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iPad 3: Where We Predict the Future

At 10 AM tomorrow, Apple will begin the presentation of one of the most (if not the most) anticipated products in the company's recent history: the iPad 3. Rumored to feature a Retina Display, improved graphics, and a better camera, the next iPad will have to build on the amazing success of the iPad 2 (where by "amazing" we mean "just look at those numbers") whilst giving owners of the original iPad a reason to upgrade after two years. And with the possible implications behind the rumored new features, it looks like those who stood in line back in April 2010 will have more than one good reason to consider the Next Big Thing.

As a team, we typically refrain from reporting every single rumor that shows up ahead of an Apple product release, leaving our crystal ball and teardrop-shaped hats under the editorial desk. Having considered the variables behind a Retina iPad 3 in the past, however, we couldn't resist this time -- much like we did back at WWDC '11, we had to get together (in a cozy Campfire) and share our March 7th Apple Event predictions. Our own Gabe Glick already explained why he thinks a big announcement will be about software -- specifically, he neatly illustrated why Aperture may be coming to iOS and the iPad 3. Below, you can follow the rest of the MacStories team as we reflect on what we think has to happen, what could happen, and what we generally would like to see in a Retina-enabled tablet future. Lots of coffee may or may not have been involved in the editing process of said predictions -- pardon the excitement, but we think the next iPad is going to be a fantastic upgrade.

After the break, you'll find our predictions. We will check back on these later this week, and make sure to tune in on MacStories' homepage tomorrow for our complete coverage.

Graham's iPad 3 Predictions

Hardware

New Retina display. This has been rumoured so heavily this year that I think it is just inevitable. I don't normally say this about rumours, but it really would be disappointing if Apple doesn't deliver this, because competitors are beginning to ship high-res tablet displays already as well. Very Likely.

Nearly identical case design, probably marginally thicker. Nothing suggests a new design would be used for the iPad 3, and in all honesty, is there any reason to do so? The case may be a little thicker to fit a big enough battery to power the new functions, as Apple likely had to make this compromise to ensure battery life stayed consistent with previous generations. Very Likely.

Notable processor and graphics bump. As is expected with the A6, performances will be improved but they will probably be not as significant as the iPad 2 -- a lot of that extra power will be used to power the Retina display. Very Likely.

Camera Bump. Although it has less use because of the iPad's form factor, the camera will receive an upgrade in the iPad 3, and I think it is because of the Retina display -- the current camera would look just shocking on it. Don't expect a 4S-quality upgrade though: something similar to the iPhone 4's is what I expect. Very Likely.

Battery life stays similar. A big selling point of the iPad is the battery life, and Apple will do as much as possible to keep it excellent and around the 10-hour mark, although a slight decrease may occur. Very Likely.

Better speakers. It's pretty good already, but I think Apple might give the sound quality of the iPad a bit of a bump this generation. Likely.

LTE. Put it this way, I wouldn't be surprised either way if it happens or not. Rumours from some credible organisations suggest it may happen (The Wall Street Journal for example), but I'm still not 100% convinced. Mainly because I'm sceptical the benefit exists yet -- LTE is available in a severely limited area. I'm not so sure Apple would include the feature when (particularly outside the US), so few people would benefit from it. Maybe.

Tactile Haptic Feedback. I've been wondering with many people using the iPad as a replacement for their laptop whether Apple is trying their best to improve the typing experience on the device. One way I'm thinking is with haptic feedback -- a subtle vibration when a user taps a key on the virtual keyboard. I believe some Android devices do this to some degree, although I haven't personally tried it, so I'm not sure how well it works in reality. Wildcard.

Software

Launch with iOS 5.1. It's been stagnant in beta for a while and I expect Apple to release iOS 5.1 shortly after the keynote and be installed on the iPad 3 from launch. Very Likely.

Siri 1.5. Probably won't be called that, but it'll be the first big update to Siri's functionalities -- although I expect it will remain in beta for a little bit longer (maybe until iOS 6). Expect to see a few more languages supported (as Apple promised), and as rumoured definitely expect to see Japanese. I also think the functions will be expanded a bit: things like location support will be enabled in countries such as Australia (Yelp launched in Australia in late 2011). Likely.

Aperture and/or iPhoto. For the original iPad, Apple released Pages, Keynote and Numbers. For the iPad 2, Apple released GarageBand and iMovie. For the iPad 3 I expect Aperture or iPhoto (potentially both) and as a wildcard, Final Cut Pro X. Likely.

