iPad 3 Predictions

Oh how the time flies. It seems like just yesterday I was being yelled at by Target security guards for photographing the goings on of iPad 2 release day. Nearly a year has passed and it's time for that device I gleefully paid $700 for to become an outdated piece of crap that I'm embarrassed to be seen in public with.

If you're in the market for a tablet - don't buy one right now! The third generation iPad is expected to be announced in the first week of March with availability later in the month. The date has further been narrowed down to March 7th, but all we need to know is that the announcement is expected in just a few weeks. It's almost upon us so let's round-up the rumors that have been tossed around. If we add up all these rumors, the new iPad will have...
  • a retina display twice the resolution of iPad 2 at 2048x1536 (that's 4x the pixel density!),
    • This has been rumored from numerous sources, and recently 'confirmed' when MacRumors landed a 9.7" panel with this exact resolution.
  • a version that supports Verizon and AT&T LTE
  • a quad-core processor with better graphics dubbed the A6
  • one or two improved cameras as evidenced by the new camera hole in the case iLab got ahold of
  • and maybe a smaller 8" version
The only thing that everyone can agree on is that the new iPad will have a retina display. The resolution is easy enough to figure out; they'll quadruple the current resolution, just like they did from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4. Why is this the case? Simple: Apps trivially scale to this new resolution when each pixel becomes 4 new pixels. For example:

On a 4x resolution display (twice the number of pixels horizontally and vertically), apps designed for the original display will look exactly the same, as is shown in the left two pictures. When app designers get around to increasing the resolution of their graphics, they have 4x the amount of pixels to work with, making for much smoother and crisper graphics, like the rightmost picture. Compare an iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4; the difference is astounding. The 3GS looks like a piece of junk.

I believe that the new iPad will have this new retina display for the following reasons:
  1. No other feature is compelling enough to make this new iPad significantly better than the current generation. A faster processor, LTE, fancier cameras, etc - they don't amount to much, and Apple doesn't compete on specs. They already did a minor spec bump from the original iPad to iPad 2; now it's time for something revolutionary.
  2. Folks have gotten a hold of the parts; 9.7" displays of this nature exist. However, this question remains: Will they be able to be produced in the massive quantities required by Apple and at low cost? I'm sure that they've been working on this since before iPad 2 came out, so I think we can say yes.
Here are my predictions on the other stuff and why:
  • A version that supports Verizon and AT&T LTE
    • Yes. The battery life of iPad 2 is incredible, so there's room to burn some more with a reasonably power hungry LTE chipset. LTE / CDMA / GSM chipsets exist that can handle LTE and fallback to Verizon and AT&T's slower networks when LTE isn't available. Since this device is mostly a big slab of battery (and may have a larger battery in the new version), it could handle the additional power requirements of LTE that have kept this feature from the iPhone. The new iPad would also serve as a great testbed for LTE when it comes to iPhone in the 6th iteration of that device.
  • quad-core processor with better graphics dubbed the A6
    • Yes and no. I believe that there will be an A6 processor on-board, but doubt they'll bump it up to quad core. Various sources have reported on a quad-core A6, but some disagree and say it will stay dual core but with improved graphics processing. I think that significantly improved graphics processing will be included to handle the new high resolution display, but that it will remain dual core for cost and power reasons. Just because the market is being flooded with quad core Android devices doesn't mean Apple will follow suit, which is where this rumor likely originated from. The A5 is plenty fast (ever hear someone complain about an iPad 2 being slow?) and the cost and power trade-offs of moving to a larger and likely more power hungry quad core processor are not worth this spec bump... yet.
  • One or two improved cameras as evidenced by the new camera hole in the case iLab got ahold of
    • Sure, why not. I'd like to see cameras that can handle HD video chat with the great sensor of the iPhone 4S, but not much has been said about it. Some reports say that the new iPad will have a thicker case, which means they'd be able to put in a thicker, and better camera. I don't have any idea what the specs will be, but I suspect it will handle HD video chat. 
  • A smaller 8" version
    • No. I don't think they need another size. I suspect rumors about this are simply because people think that they need to compete with the smaller Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, but in reality, they aren't really on the same playing field. Get those rumors out of my face.
Lastly, what are they going to call this thing? It's widely speculated that it will be dubbed the iPad 3, and occasionally you hear the term iPad HD tossed around. I believe that they won't ever use the HD moniker since HD implies one of two widescreen resolutions (720p or 1080p). I suspect it will be called iPad 3. 

We'll find out in just a few weeks what the actual story will be. Until then, try not to get nauseous looking at that chincy 1024 x 768 display.