iPad 3: What the Rumor Round Says About Apple's Tablet

Apple has been tight-lipped as ever about the details of the iPad 3—which is widely expected to arrive in early March—leaving the pundits with nothing to do but guess.

The Apple iPad 3, by all accounts but Apple's, will arrive in March, and there's no end to the speculations about what the industry-changing device's latest incarnation will feature.

So far, educated guesses include:

€¢ The inclusion of much faster chip. AllThingsD reported Feb. 9, citing unnamed sources, that the next iPad would look much like the iPad 2 €œbut running a much faster chip, sporting an improved graphics processing unit and featuring a 2048x1536 Retina Display€”or something close to it.€

€¢ Compatibility across all carrier networks. The Boy Genius Report, also citing secret sources, wrote Feb. 1 that the iPad 3 will come in two versions, "one with WiFi only and one with WiFi and embedded GSM/CDMA/LTE for all carriers."

€¢ Be available in a 7-inch option. Steve Jobs made clear his loathing of the 7-inch form factor, once notoriously calling it "dead in the water." Still, analyst Ezra Gottheil, with Technology Business Research (TBR), told Computerworld that he expects Apple to nonetheless offer a 7-inch version of the iPad 3, in addition to a 9.7-inch version.

€¢ Have a killer display. Gottheil, in the same conversation, said he also expects the next iPad to have a higher-resolution display€”one it's likely to call a "Retina display," whether that's quite accurate or not. "That's important to them because it means the iPad will work well in their home theater play, since it will display full HD," he said. "And it's an important differentiator going forward."

€¢ Maintain its price point. iFixit's Kyle Wiens, who has torn down many an Apple device, and predicted correctly in the past, spoke with PC World about what Apple likely has coming. Wiens said he also expects a Retina display, or "four times the pixels" of the current display, a very fast graphics processor€”though a quad-core is probably a little farther down the line€”and for the next iPad to be competitive where consumers have shown it really counts: at the register. "I think Apple needs to be more aggressive on price than on features," he told PCWorld. "This means maintaining the $500 price point."

€¢ Include dictation software, possibly Siri. 9to5Mac reports hearing months ago that Apple was "internally prototyping a version of the full Siri experience for the iPad," though no new news of late. However, a tipster for the site discovered that in the iOS 5.1 beta 3 settings application on the iPad, there's a section in the keyboard menu that includes legal and feature information about "Siri Dictation."

"Perhaps this will be an iOS 5.1 launch feature for the iPad, or it may be an iPad 3-exclusive feature. ... We€™re also hearing this link/document is also appearing on retina iPod touches as well," wrote the site.

One thing about the iPad 3 is for certain, however. It will arrive with considerably raised consumer awareness about the conditions under which it was created. On Feb. 9, Change.org and SumOfUs.org hand delivered to at least six Apple stores petitions signed by a total of more than 260,000 consumers, all calling for Apple to improve working conditions in its partners' factories. In recent weeks, reports from The New York Times and other outlets have exposed the gritty reality of what goes into creating tens of millions of iPads€”and given Apple fans more to think about.

Mark Shields, an Apple user and the author of the Change.org petition, reminded Apple, "Your own ads say that 'the people who think they are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.'"