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The next iPhone and iPad could feature a super-powerful quad-core processor, if recent findings in a beta build of the iOS 5.1 operating system are to be believed.

Apple blog 9to5mac.com has found references in the latest beta build of iOS 5.1 references to "core.3" which, as the tech site explains, refers to a quad-core chipset.

"Extremely reliable and knowledgeable people familiar with iOS's inner workings explained to me that core references begin at "0." For example: A single core device would be limited to '/cores/core.0,' and a dual-core device would come in at '/cores/core.1.'," 9to5mac explains.

"A 'core.2' (which is not referenced in iOS code) would be a triple-core processor according to this labeling method. iOS 5.1 beta 2 now includes core.3, a seemingly quad-core chip from Apple."

Apple's iOS devices featured single-core processors until the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 were released - these both featured dual-core A5 processors and it is predicted that the much-anticipated iPad 3 and iPhone 5 will pack ultra-powerful A6 processors with quad-core technology.

A quad-core processor in an iOS device would bring huge performance gains over the current dual-core processors, offering better graphics and faster multitasking, and would give developers the opportunity to create even more complex and demanding applications and games.

The iPad 3 is widely predicted to be announced in January and made available in March; the new tablet is tipped to have a super-high resolution retina display, which would benefit hugely from the extra power provided by a quad-core processor.

The 5.1 build of iOS is not yet available to the public, but is available as a beta for developers to download onto their devices to test, and it is within this beta build that references to the new processors have been found.

While a quad-core iPhone could offer unrivalled smartphone performance, a quad-core iPad - with a retina display - could provide the computing power of a capable notebook or even desktop in the portable and stylish form-factor of a tablet.

With the iPad 3 - or perhaps an iPad 2S - due to be announced within weeks and to go on sale soon after, the International Business Times UK will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the new tablet as and when it happens.