The company that ignited the tablet craze nearly two years ago is poised to release the third generation of the iPad — a gadget most of us never knew we needed until one fateful day way back in April, 2010.
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While most companies don't mess with (near) perfection, Apple is widely expected to launch the third evolution of its mobile computing wunderkind on Wednesday, March 7 on its home turf in San Francisco. But what should we expect from the iPad 3? Will Apple's third time around merely perfect a winning formula or will the company reinvent the wheel altogether? And what kind of climate will Apple's much buzzed-about tablet find itself in?
The road to the iPad 3
Two years after the launch of the first iPad, Apple's slate remains synyomous with tablet computing as we know it — and it's got the majority market share to prove it. But what's changed between now and then to set the stage for the iPad 3?
True to form for Apple, the original iPad launched with a level of polish that bought it almost a year's head-start over the competition, and the iPad is still reaping the benefits. The first Android tablets to take a swing at Apple back in 2010's tablet dark ages were little more than giant phones. It wasn't until February of last year that Google released Android software built with a tablet's larger screen in mind. Android "Honeycomb" was a turning point for iPad challengers, but suddenly the market was overcrowded with tablets; even the most tech-savvy among us could hardly keep them straight.
Last November, Amazon debuted the Kindle Fire, a smaller tablet with close ties to the company's rich online media marketplace — all for less than half the price of the cheapest iPad. The Kindle Fire took a bite out of Apple's market stranglehold in late 2011 by setting itself apart from the pack, but most tablets are still clamoring to make a name for themselves. In 2012, even Samsung's now-evolved Galaxy Tabs are struggling to loosen the iPad's grasp on the tablet world.
The stage is set for the iPad 3 to take the baton and run with it. Apple still owns the lion's share of the tablet market, and with the advent of the iPad 3 to boost it along, the tablet that started it all shows no signs of slowing down. But what should we expect to see from the third generation tablet? Read on and get ready to place your bets.
What we're pretty sure about
High resolution display: A higher resolution display has been rumored since back before the iPad 2 showed its cards. The next-generation iPad is widely expected to see a major bump in pixel count that will bring it up to par with the Retina displays Apple introduced with the iPhone 4. Current reports point to a boosted resolution of 2048x1536, doubling the iPad 2's 1024x768 resolution. With a count of 260 ppi, that won't technically bring the iPad 3 into Retina range (326 ppi), but it would make for an extremely sharp display with a noticeable leg up on previous generations.
More processing power: Earlier reports suggested that the iPad 3 might pack an A6 quad-core processor to help it keep up with other quad-core tablets like the powerhouse Transformer Prime. More recent evidence hints that Apple will stick to a remixed version of the iPad 2's dual-core A5 processor known as the A5X. The A5X is said to pack a graphics boost to put the new Retina display to good use, especially in gaming. Still, if Apple has found a way to balance a quad-core processor's power hunger with battery life, this one would make a nice addition to the ol' tech spec sheet.
Design: Apple isn't expected to radically overhaul the design of the iPad 2. The second generation tablet slimmed down the dimensions of its predessor and rounded out its edges, and the iPad 3 is likely to be cut from that same handsome aluminum cloth. One supposed image leak hints that that the newest iPad will actually be ever so slightly (.81mm) thicker than the iPad 2, but that further tapering of the edges will make it feel as slender as ever. While we know that Apple is eyeing a buttonless future for all of its gadgets, the iPad 3 is expected to let the home button stick around.
What could be in the cards
4G capability: One of the biggest, most enduring rumors is that the iPad 3 will be Apple's first foray into 4G. While the last generation iPad and the newest iPhone are only able to connect to 3G networks, with both AT&T and Verizon aggressively building out their 4G LTE networks, the timing could be right for a 4G-capable Apple gadget at long last. Still, Apple is uncompromising when it comes to ensuring an epic battery life in its mobile devices, and 4G is an infamous power hog. Could the iPad 3 balance staying juiced up with the speed of 4G networks? We'll know soon enough.
Better camera: While the iPad 2's camera was widely panned, the third generation iPad could shape up to be a photog's best friend, not unlike a mega-sized version of the iPhone 4S. A possible upgrade to an 8MP rear-facing camera is on the table, which would bring the tablet up to speed with the 4S's lauded shooter. Since incremental camera upgrades are so common — and the iPad 3's dimensions might be getting just a hair thicker — this one wouldn't surprise us in the least.
Siri: The iPad 3 is rumored to bring Siri, the whip-smart voice guide introduced on the iPhone 4S, into the fold. While there's no direct evidence that Siri is hopping to the iPad, we can't really think of any reason why Apple would restrict the feature to the iPhone 4S — especially considering Siri could further inspire iPad 2 users to upgrade.
The questions that remain
While there's plenty we think we know, even more questions remain, down to what Apple's latest slate will even be called. The next-gen tablet is largely expected to be called the iPad 3, but a handful of reports suggest that its Retina-like high resolution display could earn it the moniker of the "iPad HD." And while we're at it, since the naming scheme of the iPhone 4S caught us off-guard, would an iPad 2S be unthinkable?
Another arguably long-shot rumor suggests that the iPad 3 will actually see an $80 price hike on its base wifi-only model, putting it at a less competitive $579 entry level price point.
Apple is methodical, but we wouldn't be surprised is the company had a few tricks up its sleeve. Now that you've heard the rumors. What do you think will happen when CEO Tim Cook takes the stage on Wednesday, March 7?
This article originally appeared on Tecca
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