced products, there's no way to know which elements are true and which aren't until Apple goes on stage to tell us. Still, when there's smoke, there's fire—for the most part, rumors that are frequently reported by publications with reliable sources end up coming true at one point or another.
What do you believe will be included in the iPad 3 specs? And do you think there will be an iPad 3 at all? Sound off in the comments, or hold your breath until next Wednesday when we'll be covering the Apple event live.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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