Microsoft Office. Initially I thought this was a crazy dream, but I now think this is something that is pretty likely to happen, I'm just not sure if it'll be demoed at the keynote. Likely.

Game Demo. Apple really loves demoing games in keynotes to demonstrate the increase in graphics performance. With a Retina display, I'm pretty certain Apple will want to demo a game running in the full 2048 x 1536 resolution of the iPad 3. I don't know what it will be, but I have a feeling Apple might have tried to woo a big name developer to send a big signal that they are serious about competing in the games industry. Expect this to be also demoed with AirPlay. Likely.

Apple TV & iTunes

1080p Content. With a Retina display, Apple really needs to begin to offer 1080p content and I think they realise this completely. Very Likely.

New Apple TV hardware. It'll be the same hockey-puck box, but with upgraded innards to support the 1080p content. This will not be the mythical Apple TV that has been much rumoured to be coming sometime in the next year or two. Very Likely.

AirPlay goes 1080p. With an upgraded Apple TV and Retina display, it makes sense that AirPlay Mirroring and features like Keynote streaming to AirPlay will support 1080p. Very Likely.

New pricing models on iTunes. Maybe as an intermediate step to a future "Apple TV", Apple may include new payment structures on the iTunes Store. I'm thinking something like a subscriber pass (it'll give you all 2012 episodes from, say, Showtime for a reduced rate, like Season Pass works). See my thoughts on the Apple TV to get a fuller picture of this. Wildcard.

Other

iBooks Author support for Magazines & Newspapers. At the moment, most iPad magazines are terribly large in file size because each page is rendered as a JPEG (in both landscape and portrait orientations). These files often weigh in at 500 MB, and with a double resolution, Retina screen, these would blow out to 1 GB or more. It would make sense for Apple to expand the abilities of iBooks Author to create apps for Newsstand. This would allow super easy creation of magazines but remove the issue of prohibitively large documents for users to download. Wildcard.


Federico's iPad 3 Predictions

Hardware

Retina display. It's pretty much a given at this point that the next iPad will feature a higher-resolution display on the heels of the iPhone's Retina display. By doubling the display's resolution to 2048x1536 pixels, Apple will allow developers to easily scale up their custom graphics by a 2x factor, in what should become a fantastic way to read crisp text on screen and view fluid, vibrant images. Very Likely.

Same design with slightly different taper. If leaked parts are of any indication, the next iPad will feature the same design principles of the iPad 2, only with a slightly different taper on the edges, quite possibly to make up for a possible minimum increase in thickness (less than a millimeter). Very Likely.

Same battery life. No matter the new features the device will have, don't expect Apple to announce something that performs worse than its predecessor. Apple's "legendary" 10 hours of battery life should be here to stay. Very Likely.

LTE. I've previously taken a look at the pros and cons for an LTE rollout on Apple devices starting with the iPad 3. I still think it's too early to prominently feature LTE as a standout feature of the next iPad when the infrastructure simply isn't there, but a few folks are suggesting it might be a US-only launch, so that might be it. Maybe.

Better cameras. Certainly the iPad's current front-facing camera would look terrible on a Retina display? I expect Apple to upgrade the front-facing camera and rebrand it as "FaceTime Camera", and perhaps -- as leaked parts again suggest -- they will also improve the rear camera, bringing it to, say, 5 megapixels. Likely.

New processor and more RAM. We can only speculate on the hardware requirements of a Retina display, and assume a beefier processor and more RAM would be needed to operate it smoothly. I wouldn't be surprised to see a completely new, quad-core A6 processor and 1 GB of RAM, although other theories are pointing to a tweaked A5 called "A5X" with 512 MB of RAM. Likely.

Bluetooth 4.0. Apple has been updating a lot of its devices to include Bluetooth 4.0. Why not iPad 3? And how about showcasing some new (maybe third-party) accessories that take advantage of its low-power technology? Very Likely.

More storage. I assume a Retina iPad with more pixels would also lead to larger apps and new content that use more pixels, thus space. A 128 GB iPad would be a welcome option, especially as more folks go completely PC-Free, but it sure would be an expensive one. Maybe.

Updated Smart Cover. Last-minute rumors are pointing to a new "Smart Case" that should be an extended Smart Cover that also protects the back of the device. Didn't Steve Jobs say the first-gen iPad case wasn't that great because it covered too much of these beautiful tablets? I don't know if Apple really wants to go back to a full-case, bulkier option. Maybe.

NFC. What would really be neat, Retina display aside, would be Apple setting the stage for an NFC-enabled future of mobile payments, starting with the iPad 3. I can only imagine the deals Apple could make with retailers, or maybe even Square to integrate NFC directly in iOS and their new Register app. Rumors about NFC have been stale lately, but Apple could still surprise us. Wildcard.

Software

iOS 5.1 announcement. iOS 5.1 has been in "beta" for a very long time now, and new Apple devices always launch with new software. It only makes sense to announce the iPad 3 and demo an updated version of iOS with it. I'm calling an iOS 5.1 GM on the 7th, with worldwide release a few days ahead of the iPad 3's U.S. launch. Also, a new version of iTunes before the iOS 5.1 release. Very Likely.

Aperture. New devices, however, have also been typically announced alongside new apps. As our Gabe Glick previously explained, an iOS version of Aperture would make for a great complement to the iPad 3's Retina display. Neven Mrgan thinks it'll be a new version of iPhoto, but the main theme is the same -- photography and image manipulation could be an important point of the iPad 3 announcement. Maybe.

New AirPlay for 1080p. If the iPad 3 gains a 2048x1536 display, I think Apple will have to bring native support for 1080p playback (720p would look small on the device). If so, I believe the new iPad will have full AirPlay support for the format to go alongside an improved AirPlay Mirroring and new Apple TV model. Likely.

Siri. Siri has been a success so far on the iPhone 4S. Would Apple bring its voice-enabled assistant, which many see as more of a "mobile" companion, to a device like the iPad? We don't know yet. Personally, I see Siri as working better on the iPhone, a device that's always connected and in our pockets, but I have to admit I'd like Siri dictation to find a spot on the iPad 3's keyboard. Wildcard.

Apple TV & iTunes

New model, same pricing. Rumors have it the current-gen Apple TV is constrained at several retailers. A new model with the same design and features wouldn't be the Apple television everyone's waiting for, but it would play nice with the iPad 3 and new 1080p content from iTunes. Likely.

1080p content in iTunes. Assuming my 1080p theory is correct, then Apple would need to start selling this 1080p content, and iTunes is the obvious choice for that. Likely.

More iTunes Match international rollouts. Apple has been busy rolling out iTunes Match in several countries, but my beloved Italy is still missing from the list. Hopefully Apple has figured out its issues with SIAE, and we'll see more iTunes Match launches in the week of iOS 5.1 and iPad 3. Maybe.

iTunes Match for movies and TV Shows. My crazy prediction that's slightly connected to iTunes Match is an extension of the service to include movies and TV Shows. We already have those saved on our hard drives from a variety of sources. I think it'd be great to be able to pay an annual fee to legally upgrade them to HD quality, downloadable from iTunes. Wildcard.

Other

A beautiful new video about the past year and iPad 2's success. Apple likes to make videos with an emotional connection to their audience. iPad: Year One was a fantastic video. I wouldn't be surprised to see iPad: Year Two, with a tribute to Steve Jobs as well. Likely.

iPad 2 is kept around. The iPad 2, even without a Retina display, would still remain a fantastic device. Whereas Apple kept the original iPad around until stock ran out, the alleged design similarities between iPad 2 and iPad 3 (and well-oiled supply chain machine) would let Apple keep building iPad 2s, at a lower price, to sell as a cheaper entry option to new iPad users. Yes, much like Apple already does with the iPhone 4. Maybe.

Newsstand Author. I (and others) have been asking for this since day one. Apple should bring the user experience and ease of use of iBooks Author to Newsstand, enabling writers and designers to create rich publications from a user-friendly desktop app. I think this would make sense considering the iPad's focus on magazines and newspapers through iTunes subscriptions (it would also enable publishers to forego Adobe Tools once and for all -- the same tools that have produced pages as images until today, which will look terrible on the iPad 3's Retina display). Maybe.

iCloud gains new functionalities. As I mentioned above, I think it would be great to see some new iCloud functionalities with the iPad 3. Or maybe just a general revamp of the web apps, and that new "cloud save" feature that's already been previewed in Mountain Lion. Maybe.

Microsoft Office. Here's my big iPad 3 event wildcard -- an announcement by Microsoft on stage to demonstrate Office for iPad. I don't think getting Microsoft on stage would be equal to admitting defeat on Apple's side -- rather, I see it more as a "We're so big we treat Microsoft as any other third-party developer" move. Wildcard.


Cody’s iPad 3 Predictions

Hardware

There are no doubts about it — the next generation iPad is going to have a Retina display. There will be growing pains in that not all apps will be updated with 2x resources to accommodate the doubled pixels; we’ll be looking at blotchy apps for a while. Expect old, slow to update apps to be abandoned, never update, or to receive an update a few months after launch. Very Likely.

