With a rumored launch date for the iPad 3 closing fast, many current iPad owners are wondering just how much tablet envy they'll have to endure, or whether an upgrade will be worth the cost. The iPad 2 added front and rear cameras, a streamlined chassis, and a few other modest improvements, but as an upgrade goes, it was not earth shattering. So what do people have to look forward to in the latest Apple tablet? Although notorious for "leaking" specifications or "losing" devices prior to launch, Apple keeps a pretty tight lid on some of its new product releases, so it's impossible to say what the final specifications of the device will be until it's actually out in the wild. But it is possible to look at some of the inevitable minutia produced during hardware procurement, the capabilities listed in Apple's Software Development Kit, as well as the general state of the market and make some educated guesses.
This upgrade seems like it could be a big one. Android devices have been packing 4G connectivity capabilities (the Motorola Xoom, for example) since around the time the iPad 2 was released.
They've also got a big edge in processor power. In order to remain competitive until its next product release, Apple needs to meet, and preferably exceed, the specifications of the competition, since new Android devices come to market continually. Rumors from reliable sources say that the iPad 3 will have 4G Internet capabilities. If true, this will be a first for Apple; I'm baffled as to why they didn't offer the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S with this feature. 4G connectivity is a game changer, particularly given Apple's focus on cloud-based technologies.
For the iPad 3, 4G connectivity would mean faster video streaming, uploading and downloading, and much faster internet surfing when not connected to a Wi-Fi network – in other words, a big deal.
It's also possible the iPad 3 will sport a display using Apple's Retina technology, which offers incredible image clarity by increasing the number of pixels contained within every inch of the screen, thereby allowing more detail at a higher resolution in a screen that's the same size as the original and second generation iPad.
In order to drive both the Retina display and improved 4G capabilities, it's likely that Apple will have beefed up the graphics and general processing capabilities of the iPad 3 – there aren't any specifics on the processors just yet, but the iPad 3 probably will support a state-of-the-art dual-core (or possibly quad-core) processor.
The only other major item, short of software, is the camera. The iPhone 4S offers an 8 megapixel camera, and there's no reason to think that Apple wouldn't use the same camera, or a derivative in the iPad 3.
No word yet on pricing, but it's likely that it will be similar to the original price for the iPad 2, which cost from $499 to $829, with older devices getting discounts to make room for the new state-of-the-art.