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What DON’T we know about the next iPad (besides its name)?

The next iPad will have the name “iPad 3,” according to the consensus of rumors, and it features a faster processor/GPU while remaining the same size as the current iPad 2. Its unveiling is in a month (March 7th is the first Wednesday) and will be available (in Wi-Fi certainly) almost immediately after.

The big differentiator this year is the “Retina Display” with a staggering 2048-by-1536 pixel screen, likely made by Sharp/Samsung/LG. An Apple employee told The New York Times that the display was “truly amazing” and it must be with a pixel count that lies between the 21- and 27-inch iMacs squeezed into a 9.7-inch display. Consider: You can watch a Blu-ray movie at native resolution with over 100 pixels on the side and nearly 500 pixels below to “play with.”

Oh, by the way: How many megapixels is 2048-by-1536? Just over 3.

That screen sounds like it might take more juice to power, but Apple will add some extra battery capacity, which might make the iPad 3 slightly thicker. The battery life will likely continue with 10 hours as the baseline (why make the case slightly bigger or smaller otherwise?).

One of the unanswered questions is whether the Samsung S5L8945X inside will be a dual or quad core processor. While this is mostly a “speeds and feeds” type of question and will not relate too much to real-world performance, it would seem that the overwhelming evidence points to quad-core. Apple’s iPad 2 was one of the first dual core tablets and with NVIDIA getting set to announce a group of quad core phones, Apple’s once a year upgrade would suggest a quad. As the S5L8945X name implies above, there will be some extra horsepower on the GPU side as well.

LTE capability is also a big question. The radios for LTE will add some weight and cost, while also acting as a harder hit on the battery. However, with Apple’s once a year release cycle and the overwhelming amount of evidence that has tied Apple to LTE, it would seem that Apple will have a LTE iPad—but perhaps one not available at the launch. Next generation lower power LTE chips are just coming off the assembly lines at Qualcomm.

More, including Bluetooth, Camera, NFC, Gig Wifi, and Thunderbolt is available below:

Bluetooth 4.0: The iPad will almost certainly come with the next-generation Broadcom chips that shipped with the iPhone 4S to allow low-power and speedy Bluetooth coupling.

Siri: One of the bigger questions is whether Siri makes sense on the iPad. People do not generally hold the iPad up to their faces in everyday use, and the microphone would need improvements and somehow re-jiggered to give iPad users an acceptable Siri experience. We think Siri gives the iPad 3 some added wow quality so, that leads to…

Microphone: Microphone housing on iPad 3 parts are different that iPad 2, according to some ‘leaked parts.’ It is unknown how they are implemented but improvements here would almost give Apple a legitimate reason not to include Siri on the iPad 2.

Gig Wi-Fi: This is a long shot, but there are some new Gig Wi-Fi Chips coming from Broadcom that could push the iPad’s wireless capabilities into the stratosphere. Before dismissing the idea, remember that at some point people will need to reliably stream 1080P movies around, which is not always possible on typical congested 802.11N networks.

Thunderbolt: No.

Camera: Rumors indicate that the iPod touch-like cameras on the iPad 2, which are –let’s face it—terrible, will see an upgrade. Something to consider: If you have a 1080P+ display, should you also have 1080P+ cameras to shoot with? The iPad 3’s screen is 3-megapixels. I cannot see how both cameras will miss an upgrade with the back camera hopefully hitting somewhere in the 3-5-megapixel vicinity including some optics borrowed from the iPhone 4S. As a gage, the iPad 2 back camera is roughly the same pixel count as the screen.

Speaker: The outside of the iPad 3 cases look identical to the iPad 2, so true stereo-spaced speakers are probably not going to happen. Look for Apple to make modest improvements here, if at all.

NFC: It sounds like this is a go on the iPhone 5. Also, the iPad 3 and iPhone 5 likely share much of the same chips— so, why not? Oh, because there is not any use for it yet on a tablet sized device.

New Gorilla Glass: It is 20 percent stronger/lighter than before. Apple started the Gorilla Glass rebirth with the iPhone—so, why not? Also, throw in all the laminates and sapphire treatments, as well. You do not want fingerprints, nicks, or scratches on a Retina Display. There are also rumors of waterproofing.

128GB option: We are split on this topic. Apple is already stuffing a lot into this device and keeping the price points low would be hard with a storage bump. Big storage makes less sense with more content moving to the Cloud (Netflix/Hulu/etc). On the other hand, Retina graphics are huge and require much space. For example: 1080P movies are multiple gigabytes each.

According to the SDK, there will be three versions of iPad 3. Our best guess is that one will be Wi-Fi available around launch, another will be a 3G version available soon after launch, and we are guessing the 4G LTE version is going to take some time.

We also believe Apple will keep the iPad 2 SKUs around after launch with a reduced price tag, perhaps giving as much as $100 off the iPad 2 (refurbs now come in at $419).

We would love to know your thoughts on whether we missed anything.

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