Rumor: Apple’s iPad 3 Moving into Production Early

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Move over iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 rumors, here comes the iPad 3! What, you thought the grapevine was closed with Apple’s iPhone 4S hitting shelves today? Not when it sounds like Apple’s newest slate is right around the corner…if we buy Susquehanna Financial analyst Jeff Fidacaro’s claims, anyway.

Fidacaro believes, based on supply chain probing, that Apple’s ramping up fourth quarter iPad production activity because it plans to produce—ahead of schedule— as many as one million iPads 3s yet this year.

(MORE: Apple ‘iPad 3′ Prototype May Be Circulating, but Don’t Look for It This Year)

"Since our last month supply chain checks we are now seeing 600,000 to one million iPad 3 builds showing up on the plan for the fourth quarter of calendar 2011," Fidacaro told AllThingsD, noting that his company’s prior estimate "did not include any iPad 3s."

Those "600,000 to one million iPad 3 builds" would be on top of the 11 to 13 million estimated iPad 2s Apple’s already ordered.

The iPad 3’s rumored to debut in early 2012, though AllThingsD rightly reminds that the iPad 2 debuted in March this year, making March 2012 seem logical (if, by "logical," we mean the 12-month product cycle). It may (or may not) come with a higher-end camera (with inbuilt flash), an HDMI port, a higher-resolution screen, a processor upgrade (to support the higher res) that could put the iPad 3 on par performance-wise with serious PC desktops, 4G compatibility and the option to buy the slate in different screen sizes.

And it may or may not be the reason Apple’s ramping up iPad production over the next two-and-a-half months. The supply chain’s a notoriously poor source for reliable production information, and you can’t rule out the possibility that Apple’s simply lifting its orders based on higher-than-anticipated iPad 2 demand.

MORE: IDC: iPad 2, PlayBook Gobbled Android Market Share Last Quarter

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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