The iPad won’t get thinner. Given what we know about the purported display that is going to be in the next iPad, Apple is going to be need all the space they can get. The iPad 2 is as thin as some of the pens in my bag — improvements in battery technology will let Apple make subtle tweaks to the current design, bettering an already great form factor. Very Likely.

A camera that can take good still photos. The most disappointing feature of the iPad 2 is the camera. Between an upscaled Camera app, poor still photo quality, and only decent high-def video recording, the camera is just barely passable. These flaws are going to be much more evident with a Retina display on the device. We’ll definitely see a better camera for capturing video, and I think Apple will also remedy the inability to take a good photograph. The Motorola Xoom took better pictures. Likely.

General hardware upgrades will be abundant. There will be a new processor. The two rumors circulating around include quad-core and dual-core A6 processors. I imagine the next iPad would get a quad-core processor. Likely.

There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a gigabyte of memory. Especially to take advantage of gaming and photo editing with the new display. Likely.

Bluetooth 4.0 will round out wireless connectivity for the next generation of connected devices. It’s in the iPhone 4S. Very Likely.

I can’t say yes or no to LTE. Remember the iPhone without 3G? LTE exists, and competitors are wielding it like a mighty sword, but the infrastructure is still being built out on the carriers. It would most benefit Verizon in the United States. No matter what happens, I still see there being several models for each of the carriers. Maybe.

Apple shouldn’t change something as genius as the Smart Cover, but they could improve upon it. Apple has a chance to iron out minor issues like the clean and dirty band pattern left on the display after use. Maybe.

I’m going to say no to NFC. Carriers are still in limbo when it comes to NFC (see Verizon and Google Wallet), and I haven’t seen it being used in the wild. Wildcard.

Software

Apple will announce iOS 5.1. Apple knows the community is too nosey for its own good, thus they’ve been holding iOS 5.1 close to the chest to prevent fumbling any info about the next iPad. Good move. Very Likely.

Siri is coming to the iPad. Siri will still be in beta, and Apple will use the next iPad to continue improving the service. Likely.

We could see a Photos update or Aperture for the iPad. If Apple was going to demo their own software for the Retina display, nothing is able to showcase those dense pixels like a photograph. Combined with the new processor, Apple’s going to want to show off something intensive. Rendering a few photos on stage with a photography app could very well do the trick. Maybe.

Apple TV & iTunes

“One More Thing?” While some might say it’s Steve Job’s famous quote, I don’t think Apple would have a problem ending what will be a spectacular keynote with the familiar phrase. Apple is going to go into this keynote with bravado, and that fervor will continue right down to the very end. Current Apple TVs are running thin — all signs point to yes for a new Apple TV. So when during the Keynote will it be announced? I say at the end. Likely.

Apple might amaze us with a new remote. About that unexpected element… you can’t just launch an Apple TV right? If any part of it were to change, it would likely be the remote. Navigating the Apple TV isn’t bad, but the remote leaves a lot to be desired for entering information and navigating the interface. The remote could be anything from a new physical device, to something software related like Siri. If there’s an aspect of the Apple TV that will wow us, this would be the part to change. Wildcard.

The updated Apple TV will play 1080p video. Whether you’re streaming 1080p video from the iPad or you’re renting content on the device itself, the Apple TV will be able to comfortably display 1080p content. Very Likely.

Other

Angry Birds Space will get serious demo time. Nothing will secure the next iPad’s place in history more than slingshotting birds around the moon into some cosmo-pigs. It’s a game. It’ll look great on the Retina display. It launches March 22nd. I’m calling it. Very Likely.

Apple would have no problem letting Microsoft demo Office on the iPad. The ability to run Microsoft Office on the Mac is a gigantic bullet point on Apple’s website (you can’t miss it) when looking at reasons to buy a Mac. Looking at OneNote for the iPad, however, I don’t expect Office for the iPad to be extensively feature rich when it’s unveiled. Maybe.

Newsstand Author needs to become a thing. You know why there’s such a crummy selection of magazines for the iPad? It’s because Apple hasn’t shown content creators the path. Apple tried to set the example with The Daily, but unless they provide the tools, we’re just going to end up with interesting tech demos and half baked reading experiences as a result. Wildcard.


Don's iPad 3 Predictions

Hardware

Retina display. Sure it has many positive uses, but I see the Retina display as the next logical step in Apple’s quest to position the iPad as the ultimate educational device. Now that Apple has rolled out iBooks Textbooks for iPad, I believe they will likely take it one step further with the Retina display so that textbooks will look even more captivating. Very Likely.

