I have no sources inside Apple. I haven't found prototype hardware left in bars. I haven't read past the first paragraph of recent rumor stories. But I still think I have a good idea of what will be in the next iPad.
And you should too, if you've kept up with Apple and the gadget industry.
The latest round of next-iPad speculation kicked off with a post on the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD site predicting an introduction in the first week in March. Follow-up coverage pointed to a March 7 date, and then a WSJ piece Tuesday reported that a new iPad would run on AT&T and Verizon's 4G LTE networks.
That timing, however, should surprise nobody. Over the past few years, Apple has updated its mobile devices about once a year (aside from the iPhone 4S's delayed arrival in October). The first iPad reached stores in April of 2010 and its successor shipped in March of 2011, so a March unveiling for an "iPad 3" would be right on schedule.
LTE support would be more of a surprise, considering how it's cut into battery life on the phones I've tried — and how little difference it can make in everyday use. Maybe Apple has added enough battery capacity on the next iPad to compensate for that. Or maybe this new iPad 3 has the unified, LTE-plus-3G circuitry that people have been waiting for — in which case you can bet that the next iPhone will also support LTE.
(Either way, my advice would be to save money and get a Wi-Fi-only iPad unless you spend serious time on the road.)
What else to expect? Siri voice input should be the most obvious addition: With Apple's history of moving features from its phones to its tablets, you don't need to ask a computerized virtual assistant to figure this one out.
Likewise, the front and back cameras could and should get sharper, especially considering the iPad 2's subpar photographic capabilities.
Even before the iPad 2's arrival, people predicted a high-resolution equivalent of the iPhone 4's "Retina Display." I could see that happening now, but I could also see it going largely overlooked by users, aside from making photos and e-books look spiffier.
A faster processor? Sure, and you might as well pencil in some new games or multimedia apps that require the speedier chip. You should expect more storage too: The ever-cheaper price of the flash memory used in the iPad and other mobile devices all but compels that.
Maybe the next iPad will be thinner, but there's not much left to whittle away. The current design is barely thicker than Apple's proprietary connector.
But many other suggested next-iPad features — from big shifts like a smaller model to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire to smaller improvements along the lines of an SD Card slot, a standard micro-USB port or a Near Field Communication chip — don't seem possible. That's just not how Apple rolls. It won't ship a product that fulfills enthusiasts' bullet-point wish lists or radically redo a gadget that had a major update last year.
Instead, expect a new iPad with enough changes to make owners of the original version want to upgrade, but not so many that recent iPad 2 buyers want to throw their tablets — or themselves — off a bridge.
Credit: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery