IPad 3 May Arrive in Early 2012

Apple is preparing production of the iPad 3, suggesting an early 2012 release.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company reportedly ordered iPad 3 display panels and chips from its Asian component suppliers and assemblers. The Wall Street Journal reports Apple ordered enough parts to have 1.5 million devices ready in the fourth quarter. The orders also indicate the device will have a 9.7-inch screen like its predecessors, but may feature a higher resolution display.

With competition in the tablet market heating up, analysts had earlier reported Apple would launch the iPad 3 alongside the iPhone 5 sometime this fall. While Apple has made no official announcement, rumours are flying that a fall release would be impossible due to display shortage.

The WSJ’s new report suggesting the iPad 3 will come early next year seems more likely in light of news that Apple is reportedly preparing a $1 billion investment in Sharp to combat display shortages.

Another hint the iPad 3 won’t come until next year is Apple’s past. The company has historically spread out the announcement and release of its major products. The fall is typically when Apple unveils changes to its iPod line. A new iPod, iPhone and iPad all at the same time would be uncharacteristic of the company.

Consumers who purchased the iPad 2 would likely be angry to see Apple release a new device so soon, making it more likely the company would wait until next year to put out its next tablet.

An early 2012 release would also put the iPad 3 in line with the launch of past iPads. The first iPad launched in April 2010, the second in March 2011. Even if the iPad 3 were to launch in January or February, it would still put its release in a different calendar year than the iPad 2, likely alleviating heavy criticism from Apple consumers.

One thing Apple may look to adjust with the iPad 3 is price. The cheapest iPad sells for $499 and currently dominates, especially the slightly higher priced competitors like the Motorola Xoom. But Apple may be losing sales to companies like Asus and Acer, which offer cheaper tablets for customers on a budget. A slightly cheaper price point may let Apple maintain its current customers and push those who look at tablets as a luxury to make a purchase.

Whatever the price of Apple’s iPad 3, speculation over its specs and release date is sure to run rampant until Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage to set the record straight.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.