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Apple iPad 3 rumors: From feasible to far-fetched

Apple iPad 2

When it comes to rumors, Apple is currently unmatched by any other consumer electronics brand in the amount of hype and speculations its products generate.

And it can be argued that the iPad and iPhone are the top devices when it comes to spawning Apple rumors, many of them never panning out to be true and many conflicting with one another along the way -- no wonder Apple always declines to comment on speculation.

With the iPhone 4S now a few months old and a next-generation iPhone (rumored to be called the iPhone 5) not expected until later this year, most of the hype over the last few months has been focused on the expected iPad 3 and the possible iTV project underway.

Here's a rundown of the current iPad 3 rumors that have been popping up around the Web recently:

Retina display

The longest standing rumor about the next iPad, which many believe will be called the iPad 3, is that it will feature a high-resolution screen that will put the tablet on par with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S' retina display.

So, what's a retina display? That would be any screen that has a dpi (dots per inch, which is a measure of how many pixels can fit in a square inch) of 300 or greater. The name retina display is used because such a dense screen should allow pixels to be indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches away.

The first-generation iPad and the iPad 2 both feature a 1,024-by-768 pixel resolution touchscreen. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported the rumor that the iPad 3 would have twice the resolution of the first two models, upping the ante to 2,048-by-1,536 pixels with a 326 dpi.

It should be noted that the iPad 2 was, before its launch, at one time rumored to be outfitted with a retina display as well, but that didn't pan out.

Industry analysts have gone on to make the retina display prediction for the iPad 3 as well. Of the rumors out there, this one might make the most sense for Apple as its rivals are releasing tablets with higher resolution screens and the retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S has been met with widespread approval by critics and consumers.

One screen size or two?

Another widespread rumor has been that the next iPad would be offered in not just one screen size, but possibly two sizes with the current 9.7-inch being complemented by a new, smaller model. That smaller iPad has been rumored to have a screen of a few different sizes, but a persistent rumor is that 7 inches would be the choice.

This is an idea that has also been shot down by a number of analysts and tech pundits and the late Steve Jobs shot down the idea of a 7-inch iPad as well, stating that, at that size, "the screen is too small to express the software," as reported by the website AppleInsider.

Quad-core A6 processor

The first-generation iPad ran on Apple's 1-gigahertz, single-core A4 processor. The second-generation iPad ran on a 1-gigahertz, dual-core A5 processor. The iPad 3 is rumored to included a new CPU that is expected to be called the A6.

What the A6 chip's clock speed and core count could be depends on what piece of speculation you're reading, but most reports point to the A6 as being a quad-core processor.

The A4 and A5 were built by Samsung and that isn't expected to change (despite Apple and Samsung's ongoing patent battle), though there are reports that A6 production might take place in Austin, Texas.

4G LTE

The first two iPads were either available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G models. So far, each of the five generations of iPhones produced by Apple have all been 3G phones as well. But much of the mobile world is moving over to 4G networks.

Verizon's 4G LTE network has been up and running for about a year. AT&T is just getting started with its 4G LTE network and Sprint's network is under development with T-Mobile's 4G LTE service in planning stages.

The iPad 2 is currently only available in its 3G variation with AT&T and Verizon service. Rumors as to a Sprint-compatible iPad are circulating, as are rumors that the iPad 3 will connect to 4G LTE networks.

The tech news website CNET has reported that the iPad 3 might make use of Qualcomm's LTE Gobi 4000 chip and as noted by Wired in an iPad rumor roundup of its own, Qualcomm 3G chips are used in Apple's iPhones.

Release date

So, when will the iPad 3 (or whatever the next iPad will be called) actually make its debut and arrive in stores? That, like everything else, is up for debate.

Apple, so far, hasn't said anything about the next iPad, but usually the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant releases its products on something resembling an annual cycle. The first-generation iPad arrived in U.S. stores on April 3, 2010. The iPad 2 hit U.S. stores on March 11, 2011, not quite a year later.

Going off of the release dates of the iPad 1 and 2, a good guess might be that the iPad 3 could arrive in this year in March or April. However, Apple runs on its own schedule, as evidenced by the iPhone 4S going on sale Oct. 14, 2011, when the iPhone 4 first hit U.S. stores on June 24, 2010.

The most recent rumor, originating with the often-inaccurate DigiTimes, was that the iPad 3 will arrive earlier than the first two iPads and have a January 2012 release date -- a rumor that, while popular among tech writers, was shot down by the Apple-centric website the Loop. The DigiTimes had also previously reported rumors stating that the iPad 3 could arrive in March or April -- conflicting its own reporting.

As noted by AppleInsider and an assessment of recent rumors by the Washington Post, there is also speculation that the iPad 3 could make its debut on Feb. 24, which would be Steve Jobs' birthday.

Of all the rumors that have made their way around the Web, the iPad 3 launching on Jobs' birthday as some sort of tribute to the deceased Apple leader seems to me to be the most far-fetched.

What do you think? Any of these rumors seem off-base or accurate by your guess? What rumors not listed above have you seen out there? Are there any features you may or may not have seen rumored that you'd like to see in a production iPad.

RELATED:

Apple iPad 3, with retina display, slated for February?

Rumor: iPad 3 prototypes with retina display being readied

Apple iPad 3: Retina display and 5 more features we'd like to see

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Top photo: Media members look at Apple's iPad 2 after its unveiling at an event in San Francisco on March 2, 2011. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

 
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