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(Pocket-lint) - The internet is awash with iPad 3 rumours. The iPad 3 is probably the most hotly anticipated product of the year with the only other possible contenders for the title the iPhone 5 or the Nintendo Wii U. Frankly, we're champing at the bit to get our hands on any of them, right now.

Today, though, we're going to talk tablets, especially with the iPad 3 most likely the first of these products to hit in 2012. The intertubes have been ablaze with gossip about exactly what Apple are going to come up with this time. Will it be a significant improvement or are we talking more of an iPad 2S? It's time to review the iPad 3 rumours, follow the trail and try to work it out for ourselves. Who really wants to have to wait until Tim Cook gets on stage to know what the answer is?

iPad 3 release date

The first iPad was held aloft by Uncle Steve (GRHS) on 27 January 2010 and hit the shelves in March that year. Similarly, the iPad 2 was announced about a year later on 3 March 2011 with it, again, turning up for sale that April. Now, it doesn't take much of a genius to suspect that the iPad 3 announcement in February 2012 or thereabouts will lead to a very probable April 2012 iPad 3 release date, but ultimately that's just guesswork.

As far as the evidence goes, an anonymous Apple staffer was quoted as saying that that the iPad 3 was supposed to arrive in the autumn of 2011 back in March of the same year when the iPad 2 itself had just taken the stage. So much for that idea, despite some apparent credence added to it by the last moves of LulzSec, however much stock you put in that.

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Naturally, those dates have been and gone but the last piece of hot goss on the matter was in December 2011 when Digitimes reported that Apple would show off two iPads - the iPad 3 and one other - at iWorld (what was formerly MacWorld) between 26-28 January 2012. While it's not out of the question, somehow the estimates of a February launch to time the iPad 3 release with the two previous years seems more comfortable.

The latest report purporting a release date, from AllThingsD, suggests an Apple announcement in the first week of March and a launch a week or so after that.

We now know that the iPad 3 (or iPad HD, whatever it ends up being called) will be launched at an Apple event in San Francisco on 7 March. Pocket-lint received one of the exclusive invitations at the end of February.

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According to the latest rumours the Apple iPad 3 release date in the UK will be the 16 March

iPad 3 screen

One of the most exciting developments that people are hoping for is an improved iPad screen. There was a shade of disappointment when the iPad 2 arrived sporting the same resolution as the previous model despite the upgrade of the iPhone to what Apple has termed the Retina display. 

Since as early as May 2011 however, there have been some pretty consistent rumours that the same kind of 300dpi plus technology is in store on the iPad 3. Originally it was i4u that came up with the goods with a report focused largely around screen technology and, more specifically, that Samsung had managed to create a 2560x1600px display on a 10.1-inch device. The theory was that LG, the company behind the iPad's panel, would be following suit in time for launch. Well, maybe.

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As expected, come later in the summer of 2011 and the Wall Street Journal were happily flinging their sources about talking of a doubling of the iPad's resolution from the 1024x768 to a mathematically sound 2048x1536 resolution. Fast forward to January 2012 and the same publication reported that 1 million such 2048x1536 panels, as made by both Sharp and LG Display, were to shipped to manufacturers in Q4 2011. The figure, according to the same story, is set to rise to 7-8 million in Q1 2012 supposedly in time for the launch of the iPad 3 and that all seems to fit in with the current expected timescale.

Likewise, the story in Digitimes on 29 December 2011 brought up, once again, the same screen resolution and even the use of dual-LED bars to keep it lit.

Perhaps the interesting part of the iPad 3 screen rumours is that there's been nothing suggested otherwise - no same display as the previous models and no different resolution. Could Apple really stick with the same screen yet again or is an iPad 3 Retina display what the public is going to get?

More recently there has been much more traction for the iPad HD. Fitting the suggested upgrades to the display, the iPad HD name fits, with several sources suggesting the iPad HD will be the next-generation tablet from Apple. 

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iPad 3 camera

There have been very few rumours about the iPad 3 cameras at all. In fact, there's really only been one, and that was back at the end of December 2011 when sources from Digitimes said that the iPad 3 would come with either a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor as made by Samsung or an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor from Sony.

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So, do we put much stock in those? Well, not a whole lot. An 8-megapixel sensor seems pretty ludicrous for a device that hasn't set the world alight on the photography front and even a 5-megapixel model is quite a jump from the current 1-megapixel rear facer. It seems like an obvious thing to do to update this part of the device but it wouldn't surprise us if it was more modest improvement. As for the front-facing camera, the 0.3-megapixel unit does the job but there's been no word, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Images claiming to be of the iPad 3's back panel turned up in early February, from three different sources, that seemed to show a larger opening for, perhaps, a bigger camera. Do better cameras need bigger holes though?

iPad 3 LTE

There have been suggestions that the iPad 3 would be LTE compatible from all the way back in the middle of 2011. As part of the final act of LulzSec, the big idea was that both the iPhone and iPad were both given LTE testing phases.

