If Apple follows the expected cycle, the iPad 3 is due out in March/April 2012. At the time of this writing, that's about 5 months away, which means we are just now passing the halfway mark since the iPad 2 was released. And yet, I'm already getting questions about whether or not it is better to buy the iPad 2 or wait for the iPad 3.
Is it better to wait for the iPad 3?
Perhaps the most frustrating aspects of technology is that there is always something just around the corner. This is true when buying a desktop PC, it's true when buying a laptop, it's true when buying a smartphone and it is true when buying a tablet. Apple generally does not speak about future releases until a couple of months before the release, which means even predicting when a product is released can be a guessing game. If Apple sticks with their previous release schedule, the next iPad will be due out in spring, but after delaying the annual iPhone release from summer to fall, we could see a delay in the annual iPad release as well.
And we may not even get an "iPad 3".
The most recent rumors point to an "iPad 2S" being released rather than the "iPad 3". And while the name of the next iPad is mostly irrelevant, the features included aren't. Right now, we can only guess on what will be included in the next iPad based on the latest rumors, but it is looking more and more like it won't include the much talked about Retina Display.
What new features will be included in the next iPad?
Apple won't release any information until they are ready to announce the next generation iPad, but that doesn't stop us from making a few educated guesses. Most of these new features can be assumed based on what Apple has done in the past and the new features added to their other products.
- Faster Processor/Graphics. It wouldn't be a new release without a faster processor, so look for a nice speed increase with the iPad 3. And regardless of whether or not we see a Retina Display, we're going to see a big boost in graphical performance.
- Better Cameras. The iPad 2 introduced support for dual-facing cameras, but they were somewhat lacking in quality. Expect this to be corrected with the iPad 3. It might not get the 8 Megapixel camera found in the iPhone 4S, but we should see a major improvement.
- Siri. Apple may be holding Siri back from the current generation of iPads, but if there is one feature that is all but guaranteed to make the next iPad, it's the inclusion of the new voice-recognition software layer. Siri has produced a lot of buzz for the iPhone 4S, and it will do the same for the next iPad.
- Higher Resolution Display. This one isn't set in stone, but while the next iPad may not have a Retina Display, there's a good chance it will see a boost in resolution that will at least put it in the 1080p range.
So is that enough to wait before buying an iPad?
The biggest determining factor is going to be time. As of this writing, there is really no reason to wait to buy an iPad. The next-generation iPad is still nearly half a year away, and there is no guarantee that it won't get pushed back another few months. The iPad 2 is a quality tablet that will continue to perform well for years to come, so holding off doesn't make much sense.
So when is it better to hold off and wait for the new iPad? Based on a March/April release schedule, you may want to hold off buying an iPad in January or February. The 2-3 month mark is a good line to draw in the sand for those who are willing to wait for the latest and greatest in technology.
It's important to remember that many of the added features for the next iPad won't be readily apparent. The boost in performance may allow apps and web pages to load slightly faster, but its doubtful most people would ever be able to tell the difference on their own. The added performance really comes into play a year or two down the line when most apps are being written for the newer versions of the iPad.
Any added resolution to the display will be nice for those that watch a lot of movies or play top-tier games, but if you spend your time browsing the web, reading eBooks or playing more casual games than the hardcore offerings, you may not really notice the difference.
Obviously, Siri will really stand out. And if you think you'll use the cameras on the iPad -- whether it is to FaceTime with friends and family or simply capture video around the house -- the expected upgrade in the next generation iPad will be a huge jump in quality over the iPad 2's cameras.
But for most people, the iPad 2 will be an outstanding tablet through 2012 and into 2013. So the real question is: do you really want to wait a few months for a slight speed increase and a tablet that answers your questions?