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Rumor: Apple to unveil high-end, mid-range third-gen iPads in January

An unverified report out of the Far East claims that Apple will unveil in January 2012 two new models of the iPad, with one high-end version featuring an 8-megapixel camera and a mid-range model equipped with a 5-megapixel shooter, but the rumor has quickly been dismissed as unlikely.

Taiwan industry publication DigiTimes released on Thursday a pair of unusually specific reports about Apple's plans for the next generation of iPads. However, AppleInsider cannot vouch for the claims and is including them simply for the sake of discussion.

According to one report from the publication, Apple will take the wraps off both a high-end and a mid-range iPad at the MacWorld | iWorld conference on Jan. 26, 2012. Such a move, however, would be highly unlikely, as Apple announced in late 2008 that it would no longer exhibit at the conference after January 2009.

Apple has instead preferred to unveil its first two generations of the iPad at its own media events. The original version of the touchscreen tablet was announced on Jan. 27, 2010, while the iPad 2 was shown off on March 2, 2011.

DigiTimes did reaffirm widespread reports that the next-generation iPad will feature a Retina Display-like screen with a doubled resolution of 2,048 pixels x 1,536 pixels. Sources told the publication that both the rumored mid-range and high-end models would feature QXGA resolution with a dual LED light-bar solution to bolster the brightness of the display.

The report also went on to note that Sharp will be the "major panel supplier" for the display on the third-generation iPad, with Samsung and LG also producing some panels. Samsung is rumored to manufacture quad-core A6 processors, as well as the CMOS image sensor for the mid-range iPad, which sources indicated would sport a 5-megapixel lens. Sony has reportedly been tapped to provide the image sensor for a high-end iPad with an 8-megapixel lens.

Finally, sources said Apple would continue to offer the iPad 2, at a discount, in order to position the device to compete directly with Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire.

A second report from the publication on Thursday claimed the so-called iPad 3 would feature a 14,000mAH battery, a significant boost in capacity from the battery currently used in the iPad 2.

Recent reports have disagreed on Apple's timeframe for the launch of the third-generation iPad. One recent rumor, also out of Asia, claimed Apple would honor late co-founder Steve Jobs by launching the next iPad on his birthday, which falls on Feb. 24. That would fall in line with an analyst report that cited also next February for the launch. For its part, DigiTimes claimed earlier this month that the device will arrive in March or April.

Speculation that Apple will expand the iPad lineup have picked up in recent months. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested last week that the company will offer a broader range of price points for the next-generation iPad. Another analyst recently claimed the Cupertino, Calif., company may be planning an "iPad 2S" model alongside a full-fledged iPad 3.