Now, that on its own doesn't necessarily mean we'll see any 4G technology in the final version of the iPad 3. However, in November 2011 there were two reports talking about two separate versions of the iPad 3, possibly under the codenames of J1 and J2 according to Digitimes and partly corroborated by 9to5mac.

The more likely part of this is that they're codenames for a Wi-Fi version and a 3G version. Sure, it's possible that Apple will make the iPad 3 LTE but before the iPhone and for a device that's primarily something for the sofa (how Steve Jobs demoed it at the original launch)? We're not so sure. Maybe LTE is something for the iPad 4.

Latest rumours suggest that the iPad 3 or iPad HD will come with LTE for both AT&T and Verizon in the US with a third model designed specifically for non LTE countries like the UK. 

iPad 3 quad-core

Each year has brought an improvement for the Apple SoC as manufactured by Samsung. The first iPad had the Apple A4, the iPad 2 had the Apple A5, so does that mean that there'll be an Apple A6 for the iPad 3?

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Well, there was a story back in July 2011 that it wasn't to be Samsung who would be making the things at all after the well documented patent disputes between the two companies. However, it all seemed to be back on track by October 2011 with the Korea Times reporting that Samsung Electronics's version of a quad-core A6 was going ahead as planned.

In February some screenshots from a debug tool called iBoot emerged that mentioned the model number S5L8945X. The Apple A4 chip is called the S5L8930X and the A5 is the S5L8940X. So if you add S5L8930X and S5L8940X together, divide by the S5L8945X and carry the 3 you get quad-core. Apparently. That's the suggestion anyway.

Further rumours however suggest that the iPad 3 will not be getting the A6 chip, but an A5X chip that will be like a supercharged A5. 

iPad 3 battery

The current generation iPad 2 has some pretty serious battery life in it for a portable device so whatever Apple releases next has big boots to fill. Rumours are that either Symplo Technology or Dynapack International Technology will be turning out the new power units.

Despite both sounding like they could transform into Skynet at any moment, they actually translate to whopping 14,000mAh batteries for the new iPad. This could mean an even more improved battery life, although we aren't sure what sort of impact a new screen or processor might have on the tablet's power consumption. 

Those leaked back panel shots seemed to indicate a smaller logic board mount which could mean a bigger battery and, therefore, a longer standby and operating time.

NFC on iPad 3

Yes, it more than just an interesting rhyme. Apple was very clear that NFC technology was something that interested the company in 2011 when it quite clearly stated that there would be no NFC in the iPhone 4S, or iPhone 5 as we were expecting at the time.

Again, though, the iPad 3 doesn't seem like the first product that Apple would stuff NFC into. Not only are contactless operations less relevant on something that isn't pocketable anyway, but it's most likely come too early for Apple, who aren't known as early adopters, with the NFC infrastructure still in its fledgling stage.

iPad 3 pictures

Some purported iPad 3 parts that have shown up on M.I.C Gadget. The pictures seem to be of the iPad 3 front glass, rear shell and cases and, if they prove to be the real deal, seem to confirm the rumours that the third iPad installant will come in at a little thicker than the second.

They also appear to confirm that the Apple event invitations were indeed of an iPad third-generation in landscape mode as there is still a home button in place.

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iPad 3 price

Until Apple tells us all, there is absolutely no way of knowing exactly what the iPad 3 is going to cost. What we can do is examine the suspected parts inside and then ponder how much they might add to the overall device price.

So far it's the batteries that are looking worrying, the new technology meaning a possible 30 or 40 per cent cost increase for Apple, which will no doubt be translated into cost for the consumer.

However, 9to5Mac have stated that the price points will be the same as the current iPad 2 ones. So that's $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only version, $599 for 32GB or $699 for 64GB. For 3G action it will be $629, $729 and $829.

If the prices stay the same here in Blighty, we're looking at £399, £479 or £559 for the Wi-Fi only flavour; £499, £579 or £659 for some 3G action too.

iPad 3 review

Expect plenty more coverage as we get closer to the release date and full and thorough iPad 3 review, or iPad HD review, once we've had a chance to get Apple's latest tablet for 2012 into the Pocket-lint labs.

What are your hopes and dreams for the iPad 3? Let us know in the comments

Writing by Dan Sung.