Could Apple 'do an iPhone 4S' with the next-generation iPad?

Summary:Like Apple did with the iPhone 4S, while some hardware improvements were made, much of the same stuck with its predecessor. Could Apple follow suit with the 'iPad 3'?

If there is one thing that is certain, there will be another iPad.

The problem is -- due to Apple's culture of the utmost secrecy -- is that we do not know when it will launch, what it will include, how much it will cost, or even what is will be named.

Rumours are once again circling the land of technology like hungry vultures. Take your bag of salt and prepare yourself for the latest theory.

The next-generation iPad -- dubbed the iPad 3 -- could be a near-identical yet larger version of the iPhone 4S.

Many were disappointed that the iPhone 4S did not live up to the expectations of the speculative media. With the same design as its predecessor, the iPhone 4S added camera improvements, a faster processor, and the voice-activated intelligent assistant Siri. It also hosted the next-generation operating system, iOS 5.

But what if the next version of the iPad is a larger iPhone 4S in disguise? Let's see what others are saying.

Rumours suggest the next iPad could have the same build design as the iPad 2.

"The new iPad's body is so slightly thicker than the iPad 2 that the change is unnoticeable on first inspection; a roughly 1mm increase will barely be perceptible to users", Jeremy Horwitz of iLounge wrote. "We've heard that the only accessories that might have issues are cases, and then, only cases that were precisely contoured to fit the iPad 2's back".

Others, including widely regarded as reliable Japanese blog Macotakaramakes the same claims as Horwitz. Should the assertions be correct, we could be seeing a slightly thicker battery, capable of lasting out longer normally. Or, we could see around the same battery life as an iPad 2 but with capable of sustaining a 4G connection.

A retina display is also on the cards, after Apple allegedly bought a tonne of 2048x1536-pixel displays from Samsung.

While ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady ruled this out in 2010 with the iPad 2, there have been no compelling arguments to suggest it might not include the long-awaited high-resolution display. The vamped-up screen will require a faster processor than the iPhone 4S, but the iPad 2 has to be improved somehow. Just as with the iPhone 4S, expect better faster innards, particularly if the outside design doesn't change.

Other rumours circulating suggest the next-generation iPad could include the intelligent assistant Siri.

Developers spotted signs of Siri's life in the latest beta release of iOS 5.1, which could be the operating system to land on the upcoming tablet. Siri is only available to iPhone 4S users, thought to be due to the smartphone's hardware capability and always-on cellular network access, which the software requires to request results.

Because the iPod touch is Wi-Fi only, it would mean that Siri would not work for most the time. Plus, Apple said late last year that it had: "no plans to support older devices". It makes sense for Siri to port to at least 3G-enabled iPads, but perhaps not Wi-Fi-only devices.

We don't even know the name of the device. The iPhone has had a dip into sequential naming, bar the iPhone 3GS and 4S. It would be almost against Apple's naming convention to not include the number '5' with the next iPhone.

The iPad, however, has been simply named the "iPad" and the "iPad 2". It would not break the naming pattern for the next-generation iPad to include an appended letter. Horwitz claimed that the tablet could be named the "iPad 2S" or "iPad 2HD"; the latter presumably indicating a retina display.

Perhaps one is looking at this in more detail than necessary, but it does bode a further similarity between the two devices. A retina display and Siri, thrown into the same shell and naming style of the iPad 2's design would effectively make it a larger iPhone 4S.

On a side note, there is still no word on when the device may hit the shelves.

Apple's education announcement later this month could be an opportunity for Tim Cook to throw in a "one more thing" curveball. Sure, it's unlikely, reckless, and would completely overshadow the education announcement, but wouldn't it be fun?

It makes sense for the Cupertino-based technology giant to space out the iPad and iPhone releases. The early months of the year, usually around March--April is generally when we get our hands on the latest iPad tablet. During the middle-months of the year, typically around June--July, we are presented with the next-in-line iPhone.

My personal bet is that the iPad 3, or whatever it may be called, will pave the way for the next iPhone. Perhaps it will be used to generate just enough hype and excitement, but at the same time not enough detail to give the game away for a highly anticipated killer feature set.

Image source: Flickr.

Related:

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPad, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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