Feb. 27, 2012 -- Last week, my friend Hannah Kaplan got a new iPad 2 for her birthday. Exciting, indeed, but Hannah might not be as excited in a couple of weeks.
The iPad 3 rumor mill is at a level red, meaning Apple's going to, more likely than not, release a new version of its popular tablet very soon. In fact, there's even an active rumor about the potential announcement date – March 6 or March 7 -- according to a few technology sites.
What that means is not only will there probably be a new iPad at Apple stores within a few days or weeks of that anticipated announcement date, but that the iPad 2 is likely going to drop in price.
Last year, when Apple released the iPad 2, the original iPad dropped from $499 to $399 until stock was depleted. (Some refurbished models even went for $349.)
Apple has usually been kind enough to offer a refund of $100 to those who buy the older model within the last couple of weeks before the new model is released, or has accepted a return so it could be swapped. That's always an option, but, still, it makes more sense to wait.
But what, exactly, are we waiting for? We won't know for sure until Apple officially announces the details, but here's a short guide to help you navigate all the juicy rumors out there.
A higher resolution screen
The strongest rumor about the iPad 3 has to do with its screen. According to a number of reports, the tablet will have a very high resolution display. Some have said it will have a 2048x1536-resolution screen, which is four times its current resolution. If that's the case, HD video will look even better, and text will look crisper.
Faster data speeds
This next rumor comes via the Wall Street Journal, which tends to be right more often than it is wrong about Apple rumors. Two weeks ago, the Journal reported that the next iPad would be offered with both Verizon and AT&T LTE. That means that instead of the 3G versions, there will be 4G versions with faster data speeds when there isn't a Wi-Fi network around. There will surely be a Wi-Fi-only version, which will probably start at that well-known $499 price point, but the LTE versions will likely go for about $120 more.
This seems like another shoo-in. Lots of rumors predict that Apple will announce its A6 processor, a successor to the A5 processor in the iPad 2. We don't really know any of the spec details, but Bloomberg recently reported that it would be a quad-core processor, which means faster performance speeds. This extra performance power will also help with the aforementioned higher screen resolution and the Siri rumor (see below). We should also note there is a conflicting rumor about it having a dual-core A5x processor. Either way, we're fairly confident Apple's going to make your next tablet speedier.
There isn't a ton of evidence on this scuttlebutt, but some say the iPad 3 could be thinner because of a new display technology. It's actually hard to believe that the tablet could get much thinner at this point, but maybe, just maybe, Apple has managed to shave off a few millimeters.
This one makes a lot of sense. Currently, the iPhone 4S is the only phone that supports Apple's digital assistant, Siri. According to a Chinese site called Apple.pro, the voice-enabled feature will come with the new iPad. The site also claims to have images of the front glass panel of the tablet. We wouldn't be surprised if Siri makes the jump to the big(ger) screen.
There's also talk of a better camera. Photos of the purported iPad 3 show it having a larger lens, which many believe is an 8-megapixel camera. The site iLounge also reported that the front-facing Facetime camera would capture HD video. Both of these make a lot of sense, since Apple faced a lot of criticism for the poor camera quality on the iPad 2.
All these rumors should be taken with a grain of salt, but it really does seems as if the iPad 3 – if Apple even calls it that – will be quite a significant update. So, if you were thinking about running out to get the iPad 2 today ... wait.
By the way, luckily for Hannah, I told her all about this long list of rumors, and she returned the iPad 2 last week. Now Hannah, and the rest of us, just have to bide our time until Apple takes the stage to tell us what we're getting next.