What Exactly Will an iPad 3 Look Like?

Jennifer LeClaire, newsfactor.com

Even while iPad 2s are flying off store shelves this holiday shopping season, rumors are swirling around what the iPad 3 will look like -- and when it will be released.

As usual, mum is the word at Apple on both fronts. But that's not keeping analysts from speculating. The rumors suggest everything from a full feature retina display to 4G LTE connectivity to better cameras to the addition of the Siri virtual assistant and beyond.

Has anyone confirmed Apple was even going to launch a new iPad in the spring? No. But the first two iPads were unveiled in March 2010 and again in March 2011. And Apple normally likes to update in yearly cycles.

"It's important to note that given Apple's sales so far, Apple does not need an iPad 3," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "When Apple came out with the iPhone 4S the entire blogging world went nuts because it did not appear to be a radical improvement. But the iPhone 4S has sold millions of units the first day it was available and has posted extremely strong sales ever since."

An iPad 3 Wish List

Greengart's point: Apple is competing in an environment in which the currency is apps, cloud services and an intuitive user interface -- and Apple is leading in two out of those three areas. (Apple cedes the cloud services throne to Amazon, but is still strong in that area.) With this in mind, Apple has no imperative to broker radical change with the iPad.

Despite Apple's dominance, however, Greengart does have a wish list for the iPad 3. For starters, he -- and many others -- would like to see a higher density display that would offer higher resolutions. When compared with the iPhone 4, the iPad's text looks fuzzy.

Then there's the camera. Although most iPad users aren't using the tablet as a primary camera, those who even play with the camera quickly discover that the resolution doesn't match the screen. "You end up with ragged-looking images. While this is no great loss in terms of real-world use cases, it doesn't look right," Greengart said. "Everything else on the iPad looks right. That would be another obvious area of improvement."

Like almost all Apple products, Greengart expects future versions of the iPad to be thinner and lighter. But again, Apple is not under massive pressure to innovate in this area. When comparing the iPad 2 with its tablet competition, the device remains one of the thinner and lighter tablets on the market.

iPad Price Cuts?

One of the larger questions surrounding an iPad 3 launch is how it will affect pricing on the iPad 2. Will the iPad 2 stay in the line-up as a lower-end product with a starting price closer to $399? It's possible.

"Apple has certainly made moves like that in the past with some of its other product lines. But there is no burning need to do so. Apple is not being dramatically undercut on price in most of the nine- and 10-inch competition," Greengart said.

"Apple will see more competition from the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which are offering smaller tablets with less capabilities but significantly lower prices. So it is possible that Apple will respond to that by having an entry model at a lower price point."