Apple is launching their much-anticipated next-generation iPad today at a media event in San Francisco. Scheduled to start at 1 pm Eastern time, the event will put an end to months of speculation about what to expect from Apple's latest gadget. With all the coverage buzzing around the internet about the tablet, it can be hard to keep it all straight. Here's a rundown of what we can probably expect from the next iPad:
While most of the coverage - including our own - has called the new tablet the iPad 3, evidence has surfaced in the past week or so to suggest that it will actually be called the iPad HD instead. The first evidence came at the beginning of last week when references to the iPad HD were found in inventory lists for Griffin, a company that sells accessories for iOS devices, and in the usage data for an app called Tapatalk. Yesterday those rumors were apparently confirmed by sources within Apple itself. So if you were really attached to the iPad 3 name, you're probably going to be in for a disappointment.
Everybody has known that the iPad would be getting a retina display since July of 2010, when Apple unveiled the remarkable new display technology in the iPhone 4. Of course, at the time everybody thought it would be coming to the iPad 2. Though the iPad 2 did get a boost in resolution, it did not get a retina display. Ever since then, a retina display in the iPad 3 was considered a given. Confirmation came a few weeks ago when MacRumors apparently got their hands on an actual retina display for the new iPad.
Though they couldn't actually power the display (the connector that plugs into the logic board is different than on the iPad 2), they did put the thing under a microscope. There they found that it had a pixel density double that of the iPad 2. Whereas the iPad 2's pixel dimensions are 1024x768, the iPad HD's display is 2048x1536. After MacRumors was done with the display they sent it on to the folks at iFixit, who did their own examination and confirmed what MacRumors had found.
For reference, the 27-inch iMac this article is being prepared on has dimensions of 2560x1440. The iPad HD crams almost as many pixels into a 9.7-inch display. This retina display, by the way, is likely the reason that the new iPad will be called the iPad HD instead of the iPad 3. Apple has a history of naming their devices for major features instead of just numbering them, and retina display is something iPad owners have been waiting for for quite some time.
Earlier in the rumor cycle it looked like the iPad HD might be getting a quad-core A6 processor. In early January developers found references to a quad-core processor in the beta versions of iOS 5.1. About a month later, more evidence of a quad-core processor was found in reports from diagnostic software called iBoot that had purportedly been run on a new iPad.
The quad-core processor was apparently not to be, however. As the end of February approached, images of an apparent iPad logic board leaked. These images showed not the expected A6 processor, but a processor labeled A5X. This processor was believed to be an enhanced version of the dual-core A5 processor found in the iPad 2 and IPhone 4S. Later information would show that Apple had been developing the A5X and the A6 at the same time. While there was all sorts of speculation as to why Apple would develop the two chips at once and then put the A6 in the iPad HD, the answer looks to be a simple one: Apple's suppliers couldn't produce the A6 in time.
Apple has had beta versions of iOS 5.1 in the hands of developers for awhile now. A report yesterday said that the Gold Master version (i.e., the one Apple considers ready for release) had passed Apple's final quality checks. The original iPad released with iOS 3.1 (which never actually came to the iPhone at all). The iPad 2 released with iOS 4.1, which was available for download on all iOS devices shortly after the launch event.
Actual news about iOS 5.1 is a little thin on the ground at this point. Siri confirmed some time ago that Siri would be getting Japanese support (though whether the iPad will be getting Siri is very much in doubt). Facebook integration is a possibility, though that's very much up in the air at this point.
This one is the most unclear of the bunch. There have been conflicting reports flying for months concerning whether the iPad HD would be getting 4G LTE capability. The same report in February that seemingly confirmed the quad-core processor also predicted a 4G iPad. Early last week, though, there was another report that suggested that Apple would be sticking with 3G for the new iPad. Yesterday, though, another report said that yes, the iPad HD would be 4G LTE ready. This one could go either way. Apple has been a bit slow to adopt 4G technology - it was expected in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S - so they may delay putting it in the iPad. Also, a 4G iPad would be a dead giveaway for a 4G iPhone coming later this year. We'll have to wait and see on this one.
So, to recap: Apple's new iPad will almost certainly be the iPad HD instead of the iPad 3, will definitely be getting a retina display and iOS 5.1, will probably run on a dual-core A5X processor, and may or may not have 4G LTE capability. For more speculation on what may or may not be coming later this afternoon, and for our full range of iPad coverage, check out our iPad page.
What would you like to see in the iPad HD? Let us know in the comments.