Between Japanese blog Macotakara's declaration that Apple will soon unveil the iPad 2, and, oddly enough, Elton John talking about his own next generation iPad expectations, the rumor mill has been buzzing. Conventional wisdom seems to hold that the latest iPad could be announced as soon as this week and start shipping in March or April. Here are five more specific rumors:

1. New material
It's possible that newer iPads will be made of a carbon fiber material instead of aluminum, says Jeremy Horwitz at iLounge, noting that Apple has already filed a patent on the material and iPad shells made from it have been spotted.

2. New size
While the current iPad screen measures nearly 10 inches and Steve Jobs dissed tablets with smaller, 7-inch screens last fall, rumors persist that the next iPad will be more compact. Though a source tells Horwitz that an Apple component provider has been asked to develop parts for a 7-inch iPad, let's "remain skeptical," says Sara Yin at PC Mag. "We heard this rumor several times before," and if it's true, Jobs would have to retract his "snarky comments."

3. New capabilities
One key speculation is that the new iPad will feature Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that would allow it to function like an electronic wallet, with users paying for purchases simply by swiping their device over a checkout terminal. "Of all the rumors... [this one] appears most likely," says Katie Marsal at Apple Insider.

4. New tool
A special stylus pen made just for the iPad could be on the horizon, says Darrell Etherington at GigaOM. Such a tool would allow users to easily jot down notes, draw, or sketch on the iPad, just as one would use a pen on a regular pad of paper. The current iPad supports a problematic and rarely used stylus, but, based on patent filings, it looks as though Apple has been working on a better stylus for years. The iPad 2 would be "a convenient target for deployment."

5. ... and coming soon
Sir Elton John, who's also being credited for a "leak" on Apple's latest, tells CNET UK that he plans to get a "Skype iPad" in April when they come out. It's unclear whether John has been "reading the same blogosphere speculation as us" or if he's in possession of some insider information, says Stuart Dredge at CNET UK. It's "probably the former."