iPad 3 – What to Expect?

iPad 3 Invite

Apple will be unveiling the highly anticipated third generation iPad at the media event on Wednesday, March 7th, which will put an end to the rumors and speculations that started almost a year back.

So what can we expect from Apple’s next generation iPad?

Here’s a look at some of the new features and improvement that we can expect in the new iPad. Most of them are based on the rumors and speculations we’ve heard so far. We’ve also sneaked in a few from our wish list:

Form Factor/Design:

So far most rumors have indicated that Apple’s new iPad will look very similar to last year’s iPad – iPad 2. Due to the rumored Retina Display, the new iPad could end up being slightly (0.8mm) thicker than iPad 2. Apple may have tweaked the design slightly to make it feel thinner by giving it a more tapered back casing.

Lighter:

At 1.33 pounds (601 grams), iPad 2 is quite light, but we hope that the new iPad is lighter as it would make it even more comfortable to hold while in bed.

Retina Display:

Apple’s new iPad is very likely to sport a gorgeous high-resolution 2048×1586 Retina Display, which would be twice the resolution and four times the pixel density of iPad 2 and the original iPad. It will be touted as one of the major features of the new iPad, which will make everything look a lot more sharper and vibrant.

Faster Processor:

While Apple’s new iPad will surely be powered by a faster processor (it’s a given). We’ve heard conflicting reports about next generation iPad’s system-on-chip. Some say it could be powered by a quad-core A6 chip or by an improved dual-core A5X chip.

Graphics:

Apple’s next generation A6 or A5X system on chip will definitely include a much faster graphics processing unit (GPU). It remains to be seen if Apple will use the next generation GPUs introduced by Imagination Technologies last month, which are supposed to provide 20 times or more performance improvements, while also being 5 times more efficient.

Improved Cameras:

Leaked parts have revealed that the camera lens hole is bigger than the one in iPad 2’s rear casing, suggesting an improved rear camera. Rumors suggest that the next iPad will come with 8-megapixel camera, the same as the one used in iPhone 4S and an improved front facing camera for FaceTime HD.

RAM:

We were disappointed when we found out that iPad 2 has only 512 MB RAM, after several rumors indicated that it will get double the RAM. While there have been no rumors on this front, we hope that the next generation iPad comes with at least 1GB RAM.

4G LTE Support:

It is widely expected that the third generation iPad will support the faster 4G LTE networks. Qualcomm unveiled  its fifth generation Gobi embedded data connectivity reference platform for mobile devices, which supports multiple LTE bands with backwards compatibility to existing 2G/3G technologies, which has increased the chances of Apple introducing a 4G iPad as Apple no longer needs to make any design compromises to add the 4G LTE radios.

Storage Capacities:

According to recent rumors, the new iPad will be available in the same storage capacities as iPad 2 – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. But since the size of the applications will be larger due to Retina Display, we hope the new iPad comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128 storage capacities or Apple also introduces a 128GB iPad along with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPads.

Battery life:

Though iPad’s battery life hasn’t been a concern, we hope that despite features such as Retina Display and faster dual-core or quad-core chip, the new iPad offers the same or longer battery life compared to iPad 2.

Improved Speaker Sound Quality: 

The sound quality on iPad is pretty decent. However, there is always scope for improving iPad’s built-in speakers.

Bluetooth 4.0:

Considering Apple’s decision to include less-than-a-year old Bluetooth 4.0 in the newly launched Mac Mini and Macbook Air and iPhone 4S, it is very likely that the next iPad will also get Bluetooth 4.0.

Siri:

Apple’s new iPad could be the second iOS device to get Siri – Apple’s revolutionary personal assistant feature, which is currently exclusively available on iPhone 4S. However, some rumors suggest that the new iPad will only get Siri’s Dictation feature. But since Siri needs an internet connection for it to work, it remains to be seen if Apple will be happy with the idea of Siri not being available to users with an iPad Wi-Fi only model all the time. The other way to look at it is, it could convince more people to buy the more expensive iPad 3G + Wi-Fi model.

Home Button:

There were some speculations that Apple plans to do away with the Home button in the new iPad based on the graphics in the invitation for Wednesday’s media event. It was widely speculated that Apple will replace the home button with a capacitive bezel. Though the idea of a capacitive bezel sounds interesting (as wear and tear of the Home button has been a major concern ever since iOS 4 was released), we feel it isn’t as intuitive to a first time iOS device user as the current Home button and making the entire bezel capacitive could result in too many accidental activations, so in our opinion we won’t bet on Apple doing away with the Home button.

Leaked parts also suggest that the new iPad will get the Home button. However, we still hope that Apple replaces the current Home button with a capacitive Home button to reduce the wear and tear, which has only increased to access the multitasking tray and for Siri.

iOS 5.1:

Apple’s new iPad is expected to come pre-installed with iOS 5.1, which has been in beta for quite sometime. However, no major features have been discovered so far. All we know so far is that it would bring rich text formatting to Notes app and ability to delete photos from Photo Stream and expected to fix some privacy related issues such as the permission based access to the the Contact list for apps that raised a major controversy.

There have been some rumors that Apple will add more functionality to Siri in iOS 5.1. Apple is also expected to add support for Chinese, Japanese and Russian to Siri. International users would be hoping that Apple adds Maps and local search support in their countries.

Name:

We gave it away in the title of the post. There have been some rumors that Apple’s new iPad could be called iPad 2S or iPad HD. You can read why we think Apple’s new iPad won’t be called iPad HD here. We also think if most of the features that we’ve mentioned here such as Retina Display, faster quad or dual-core processor, faster graphics, more RAM, Siri, FaceTime HD make it to the new iPad’s official feature list then Apple could justify the iPad 3 moniker even though it will look like iPad 2.

Pricing:

There have been some rumors that iPad 3 may cost $70 more for the 3G+WiFi model and $80 more for the Wi-Fi only model. Even though iPad 3 is expected to feature a high resolution 2048×1536 Retina Display, which will cost more than the current iPad 2 LCD display, it seems highly unlikely that Apple will increase the price an iPad 3. A recent report has also confirmed that iPad 3 pricing will be the same as iPad 2.

Availability:

Since Apple will be unveiling iPad 3 on Wednesday, March 7th, we expect Apple to start taking pre-orders for their iPad 3 in the U.S from March 9th and launch it on March 16th. This should be followed by the international launch on March 23rd or March 30th. But it is possible that Apple may give developers some time to get their apps ready for iPad 3’s Retina Display, which could push the launch dates by couple of weeks.

Conclusion:

It will be interesting to see which of these features and improvements make it to Apple’s third generation iPad and if Apple has any other major surprises under its sleeve to make 2012 – the year of iPad 3.

We’ll be live blogging the event so don’t forget to join us at 10am PT or 1pm ET or 6pm GMT on Wednesday, March 7th. Until then, please let us know in the comments which features will convince you to upgrade or buy iPad 3.