“Warp speed please Mr. Sulu!”

Please excuse the geeky Star Trek reference, but it seems the rumor mill for the upcoming iPad 3 has reached blinding speeds. All eyes are on Cupertino as we approach the possible March/April launch of the computer megalith Apple’s (AAPL) latest version of its game changing tablet device.

Since the day after the release of the acclaimed iPad 2 in March 2011, everybody and their mother has posted speculation on what the iPad 3 will launch with. There have been talks of 3D screens, thinner forms, double the on board storage, voice recognition, etc.

While some Apple enthusiasts have hit pretty close to the mark in the past, what can we really expect in this new social driven, media sharing year to come?

Let’s look at some of the most talked about features.

Release Date

With iPad releasing on April 3, 2010 and iPad 2 on March 11, 2011, it’s a pretty safe bet that we can see the newest iPad somewhere in between that same time frame. I have heard predictions of a February 24th (the late Steve Jobs’ birthday) release, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. Although that would be very dramatic, and we know how Apple loves the creative dramatics, it doesn’t seem likely. I could possibly see a small conference at the California headquarters announcing a release date and discussing the new features, but I don’t see one in our hands on that date.

Say Cheese…

We knew it was inevitable that the iPad 2 would have a camera. What we didn’t know was if the tablet would mirror the iPhone 4 in photo taking quality. The iPad 2′s camera was to most, a little disappointing. With the iPhone 4 weighing in carrying a 5 Mp (2592 x 1944 pixels) rear facing camera and LED flash, the iPad 2′s 0.7 Mp (960 x 720 pixels) camera and no flash was left cowering in the corner chanting “I coulda been somebody”.

The burning question is will Apple integrate the camera set that is in the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S? My best guess is they will use the iPhone 4 specs. This includes the front facing HD camera for FaceTime which may get slight upgrades. Apple has traditionally kept the tablet one step behind the iPhone in regards to its camera capabilities. This comes with good reason. The average consumer doesn’t pull a tablet out of their pocket to take a quick photo.

Is Bigger Better?

One of the most important things to a mobile developer is screen real estate. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had a chance to play with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire which boasts a 7 in. display and it was quite nice. However, while poking around the display, I had trouble clicking small links on some web pages without zooming in. On my iPad (in which I’m using to write this article) there was no problem clicking any of the links I had trouble with on the Fire.

Photo viewing is nice on both. When it comes to gaming I prefer them on the iPad’s larger 9.7 in. display. Let’s not forget the interview with Steve Jobs attempting to obliterate the idea of a 7 in. tablet ever succeeding in the consumer space.

If you ask me we will see a 9.7 in. display on the iPad 3 as well. But hey, let’s get crazy. Why not? We could see a March released 9.7 in. iPad 3 and an October released 7 in. iPad 3S. What? That’s right. You read it here first!

What’s Inside?

It seems that every iPad doubles its on board storage. Does this mean that we will have models starting at 32 gig and topping out at 128 gig? It’s very likely that the iPad 3 will have these storage numbers; especially with the growing size of photo and video files. A top-of-line iPad could give us a potential 228 gig of storage. That would be 128 gig on board and for $100 per year another 100 gig of cloud storage.

The engine in the iPad 2 was a 1 GHz dual core A5 chip that boasted up to 4x processing power and up to 9x the graphics power over its predecessor A4 chip. Much speculation points to an A6 chip that could be quad core, which would even quadruple the previous numbers. With Samsung said to be making this A6 processor we know it will be of great quality and speeds.

Battery life on the iPad hasn’t been much scrutinized. It’s the handsets that are taking a hit. We can expect pretty much the same 10-12 hours and one month of standby that we’ve grown accustomed to.

Through The Looking Glass

Retina display on the iPad is on everybody’s mind. If you own an iPhone 4/4S and an iPad you can clearly see the difference in screen resolution. Retina display has been argued that the pixel density that the human eye can decipher is 326 ppi. The iPad 2 has currently 132 ppi – vast distance between the two.

I think it would be quite difficult for Apple to match that ppi and still keep its current price point. Also, with Kindle Fire coming in at $199, Apple must stay competitive. So, we will see an improvement in screen resolution but not 326 ppi, too expensive.

Talk To Me

Siri is definitely a great addition to the iPhone 4S and you can bet it will be on iPad 3 and most likely the next generation iPod Touch. I personally can’t wait for the personal assistant on my iPad.

The time is getting closer and everybody wants to know what we can expect to see from CEO Tim Cook when it comes to Steve Jobs’ favorite innovation. Will Apple stay the current course that was charted by the genius co-founder? Or will a new direction building off a monstrously successful platform be plotted? We’ll all have to just wait and see I guess. All I can tell you for sure is… I’m getting one!

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