The iPad 3 is going to look a lot like iPad 2—until you turn it on, that is. If the purported iPad 3 front glass spy shot on the right is an indication, the third-generation iPad (rumored for the March 7 unveiling) will sport almost identical appearance to its predecessor. Discovered by Apple.pro, a usually reliable source for Apple hardware rumors, the front glass part shows literally the same 9.7-inch size and shape as the iPad 2, even down to the home button and the round bezel. Compared to the iPad 2 digitizer assembly seen below, iPad 3 clearly has a longer ribbon cable going all the way to the side of the display. Apart from this aspect, the iPad 3′s front is mostly indistinguishable from iPad 2. It is widely assumed the iPad 3 will rock a 2,048-by-1, 536 pixel resolution display, and a set of manufacturing spy shots suggest that—surprisingly—Samsung is manufacturing those high-resolution displays and not Sharp or LG Display, as previously thought.

As Apple does not keep all its eggs in the same basket, the company could (and probably will) source iPad 3 panels from multiple suppliers. Interestingly, Samsung’s board of directors approved plans today to spin the company’s LCD display business into a new entity. The wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, the new company is now called Samsung Display Company and it will merge with Samsung Mobile Display and S-LCD to improve competitiveness. The South Korean consumer electronics conglomerate said in a statement: “The display market is undergoing rapid chances with OLED panels expected to fast replace LCD panels to become the mainstream.”

Now, some media outlets speculate Apple will make a mistake by advertising iPad 3 as Retina-capable, arguing a 2,048-by-1, 536 display does not meet Apple’s Retina specifications. We deconstruct this myth right after the break.

Apple definedany display as being Retina-capable as long as it packs in enough pixels so that your eye is unable to discern the individual pixels. Four things to bear in mind here: Display size, resolution, pixel density, and the distance viewed. In case of the iPhone, Retina means at least 300 pixels per inch packed on a 3.5-inch display typically held at 12-to 15-inches away. However, you do not stare at a 9.7-inch tablet display from the same distance. The iPad is typically held 15-to 18-inches away; meaning Retina quality is achievable at 240 pixels per inch. Summing up: The 9.7-inch display with a 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264ppi held 15-to 18-inches away is Retina-quality.

This is safely above the Retina threshold, clearly letting Apple market iPad 3 as Retina-enabled without being slammed over false advertising. Packing in four times more pixels is an overkill, hence a focus on graphics improvements, a bigger battery and a dual-bar LED system and not quad-core CPU. As President of DisplayMate Technologies Raymond Soneira clarified , going to high-resolution means major brightness and power issues. That said, those alleged dual light bars might not be stacked as that would further increase the thickness of the display assembly. Soneira also weighed in on the Retina Display discussion:

LG and Samsung have both claimed to have 2048×1536 LCD panels ready for the iPad 3. Lots of rumors have Sharp as the *principal* supplier for the iPad 3. I think it’s pretty clear that will not be the case, at least initially. LG is the principal supplier for the iPad 1 and iPad 2. Samsung and CMI are also suppliers for the iPad 2. They will again be the suppliers for the iPad 3 – until (or if) Sharp begins producing iGZO panels in sufficient quantity for the iPad 3.

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