When Apple launched the iPhone 4S, many people were disappointed. For one thing, it wasn't the iPhone 5. For another, it was basically just a copy of the iPhone 4 with some minor hardware upgrades.
Something similar happened with the iPad 2. It made no real huge departure from the original iPad in terms of design. It was a little slimmer, sure, and there were some minor upgrades inside, but the two devices looked largely the same. Many assumed that this meant the iPad was subject to the same iPhone 3G to 3GS (and now iPhone 4 to 4S) update cycle in that there would only be a major upgrade every other year, with small tweaks to these models in the years between. However, it seems those looking forward to an all new iPad will be disappointed yet again with the iPad 3.
The folks over at iLounge claim to have seen and handled an iPad 3 at CES 2012. Now, of course, we all know that Apple isn't actually at CES, and iLounge doesn't mention which company brought along an iPad 3 for show and tell. That said, iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz is reporting that the device is present at the show but is so similar to the iPad 2, many wouldn't even know they were looking at the unannounced, unconfirmed iPad 3.
"I'd show you a picture, but there's honestly nothing to be seen," he writes, before describing a tablet that is 1-mm thicker but otherwise almost identical to the iPad 2. The camera in the upper left corner is a little larger, and Horwitz says it looks very similar to the improved camera in the iPhone 4S, but, again, this isn't all that noticeable, especially from a distance. There are also rumors about a slightly small display for iPad 3, but (once again), if that was there, it wasn't obvious. Interestingly, Horwitz also mentions that the device he handled didn't look like it had just rolled off the assembly line a few weeks ago.
"I don't get the impression that what I saw was just manufactured—it actually seemed to be more than half a year old," he writes. "That's not a huge surprise given how long pre-production takes for a "new" device, but a lot can change between mid-2011 and early 2012. All I can tell you is that every company I've asked about the next iPad seems to think what I've told you above is correct, apart from the possible screen size tweak, which remains uncertain."
Assuming iLounge did actually play with something that was not an iPad 2, we think there's a couple of possibilities. First, this could be a now out-of-date prototype developed months ago. As Horwitz said, a lot can change in six months. It's possible this is just an early design for the iPad 3 (or an iPad 2S?) and the product we're expecting to be announced in the near future will be quite different. Second, it's also possible that this is the iPad 3 and Apple just hasn't seen fit to change the design, because the current design is just fine.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Just because the exterior looks the same, that doesn't mean there isn't a boatload of changes under the hood. Horwitz did mention that this model was 1-mm thicker than an iPad 2, which would indicate to us that there was a need for a little more space inside, so we're hoping that this is the case. Notably absent was any mention of the rumored Retina display, which we had hoped to see with iPad 2. This would only be noticeable if the unit was actually operational, though, and we're guessing it wasn't.
Perhaps we're a little bit jaded, but we're taking this one with a pinch of 'pics or it didn't happen' and hoping the iPad 3 will, at least in terms of hardware, be quite a departure from iPad 2. Only time will tell. In the mean time, if you're eager to hear more about iLounge's experience with this new breed of iPad, you can head on over to the article and check it out for yourself.