If Apple's usual release schedule is to be believed (as it usually is), we're just about due for another iPad. Naturally, the rumor mill has amped up accordingly -- in fact, given the amount of news we've seen hit the wire regarding the phantom product, the only thing that would genuinely surprise us would be if Cupertino just opted to pull out of the tablet space altogether. Given the sort of sales figures the company has been seeing as of late, its seems a pretty safe bet that the company is confident that the old slate's still got a little bit of steam left in her.

Yep, the one thing we feel pretty confident in saying at the moment is that Apple most likely has a new iPad in the works and it's most likely coming fairly soon. It also seems like a pretty safe bet that the company goes with the iPad 3 name -- but hey, we've been burned there before. If the rumors flooding in from the likes of Digitimes and The Wall Street Journal are to be believed, the slate will bring with it faster internals, a higher res screen, a tapered back and a general smattering of Apple's customary pixie dust. So, what can we expect from the third iteration of the company's crazy popular slate? Not even Samsung knows for sure, but we're breaking down the fire hose of rumors after the break.

Announcement

Anonymous sources over at The Wall Street Journal put the date of Apple's big announcement at the first week of March, which falls right in line with last year's March 2nd event. The fact that stores like Best Buy have begun dropping the price of the iPad 2 only seems to lend credence to that time frame. It was also nice of the company to narrowly miss out on overlapping with Mobile World Congress -- though competing trade shows have never stopped the company before. In the grand scheme of things, this is certainly one of the less far fetched of the recent crop of iPad 3 rumors -- if not the first week of March, then almost certainly just after. As always, though, we won't know for sure until the suggestive event invitation hits our inbox. As for an actual sale? We're hearing "as early as March."

Internals


Souped up internals seems like a no-brainer for the iPad. Apple loves to upgrade its devices to the latest and greatest, and given the ever increasing competition in the space the company helped pioneer, it's certainly in Cupertino's best interest to make the latest iPad as zippy as possible. A Chinese site Weiphone snapped a shot of what it claims is the logic board for the next generation iPad. Sitting right smack dab in the middle is the A5X, an apparent incremental update to the A5 chip sitting inside the iPad 2. Others have dubbed the chip the A6, if only for reasons of basic chronology. And will that A6 chip be a quad-core? Beta code hints that it might possibly maybe go that way at some point.

Externals


Most of the rumors we've heard thus far don't see a radical aesthetic departure for the forthcoming tablet, nor can anyone seem to agree on whether the device will be thicker or thinner in its next iteration. Rumors swirling around last year had the tablet adding a bit to its waistline, in order to accommodate some of those souped-up internals. More recent rumors give the tablet a more beveled appearance. Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Display


Speaking of things we've seen before, remember when the iPad 2 was going to its own version of the iPhone 4's retina display? The rumor's made a comeback for the iPad 3 launch, this helped along by a supposed side-by-side comparison shot of the two tablets held under a microscope, showing off lots of tiny squares. Certainly it would go a ways towards helping the tablet stand out in the crowd.

Wild Cards

A new screen size? This one bubbles up every time an iPhone or iPad is on the horizon, and now that different sized tablets have been met with some success, it might be the perfect time for Apple to experiment with a smaller iPad. Rumor has it that the company is working on an 8-inch version of the slate, to complement the good old 9.7-incher. In the past, the company has shied away from oversaturating the marketplace, but there's likely enough demand in the space for the standard iPad and a smaller budget version to peacefully co-exist.

The Wall Street Journal's anonymous sources have also let slip Apple's supposed plans to go LTE on the next generation iPad, courtesy of Verizon and AT&T. So, will the tablet beat the company's smartphone to the 4G punch? Only the carriers, Cupertino and a few loose lipped tipsters know for sure. There's also talk of a revamped camera and an end to the classic 30 pin connector across Apple's mobile device. And what about a budget version for students? Given Apple's move to beef up its textbook presence, we wouldn't be particularly shocked if the company dropped the price to make a bigger splash in the classroom.

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