Apple is reportedly due to launch an LTE-enabled version of the iPad next month, and is also thought to be working on a version of its market-leading tablet with a smaller screen.

According to sources at the Wall Street Journal, Apple is in talks with its suppliers over an iPad with an 8-inch screen – smaller than the 9.7-inch screen on the current model (iPad 2). 

Meanwhile, the report notes that the iPad 3 – due to be unveiled in the first week of March – will be designed to work with the LTE networks being rolled out by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, Apple’s current iPad operator partners in the US. The device is expected to have a higher-resolution screen than the iPad 2 with a similar screen size.

The effort to broaden its tablet product portfolio is thought to be part of a strategy by Apple to maintain its tablets dominance in the face of intensifying competition from the likes of Samsung and Amazon. The report notes that Samsung, which supplies Apple with key components such as memory chips and processors used in iPads, sells its Galaxy Tab iPad competitor in three screen sizes: a 7-inch, an 8.9-inch and a 10.1-inch.

Diana Wu, an analyst at Capital Securities in Taipei, told the Wall Street Journal that consumer demand for Samsung's 5.3-inch Galaxy Note and Amazon's 7-inch Kindle mean "consumers want a tablet that is smaller than the existing 9.7-inch iPad."

"IPad's features are good enough, but pricing would be an important factor in the mass market, especially in big emerging markets like China and India," she added.

According to IDC figures, the iPad represented more than 61.5 percent of tablet shipments in Q3 2011, down from 63.3 percent in Q2, according to market researcher IDC.