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iPad 3 rumour round-up

Bigger screen, faster processor, 4G, and Siri
Product: Third-generation iPad | Publisher: Apple | Format: iPad
Third-generation iPad iPad, thumbnail 1
It's been almost a year since the late Steve Jobs bounded onto centre stage at Apple HQ and convinced the world - once again - that we all needed to drop £400 on a shiny slab of touchscreen tech.

Since then, we've cooed at the iPad 2's atom-thick form factor, fiddled incessantly with its Smart Cover, taken shoddy photos with its camera, and marvelled at the power of its A5 processor.

But, now, we want more - more power and more features. We've checked our bank balance and we've put the finishing touches to our iPad 2 eBay auctions. We're ready to meet the iPad 3.

As ever, Apple hasn't said a single word about it. But, that hasn't stop the rumour mill: not a day goes by without some Chinese blogger, American news giant, or dodgy tweeter revealing a salacious crumb of info on the upcoming gadget.

Before the rumours are put to rest (and the iPad 4 speculation mill starts churning), let's recap all the plausible rumours and totally oddball hearsay that the web has whispered about Apple's new slab of desire.

The iPad 3 will have a high-resolution Retina display


The rumour mill seems pretty convinced that the iPad 3 will sport a "Retina display", which means Apple doubling the current resolution on its 9.7-inch touchscreen tab to bring it up to 2048x1536 pixels.

Look inside the IPA file of the new iBooks 2 app, for example, and you'll find images named "iPad@2x", which are double the size of images simply named "iPad". Then again, there were high-res images in the old iBooks, before the iPad 2 was announced.

Bloomberg says that the iPad 3 will "sport a high-definition screen," according to people familiar with the product. Leaked photos of an iPad 3 shell, discovered by hardware site Repair Labs, suggests a different type of LCD display. And an alleged part leak points to a complete internal overhaul: including a new screen.

John Gruber, a noted Apple watcher who's often on the money, said "magazines and newspapers that render each 'page' as a image are going to look like utter ass on the iPad 3's retina display".

So, who's making the darn thing? CNET's sources say that LG and Samsung are making the Retina screen (but running into trouble). The Wall Street Journal claims, meanwhile, that Sharp is producing the LCD panels for Apple - and so does Japanese blog Macotakara.

But, those aren't necessarily conflicting reports: Apple often places orders with a range of component suppliers to build the same bit. Just in case Samsung is hit by an asteroid tomorrow.

A Retina display on the next-gen iPad would be nice, and would make sense given Apple's recent play for the high school textbook market, and its continued interest in digital newspapers and magazines. Have you seen an A4 magazine on iPad? The text is all squished and hard to read without zooming in.

But, on the downside, game developers making Universal apps would now need to take into consideration four different resolutions (that's older iPhones, Retina display iPhones, the current iPad, and the new high-res iPad) when producing titles. And they'd have to spend more money and time on ultra-high-res textures, sprites, and models.

The iPad 3 will have a quad-core A6 processor


The iPad had a single-core A4 processor. The iPad 2 packed a dual-core A5 processor. If history is on our side, the iPad 3 will have a quad-core A6 processor under the hood. That will make games run smoother and switching between apps faster.

There might have been a hint to that effect in an iOS beta. The processing core management software in iOS 5.1 beta featured a coy reference to a quad-core processor. There's mention of "/cores/core.3," - a natural next step from the core.0 and core.1 of the previous single- and dual-core chips.

A "source claiming to be in possession of an iPad 3 prototype" handed website Boy Genius Report details about the tablet. The processor inside is named A6, and - you guessed it - it rocks four blooming cores.

However, not every rumour corroborates this: "According to people familiar with the product," The Verge says, the A6 inside the iPad 3 will have a significantly more powerful graphics unit, but the processor itself will only be dual core, like the iPad 2.

More power is definitely good, but fragmentation is bad. We're already seeing games that don't work on the original iPad: Machinarium, Jurassic Park: The Game 1 HD, and DoDonPachi Blissful Death all require the iPad 2.

How long will it be before the iPad 2 and its dual-core A5 is considered antiquated or obsolete. We might be stupid enough to replace our iPad every year, but not everyone wants to upgrade every 12 months.

The iPad 3 will be thicker than the iPad 2


At just 8.8mm from back to front, the iPad 2 is one seriously thin tablet. But, according to rumours, the iPad 3 will have to bulk up to fit in all of the abovementioned extra features.

"Our most reliable source has spoken," iLounge says. According to this alleged Apple insider, The Big A will add about 0.7mm to the iPad 2's depth to accommodate a twin light bar system that's needed to light up that higher-resolution display.

TechRadar reminds us that Apple recently welcomed on board a carbon fibre expert. This new hire, senior composites engineer Kevin Kenney, was president and CEO of Kestrel Bicycles, where he pioneered the use of carbon fibre frames on bikes.

Has Apple poached him so he can make a carbon fibre iPad?

The iPad 3 will use Siri

Siri is the softly spoken digital assistant that made its debut on the iPhone 4S.

'She' (or 'he', if you're British) will listen to your commands and then set timers, find nearby graveyards, send text messages, return info on the International Space Station, find out the weather in Poland, and misunderstand every other word you say.

Will it appear on Apple's next tablet?

This rumour is a bit weak (well, weaker than all the rest of this nonsense), but hear us out. The iOS 5.1 beta 3 hid a slab of text in the settings called "About Privacy and Dictation". It might not sound very exciting, but that's the same legal literature which accompanies Siri on iPhone 4S.

The iPad 3 will connect to 4G networks


Over in America, more and more phones and tablets are hooking up to 4G. This is the successor to 3G, which promises speeds of up to 100Mbps over the air. But, so far, Apple has refused to leap on the bandwagon.

According to Bloomberg, though, the iPad 3's big three features are a faster processor, a high-resolution screen, and 4G connectivity.

Oh, and rememeber that leaked info from Boy Genius Report? It also says that the iPad 3 will come in two versions: a wi-fi-only edition and a second that will connect up to GSM, CDMA, and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

Not that it matters to those of us on this side of the Atlantic. Telecoms regulator Ofcom was supposed to be splitting up a chunk of the electromagnetic spectrum and auctioning it off to networks like Orange and O2 this year for the provision of 4G services - that's now been delayed, so we in the UK might have to wait until 2014 before 4G is introduced.

What do YOU want in your next iPad? Let us know in the comments.

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 13 February 2012
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