Photos posted on the Chinese Website WeiPhone suggest the latest chipset for the newest version of Apples iPad 3 tablet will be an A5X processor, an upgrade from the A5 chip currently found in the iPad 2. Other rumored upgrades to the tablet include a larger, 8 megapixel camera, 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) capability and a more tapered design. The iPad 3 is widely expected to debut March 7, closely following the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where electronics manufacturers will unveil their own tablet devices.
Apple is adding Japanese electronics manufacturer Sharp to the roster of companies it uses to produce the popular iPad tablet, according to a report late last year. Sharp will produce the LCD screens for the next-generation version of the device as Apple seeks to diversify the number of manufacturers it uses. The decision comes as Sharp looks to broaden its LCD business and Apple fights a number of patent suits with Samsung, which also supplies components for Apple's products.
The iPad franchise enters 2012 in a particularly strong market position. Throughout 2011, other tablets have plunged into the tablet arena with huge advertising budgets and the stated aim of becoming an iPad killer, only to find apathetic customers and a general lack of buzz. Apples next big tablet challenge might come in late 2012, when it will face Windows 8 on Microsoft and its manufacturing partners.
iPad shipments rose 39 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 11.1 million in the third quarter to 15.4 million. However, Apple's share of the tablet market fell to 57 percent from 64 percent during the quarter. For the full year 2011, Apple shipped 40.5 million iPads, which represented just a 62 percent share of the market. Despite the 168 percent growth over the 15.1 million units it shipped in 2010, its portion of the much smaller tablet pie that year was 87 percent.
Network operators AT&T and Verizon Wireless plan to launch a version of Apples best-selling iPad tablet on their respective fourth-generation wireless networks, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. The paper interviewed Richard Doherty, director of research firm Envisioneering Group, who said an LTE iPad would test how well carriers' networks could handle heavier data use.
"The new iPad will test carriers to see how robust their networks are," Doherty said. "4G networks are expected to generate even greater amounts of traffic, as their faster speeds will let users watch entire movies over wireless networks instead of short clips."
Analysts with IHS iSuppli, in a Jan. 31 report, said they now expect global capital spending on LTE technology to reach $24.3 billion in 2013, nearly tripling the $8.7 billion expected to be spent in 2012. In 2015, LTE spending is projected to reach $36.1 billion, compared with $9 billion on 3.5G technologies, ending the latter's five-year run. Revenue from 3.5G technology, the research firm added, is likely to reach $19.8 billion in 2013.