Rumors have already begun to swirl around the next generation of Apple’s iPad. Earlier this month came rumors that Apple would have the device ready to roll out in February, while other reports suggested a launch date closer to the more traditional March/April timeframe. Meanwhile, there was also an unlikely story that Apple was preparing an iPad Mini for a late 2012 release.
Relatively few rumors so far have dealt with design features of the iPad. Reports out of China today, however, are fueling speculation about what the iPad 3 will look like. 9to5Mac is reporting that iPad 3 home buttons have been leaked from the Chinese factory where they are being produced. Although they are largely similar to the home button on the iPad 2, the difference is what is driving speculation: the structures on the underside of the button are smaller, suggesting that Apple may be trying to minimize increasing the thickness of the device which could be necessary if it incorporates the new retina display.
The existence of the buttons also suggests that the iPad 3 is at or near large-scale production, and that the iPad will not be losing the home button. The lack of a home button on the next generation iDevice is, like the iPad Mini, one of those rumors that never dies no matter how many times it fails to pan out.
Some iPad 3 features are very likely - Siri, a retina display, and an improved camera. Others, are possible but less likely, such as NFC integration (though don’t be surprised if you see it in next year’s iPhone). We expect to have more information about the iPad 3 revealed over the next few months.