Summary:

Two years after Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) established the market for modern tablet computers, it’s working on a flurry of new ideas for the iPad, a…

Apple employees iPad 2 launch San Francisco
photo: Tom Krazit

Two years after Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) established the market for modern tablet computers, it’s working on a flurry of new ideas for the iPad, according to several reports. We’re probably just a few weeks away from the debut of the so-called iPad 3, but Apple is also reportedly kicking around the idea of a smaller version of the device.

First things first: the iPad 3 (let’s assume that’s the name while being mindful of what happened to the iPhone 5) looks set for a March 7th introduction, according to a report from iMore.com that was confirmed by The Loop. We’ve been pretty sure for a while that it would arrive with a higher-resolution screen and a more powerful processor, but the Wall Street Journal (NSDQ: NWS) weighed in with a report that the next iPad would also run on AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon’s LTE networks.

Apple has been skeptical about LTE networks to date, but it makes more sense to tackle the increased drain on the battery caused by LTE radios in the iPad, which can accommodate a bigger battery and which isn’t used in quite as mobile a fashion as the iPhone. And for some people, an LTE connection may be faster than the broadband available in their area. Bloomberg also reported that LTE was coming to the iPad earlier in the year, so this rumor looks like it has some legs.

But is Apple really planning to release a smaller version of the iPad? A separate Wall Street Journal story indicates that it is at least testing such a device with an 8-inch screen.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) has (sort of) proven that there is demand for a smaller tablet, but the appeal of the Kindle Fire likely has much more to do with its price tag than its size. Still, a smaller iPad would likely allow Apple to hit a smaller price target and put a little pressure on tablet upstarts like Amazon and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), although at the moment it doesn’t seem that smaller, cheaper tablets are denting iPad demand.

We’re learned from several books released on Apple over the past year that the company tests multiple versions of upcoming products almost like a bake-off, pitting internal teams against each other before settling on the best combination of features, design, and price. So while it’s not hard to believe that Apple is at least kicking around the idea of a smaller iPad, such a device could easily never make it past the multiple layers of security doors in Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters.

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