Apple can’t always hit it out of the park. Last year’s iPad 2 was a bit disappointing for those expecting a bigger upgrade of the popular computer tablet.
Instead, all they got was a faster processor and a slightly thinner form factor. In fact, the biggest advancement in the new version that wowed the most people wasn’t even in the iPad itself — it was the ingenious magnetic Smart Cover that clipped on the front of the screen.
But it’s been nearly a year, and the rumor mill for the new iPad 3 has already started to grind — to the delight of Apple fans everywhere. Many believe Apple will make an announcement next month for a release sometime in March or early April.
And if the stars are aligned just right, this could be a much more satisfying upgrade than what was revealed last year. Here’s a look at what’s rumored to come with the iPad 3 and the chances each will come true.
Retina display (75%) » One of the biggest disappointments with last year’s release was that it didn’t include a higher-resolution display, especially since the iPhone had jumped to its retina display just before. Alas, the cost of a bigger LCD screen packed with more pixels was still too high.
But an iPad screen with double the resolution (from 1024-by-768 pixels in the iPad 2 to 2056-by-1536) is much more of a reality thanks to the falling cost of LCD panels and a faster processor. With pixel density that high, the screen would look more like the printed page, and apps would display with spectacular detail.
The only downside is developers would have to retool their existing apps to take full advantage of that higher resolution.
Faster processor (70%) » No doubt the processor in the new iPad will be faster than ever before. The real question is whether it goes from two processing cores to four. A quad-core processor is likely because that extra horsepower is going to be necessary if apps are going to run as smoothly in that higher resolution.
Slightly thicker (70%) » In order for the iPad 3 to display a higher resolution and with a faster processor, it’s going to require more battery power. While Apple has been smart in how it efficiently packs batteries into its devices, these changes are still going to require a bigger battery, which in turn will make the new iPad slightly thicker.
Rumors are the change will be so slight that customers will hardly notice, considering how thin the iPad 2 already is. But it will be necessary if the tablet is going to retain that 10-hour charge. Just don’t expect that number to go up.
4G connectivity (50%) » Now that faster 4G data networks are up and running in much of the country (AT&T is the only major carrier in Utah that doesn’t have its 4G network turned on yet), there are suggestions that the new iPad could come with a 4G model.
But that’s going to be a tough sell for Apple, which has resisted 4G for the iPhone while most other Android phones have already adopted it. Apple has always believed that 4G uses too much battery power, but if the company has discovered a new 4G chipset that consumes less power, that attitude could change.
A cheaper, smaller iPad (40%) » Whether this rumor is true depends on how much Apple is scared of the success of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. I would say, not much.
The success of the 7-inch, $199 Kindle Fire has proved that consumers want a cheaper tablet with a smaller form factor. But Apple has always been comfortable with its 9.7-inch model. The iPad continues to be the best-selling tablet regardless of size — Apple sold 15.4 million iPads in the fourth quarter of last year, a 111 percent increase from the same time the year before — so we likely won’t see a cheaper, smaller version of the tablet just yet. After all, it was only a couple of years ago that Steve Jobs insisted that he would never make a 7-inch iPad, and he hasn’t been gone that long.
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