More Hints Of a Super-Speedy iPad 3

We're about halfway through February, which means that we should be less than a month away from Apple (NAS: AAPL) taking the wraps off the newest iteration of the iPad, which will presumably be called either the iPad 3 or the iPad 2S. It's been a couple of weeks since we did a rumor roundup, so let's see where we stand now with the latest rumblings from "people familiar with the matter."

March 7 now appears to be the date that fingers are pointing to, according to iMore but separately corroborated by long-time iFollower Jim Dalrymple of LoopInsight. That date also matches up with an AllThingsD report that said Apple was set to hold an event in the first week of March for the launch. The iPad 2 was launched with nearly immediate retail availability thanks to supply chain master and CEO Tim Cook, so hopefully this one will see similar punctuality.

The Wall Street Journal is now jumping in on the rumor action, and has confirmed that carrier partners Verizon (NYS: VZ) and AT&T (NYS: T) will offer 4G LTE versions of the tablet. There have already been rumors to this effect from BGR and Bloomberg, but WSJ's "people familiar with the matter" are typically more reliable than the "people familiar with the matter" of other sources (I'm looking at you in particular, Digitimes).

Big Red's LTE network beats Ma Bell's in terms of coverage, with 200 million people covered, compared to 74 million. One of the bigger concerns over LTE in general relates to battery life, but the iPad's massive battery should be able to address that.

Perhaps more interesting is another WSJ report this morning that claims Apple is testing an iPad with a smaller screen. Keyword: testing. Cupertino is rumored to have looked at an additional screen size of around eight inches, sourced from AU Optronics and LG Display. A smaller iPad would tackle the only Google (NAS: GOOG) Android tablet that's selling well:'s (NAS: AMZN) Kindle Fire.

I've always had doubts about a smaller iPad, partially because it would encroach on the iPod Touch's turf, but testing is entirely believable. Apple likely tested MacBooks running on its custom ARM Holdings-based processors, but those will probably never see the light of day, since iPad unit sales are exploding and all. iPads outsold Macs by nearly 3-1 last quarter.

At this point it seems like 4G LTE is a lock, but I'm officially a naysayer on an iPad mini.

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