Update: Apple did not announce an iPad Air 3 on March 21, 2016, like expected. Instead the company announced the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Neither device is waterproof or water resistant.
iPad Air 3
A leaked image of a case posted to Macotakara shows that the rumored iPad Air 3 will resemble its larger counterpart the iPad Pro. The image of the case seems to reveal a port for a Smart Connector and four speaker cutouts. The Smart Connector was introduced with the iPad Pro so it could easily connect and share data with Apple's Smart Keyboard. The iPad Pro was also Apple's first tablet to feature four speakers for improved audio.
Apple did not release an iPad Air 3 in 2015 or early 2016 like expected. Instead the company released two iPad Pro models -- the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2015 and 9.7-inch iPad Pro in March, 2016. You can learn more about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Retina display and resolution here.
Update: Apple has discontinued the iPad Air lineup. On March 21, 2017 Apple released an entry level 9.7-inch iPad to replace the iPad Air 2. You can learn all about the 2017 iPad model here.
iPad Air 3 rumors are being leaked almost daily now that we're getting closer to the alleged March release date of Apple's next-generation tablet. On Thursday, the DigiTimes reported that production of the 9-inch tablet will begin in the second quarter of 2016. The Taiwanese trade publication also noted that the iPad Air 3 will feature a new 4K resolution display, giving it four times more pixels than its predecessor.
Apple has discontinued the iPad Air lineup, ending it with the iPad Air 2. Instead the company has released a 9.7-inch iPad Pro. You can learn more about the iPad Pro audio system here.
An unconfirmed sketch of the rumored iPad Air 3 was posted by the French blog NowhereElse.fr on Monday. The leaked image reveals that the next-generation tablet may include four speakers, instead of two, like the iPad Pro. NowhereElse could not however confirm with 100% certainty that the design drawing is legit, but it is easy to believe that Apple would incorporate the same speaker design as the iPad Pro after all the positive reviews the 12-inch tablet has received for its audio. NowhereElse also noted the addition of LED flash on the new iPad.
There's been quite a few dodgy iPad Air 3 rumors circulating the internet the last few days. A lot of Apple fans are still banking on Apple releasing its next-generation 12-inch tablet sometime early this year. This wishful thinking is mostly based on a research note sent out by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in December 2015. This week more rumors have surfaced claiming that the iPad Air 3 will not only launch in March, but it will also be the first iOS product to feature an IP rating for water resistance.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a new report (via 9to5Mac) today claiming that Apple will refresh its iPad Air lineup in the 1st half of 2016. Kuo also noted that Apple's new 9-inch iPad will not include 3D Touch due to "production issues."
Recent rumors have suggested that Apple also plans to launch a 4-inch iPhone 6c and second-generation Apple Watch next year.
Based on various reports, and a lack of leaks, it does not look promising that Apple will release a third-generation iPad Air this year. It may be hard to believe that the company will forego its flagship 9-inch iPad in favor of a larger 12-inch model, but that's where all signs are pointing. The rumor mill and some analysts believe that Apple will only release a revamped iPad mini 4 and 12-inch iPad Pro in 2015 due to slumping tablet sales.
It is no secret that worldwide tablet sales are on a slide and that the iPad is not immune. Apple recently announced a 17.9% year-over-year decline in iPad sales and CEO Tim Cook has had to defend the tablet twice after seperate earning calls. This doesn't mean the iPad is selling poorly, Apple still sold 10.9 million units in Q2 of 2015, but it does show that interest in tablets overall has slown down.