iPad 3 rumors: A guide to what's likely, unlikely, and totally bonkers

Apple will unveil its latest tablet on Wednesday, so the iPad 3 rumor mill is churning at full speed. Here's a quick list of iPad 3 rumors with a guide for why you should (or shouldn't) believe them.

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    Customers test out Apple iPads in an Apple Store in downtown Shanghai, Feb. 29, 2012. Apple is expected to make an iPad 3 announcement on March 7.
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What’s in a (iPad) name?

Although most sources are dubbing Apple’s latest tablet the iPad 3, it’s safe to say that Tim Cook and his team could surprise us. The release of the iPhone 4S in place of the anticipated iPhone 5 proved that Apple isn’t afraid to do the unexpected. As a result, bloggers and experts have hypothesized that this tablet could be called the iPad 2S – especially if the iPhone 4S’ handy assistant Siri is included – or even the iPad HD. We’ll find out on Wednesday.

Probability: Likely iPad 3

Recommended: Ten ways Windows 8 outshines the iPad

Improved Retina display

Some of you are already enjoying a Retina display on your iPhone 4 or 4S, but the iPad is a few steps behind. It’s expected that the third iPad will join the Retina ranks on March 7, meaning it will have a higher-resolution screen worthy of a high-definition television. While the iPad and iPad 2 have a 768 by 1024 pixel screen, the third iPad could have one as high as 1536 by 2048, making videos and games crystal clear. Only problem? Better display means some files will take up more storage. Since carriers have imposed strict wireless data caps, you may want to download apps over Wi-Fi. (But that’s a small price to pay for what could be the most aesthetically pleasing tablet out there.)

Probability: Likely

4G LTE

Considering that no Apple product runs on 4G LTE, the fastest wireless network, this would be a bold step – and one in the right direction. However, there have been quite a few contradicting reports on the subject. The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon and AT&T will sell versions of the new iPad, suggesting it’s being upgraded to 4G. However, there are concerns over a shortage of large Retina displays, plus there are currently no 4G antennas that work on both Verizon and AT&T. That means each store would need to stock nine different versions of the iPad: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB in Wi-Fi, AT&T 4G, and Verizon 4G – maybe even three more for Sprint. It would make sense for Apple to leave out 4G until the screen shortage is taken care of and it doesn’t need to put screens in iPad models that may be less popular.  

Probability: Maybe

Quad core processor

If nothing else, the third iPad is expected to be, well, more capable than its predecessor. The iPad 2 has two cores, splitting up all of the tablet’s work, while the up-and-coming version is expected to have a quad-core processor (i.e., four cores). Ideally, this would mean the third iPad would perform smoothly and without delay. Of course, a machine that powerful would probably drain its battery very quickly. One of the iPad 2 selling points was its extended battery life over Apple’s first tablet, so if an updated processor is one of the third iPad’s features, the designers have taken a risk.

Probability: Maybe

Siri

If Siri doesn’t make it to the big screen, she will remain a lowly smart-phone assistant forever. But in truth, Siri should easily be able to transition from the iPhone 4S to the new iPad. Supply chain sources have validated rumors that Apple’s foremost personal assistant will be featured on the new tablet, but no word yet on what she’ll be able to do for the iPad that she can’t for the iPhone.

Probability: Likely

No home button

This is one of the less likely features, one that would be a revolutionary move for Apple. Since the first generation iPhone, every Apple phone and tablet has had a home button. The iPad won’t be without it, reports say, but it’s possible that we could see a button-less tablet in the next few years as companies try pushing out entirely hands-on tablets. As for now, though, Apple will likely go with what’s tried and true.

Probability: Unlikely

Better camera

Considering the fairly crummy cameras on the iPad 2, there’s a lot to be desired from the third iPad’s cameras. Photos of the tablet’s glass panels suggest that the new tablet’s main camera will be located at the top of the tablet, just like the iPad 2. But both of the iPad 2’s cameras are a far cry from the iPhone 4S, which shoots at 8 megapixels. It’s only fair that the third iPad should keep up with photo capabilities as its little sibling. (The downside? iPad users continue to look awkward taking photos with tablets. But to each his own.)

Probability: Likely

Microsoft Office

Apple and Microsoft might seem like sworn enemies, but they’ve had a number of good collaborations in the past. Rumors abound regarding a Microsoft Office that’s iPad compatible, despite the fact that Apple has word processing and spreadsheet software in the form of iWork. Reporters at The Daily say they got ahold of a prototype in late February, so it’s entirely likely that the new iPad will have touchscreen Office just like Windows 8 tablets.

Probability: Likely

Haptic feedback

Apple has been playing around with touch technology called “haptic feedback” that, in the case of the upcoming iPad, could mean physical responses and vibrations from the iPad to the user. Bloggers have theorized that Apple’s promotional poster for the third iPad, which says “We’ve got something you have to feel. And touch,” means that there will be some sort of haptic technology included. The idea is that the iPad would sense the amount of friction between your finger and the screen and in turn, create the feel of different textures. This is a wild card feature for the new iPad – it’s possible that it’ll be included, but it’s also likely that the highly sensitive technology is still being experimented with.

Probability: Maybe

Near field communication (NFC)

Near field communication is arguably one of the most pragmatic, underused technologies out there. Otherwise known as “the digital wallet,” it allows users to make transactions by tapping their phones to a register (no tablets have enlisted this feature yet). As for the third iPad, there’s no telling if NFC will be included – reports that the iPad 2 would have NFC were proven wrong upon its release last year. As for the practical applications of NFC for a tablet? That’s up in the air. It’s unlikely that many iPad users will be using their tablets to pay for groceries at the supermarket – it makes much more sense to use something phone-sized. Maybe we should stick to hoping NFC is one of the iPhone 5 features.

Probability: Unlikely

Apple TV

Because consoles are so 2011, it’s likely that Apple has an update for Apple TV in mind. And what better way to revamp Apple TV than to include a streaming service with the latest iPad? “[The new Apple TV] sports a variation of Apple’s dual-core, ARM-based A5 processor that can stream 1080 video,” the 9to5 Mac blog reports. It’s not clear if the new Apple TV will be unveiled alongside the third iPad, or if and how they’ll be connected, but it’s safe to say both updates are imminent.

Probability: Maybe

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