It's February, which means it's that time of year again. I'm not talking about the upcoming romantic holiday, or the one tomorrow that inspired a classic 1993 Bill Murray flick. I'm referring to the time of year when Apple (NAS: AAPL) is likely entering its home stretch before taking the wraps off the year's latest and greatest iPad.

Apple speculation is now a 24/7/365 affair nowadays, but it tends to reach a fever pitch just ahead of major expected launches. Some rumors have suggested that Apple is aiming to launch the iPad 3 as early as Steve Jobs' birthday of Feb. 24, which is just over three weeks away. An homage to Jobs is a distinct possibility, since the iPad 3 launch will be the first major hardware announcement since his death, which happened the day after the iPhone 4S event.

The downside of all the hearsay is that it has become increasingly difficult to actually surprise us, since most features are inevitably leaked or rumored in advance. That being said, it's always nice to find evidence.

The most recent instance is a BGR exclusive report including leaked photos of an iPad 3 development application with some juicy details. The pics reference a quad-core A6 processor, the natural progression to Cupertino's using the custom chips of ARM Holdings (NAS: ARMH) . NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) just released its quad-core Tegra 3, and Qualcomm's (NAS: QCOM) quad-core Snapdragon is set for this year. A quad-core A6 is a shoo-in.

Interestingly, they also show 4G LTE connectivity. The leaks corroborate a separate Bloomberg report to the same effect. Apple has been slow to adopt LTE due to battery-life implications, but the massive battery strapped to the back of the iPad should help address that concern.

While we're here, we might as well round up a few more current rumblings on the device.

  • The iPad 3 may get improved front and rear cameras, since the iPad 2's cameras were a little lacking.
  • It may feature a slightly thicker body, by roughly 1 mm.
  • There's a high likelihood it will feature a Retina Display with pixel dimensions doubled to 2048 x 1536.

On the pricing front, the iPad 2 is expected to remain in production with its price being dropped. I'm expecting it to move down by a Benjamin to $399 entry. My overall expectations with the iPad 3 are in line with the above rumors, with little possibility of any wild curve balls.

A quad-core processor and 4G LTE speeds? This thing is going to be monstrously fast.

What do you think? What features do you expect the iPad 3 to sport? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

With Apple leading the mobile revolution, some winners are hard to see -- because they're buried inside the gadgets. The proliferation of mobile devices is going to be breathtaking, and a handful of companies stand to rake in the profits as consumers snap up each year's latest and greatest models. We've just released a new special report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." In it, you'll find three companies that supply crucial components that virtually every mobile device relies on. Check it out now -- it's free.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu has sold bullish put spreads on NVIDIA and QUALCOMM. He owns shares of Apple and ARM Holdings, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of QUALCOMM and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and NVIDIA. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts in NVIDIA. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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