Apple to release Smart Case to protect back of iPad 3?

When Steve Jobs announced the Smart Cover for the iPad 2, the accessory was described as a bridge between the seemingly conflicting desires of protecting the iPad’s display, while still exposing its beautiful design. Snap the Smart Cover in place via magnets, and you have an instant screen protector and stand — while still exposing the tablet’s beautiful backside.

Yet, as popular as the Smart Cover has been, many iPad owners still want to protect the back of the device. The Smart Cover may help to keep your screen in pristine condition, but that aluminum back is likely to still pick up a few scratches and dings along the way.

If a new report from iLounge has any substance, then Apple may be looking to steal some of those full-body case sales away from third-party case manufacturers. a leak that supposedly comes from a “repeatedly reliable source” says that Apple is developing a variant of the Smart Cover that will cover the entire back of the iPad 3.

Dubbed the Smart Case, the accessory is said to be similar to Incase’s Magazine Jacket (right). It would have the standard snapping Smart Cover flap on the front, but would add a rear shell. That shell will allegedly be made of fiberglass, and would be covered in PU/bicast leather.

The source didn’t know whether the case would be compatible with the iPad 2, or be exclusive to the iPad 3. since the design of the iPad 3 is expected to be only slightly thicker and more tapered than that of the iPad 2, we would expect most cases to be compatible with both (though maybe not a perfect fit).

The iPad 3 (if that’s its name) will be announced on Wednesday in San Francisco. It will have a 2048×1536 Retina display, and will probably sport a faster processor and an upgraded GPU. Other rumors point to upgraded cameras and LTE compatibility.