LTE. I predict that we will not see LTE in this year’s iPad release. Despite the growing coverage areas in the United States, I don’t think that LTE has a global footprint large enough to entice Apple into adopting this technology. I don’t think that we will see LTE for the same reasons we haven’t seen USB 3.0 or Blu-ray drives in Mac computers – in Apple’s eyes, the technology hasn’t taken off yet. Maybe.

Software

iOS 5.1. There is no doubt that the long term beta has not seen a final version because Apple is saving it for the iPad 3 release. I believe we have not heard every feature that will be in 5.1 and we will likely have a nice surprise during this week’s keynote. I believe that the GM will be out on the day of the announcement and developers will be able to begin submitting apps for the OS that same day. Very Likely.

Apple TV

New Apple TV hardware. I predict the Apple TV will remain with its current form factor but will receive significant performance upgrades. At first I considered the idea of Apple using the current generation A5 processor to beef up the home theater companion, but I really feel that Apple is planning for the future and not designing hardware for what components are currently available. I foresee the rumored A6 (possibly quad-core) processor that will be in the iPad 3 also in the next generation of the Apple TV. The extra horsepower is going to be critical for Apple to successful deploy AirPlay mirroring in iOS gaming or 1080p playback with no lag or performance issues that users might experience with the A4 or A5 processor. Likely.


Chris' iPad 3 Predictions

Hardware

New Retina display. The Retina display is coming to the iPad, finally. The Apple invite clearly gives this one away. The resolution will be 2048x1536 pixels -- "2x", so that developers/designers can easily scale up their graphics. Very Likely.

Same case design with slightly different bezel. The iPad's form factor will not change, but I believe the bezel will be slightly thinner, maybe less noticeable, than the iPad 2. The iPad 3 will be slightly thicker due to a larger battery (same battery life) that will give the device more power for the display, CPU, etc. Very Likely.

LTE. Normally the iPhone is the first device to get the data upgrades, but I believe that the time is now for Apple to jump on the LTE bandwagon. I believe this because it will increase the demand for cellular data iPads. WiFi models are very popular (and cheaper), but the ability to have a next-generation data network will increase sales of an LTE-equipped iPad. Maybe.

Improved cameras. The iPad is not a photographer's tool like the iPhone, but the cameras will get an upgrade. The rear camera could get the iPhone 4's 5 megapixels lens while the front-facing camera would need some type of upgrade, especially with a Retina display. Likely.

More RAM please! A Retina display iPad 3 would need more RAM, possibly 1 GB, and a processor bump -- an Apple quad-core A6 processor. Likely.

More storage as well. If Apple is going to bump RAM and processor, it would also be nice to increase the on-board storage, maybe a 128 GB option? Maybe.

Software

Launch with iOS 5.1. It feels like 5.1 has been in beta forever and now it will be ready for the public right after the keynote and installed on every iPad 3. Very Likely.

Siri. Siri is still "beta" and could possibly be out of beta with the next version, which will be on the iPad 3. I'd like Siri to be much improved under iOS 5.1 as many people are often frustrated with the service not being available or simply not working. Siri dictation works well when it's working, and this could be very helpful on the iPad. Maybe.

Aperture for iOS. We've wrote about it before and with all the third party apps available for image editing, I think it's time Apple moves Aperture over to iOS, possibly only for the iPad. With rival Adobe releasing Photoshop for iPad, the heat is on Apple to get its own software under our fingertips. Wildcard.

Apple TV & iTunes

New model, same form factor, same pricing. Many people are saying that retailers and running out and this usually leads to new products coming. The timing makes sense too: it could play nicely with the new iPad 3 and current iPhone 4S. Likely.

iTunes gets 1080p content. Apple could start selling 1080p content as soon as this week. Many people are asking for it, although more bandwidth would be needed to download the large files. Likely.

Other

The iPad 2 will stay. The iPad 2 will become the iPhone 4 of the iPads -- a nice starting point for new iPad users. Likely.

Instagram for iPad. Okay, I had to include this one. I was thinking about it last week, and this week would be perfect timing to show it to the Apple world. Instagram released a tweaked and much improved UI a month ago and as awesome as Tim Van Damme is, I have a feeling there's a completely new iPad version of the app waiting. What better place to demo it than the iPad 3 event? Instagram is a very popular social photo sharing service with over 25 million users -- this could be huge. Wildcard.

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