Everyone expects the iPad 3 to be announced tomorrow. Which in turn means there's an absolute flood of iPad 3 (or iPad HD) rumours clogging up our lives. Here's a quick guide to making sense of them.
Take all of these with the usual large piles of salt. Oh, and remember: The iPad may only be two years old, but it's already such an institution that any radical shifts in design or philosophy are almost definitely out of the question (sorry, 7-inch believers). But that doesn't mean we won't see some significant changes both inside and out.
One of the iPhone's most beloved features is its ultra-sharp retina display. And while the iPad 2's screen is no lightweight, a bump up in pixel density is one of the most hotly anticipated iPad 3 improvements. MacRumors claims to have obtained an iPad 3 display that confirms the bump in resolution. The display is the same size as iPad 1 and 2 screens, but has double the resolution at 2048x1536, with pixels about a quarter the size of the iPad 2's.
Android tablet displays passed the iPad last year, and since then have moved into 1080p territory, so it seems far fetched that Apple would put off upgrading the iPad's screen another year.
It's extremely unlikely that anything other than a super-fast new A6 chip will power the iPad 3, as Bloomberg and others have reported. The main question at this point seems to be whether that A6 will pack quad-core power. On one hand, competitors like the Transformer Prime have moved on to quad-core chips, and the incredible gaming and HD movie processing heft that upgrade entails. Both BGR and Bloomberg have recently reported that the A6 will indeed be quad-core. But for what it's worth, Apple has shown in the past that it's willing to stand pat if it feels a spec is more than good enough for the next generation, like it did with the iPad 2's 512MB of RAM.
Speaking of RAM, if we're going to take the retina display rumours seriously, it would make sense that the RAM would finally see an upgrade in the iPad 3. The iPad 2's 512MB, like the iPhone 4S's, was buffered by the symbiotic relationship between software and hardware. But it stands to reason that the brute force required to push the massive number of pixels a 10-inch retina display would require a memory upgrade. File that under pure speculation.
iLounge cited several sources saying the iPad 3 will have an HD front-facing camera for HD Facetime. This would make a lot of sense, considering that quality front-facing cameras have found their way into phones like the Lumia 900 and people use their tablets for video chat much more than their phones.
It's worth mentioning here that while many of these hardware upgrade rumours seem inevitable, we thought the same about the whoops-that's-not-happening-iPhone 5. So keep that enthusiasm curbed until the official announcement.
BGR recently leaked debug screenshots of what it claimed was proof of both that fancy new A6 processor and global 4G LTE, and Japanese blog Macotakara reported similar network details around the same time. Bringing LTE to the iPad before the iPhone would make sense, because the iPad's larger battery can handle the 4G drain. Then again, a 4G iPad would almost certainly portend a 4G iPhone this year, and it's not at all clear that Apple considers the global 4G network mature enough to hop on just yet.
Giz Au Editor's Note: It's also well worth pointing out that even if Apple does ship an LTE iPad 3/HD, it doesn't automatically follow that it'll be on Australian-LTE friendly frequencies. There's always the possibility that we'd either get an HSPA-only iPad, or an LTE iPad with lesser functionality until suitable networks emerge -- if ever.
iOS 6 is still a long way off, but the iPad 3's software warrants a quick mention because it might be the first non-iPhone 4S Apple product to get Siri, as some details in the iOS 5.1 beta reference the iPad in Siri Dictation.
Apple has officially set March 7 (March 8th in Australia) as the date for an announcement. But what does that mean for Australian availability?
On the plus side for those keen on all things iPad, Apple has sent a few Australian journalists over to San Francisco; that's not something that they'd do just for the sake of it, so presumably that means that something being announced tomorrow that'll be on sale in Australia relatively promptly.
That doesn't mean that everything that Apple announces tomorrow will go on sale in Australia; Apple's complex content deals -- especially as they may relate to HD content -- could restrict some services and products to the US only for the time being.
The one thing that's almost certainly not changing about the iPad is its overall look. Apple's had wild success with the size and shape, and there's no reason to rock the boat now. The WSJ has said that the company is testing out an 8-inch counterpart, but it almost certainly won't become an actual product. The only changes that could happen would be a very slightly thicker build if it needs to compensate for a retina display and/or a larger battery.
Update: After taking a closer look at the image in Apple's announcement for the iPad 3, we're almost certain that the iPad will have a high definition display. Additionally, because the image appears to be taken in portrait mode, it seems like it may not have a home button either.