updated 06:55 pm EST, Fri January 13, 2012
Production already underway for March launch
Citing unnamed sources "familiar with the product," Bloomberg reports that the next iPad, expected to go on sale in March, will sport a "high-definition" screen, use a faster processor and be compatible with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) type 4G cellular networks. The claims summarize most of the educated guesses any Apple-watcher might have about the next iPad, but if true the LTE compatibility coming before the iPhone would be an unusual move.
It has long been speculated that Apple would eventually add LTE and other "4G" compatibility to its iPhone line, but this has previously been assumed to be rolled out starting with the next iPhone, which is expected to appear much later in the year. The Bloomberg report also agrees with the rumor mill that production of the iPad 3 is already ramping up in anticipation of a March release. The tablet is said to use a new quad-core chip, presumably named the A6, and will let user "jump" between apps more quickly, said the sources.
The rationale given in the report for the iPad gaining LTE compatibility before the iPhone is that the iPad sports a much larger battery and can better handle the power requirements of 4G. Battery life has become a major issue with carriers that rushed out 4G smartphones over the course of 2011, though users appreciate the increased speed it provides.
The screen on the iPad 3 is described as having "greater than hi-definition" resolution, in line with previous reports that Apple would double the resolution to 2048x1536, somewhat higher than a 1920x1280 1080 HDTV. The sources in the report never use the term "Retina Display" but describe a dot pitch (expected to be around 330 dpi) that makes the images "look like printed material."
The competitive landscape has changed greatly since the original introduction of the iPad in 2010. For the rest of that year it had the newly-reinvented field of tablets more or less all to itself, and although 2011 brought an enormous spate of competitors the iPad continued to easily dominate the field, though it inevitably lost a small amount of ground to rivals.
Though the competition is also improving, Apple will likely continue to dominate, and any further innovations in the iPad 3 (such as the rumored new PowerVR graphics system) could keep the iPad well ahead of its rivals. Despite years-long rumors to the contrary, there is no mention in the Bloomberg report of either cosmetic differences or a supposed seven-inch model.
So far, Apple has sold over 40 million iPads, amounting to nearly a quarter of the company's total annual revenue in 2011. Unconfirmed reports say that Apple is planning on manufacturing as many as 65 million iPads in 2012, which may be a combination of the iPad 3 and the iPad 2, which many have speculated will continue to be offered as a lower-priced model alongside the iPad 3.