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New iPad and the iPad 2: Can you really tell the difference?

March 19, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • Customers check out the new iPad in the shadow of an iPad 2 sign at Best Buy in Culver City.
Customers check out the new iPad in the shadow of an iPad 2 sign at Best Buy… (Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles…)

Sure, the reviewers are gushing about the retina display, the faster chip and the better camera on

the new iPad, of course. But do real people really get it?

As it turns out, for some people the distinction between the new hotness and the iPad 2 is a little fuzzy.

Despite some dramatic “my eyes, my eyes!” declarations of the iPad experience forever having been ruined by the clarity of the new iPad’s retina display compared with the screen of the iPad 2, the casual user doesn't seem able to easily see a difference between the two – other than the $100 difference in price.

An example of this comes from the folks at the Next Web. They asked customers outside an Apple Store on Friday to pick the new iPad out in a side-by-side comparison between it and its predecessor. Just by sight, without being able to compare the weight, most people in the video chose the wrong one. That included some customers who had just plopped down beaucoup bucks for the new iPad.

But it wasn't just amateurs having trouble. Even some professional geeks at Gizmodo couldn’t really tell the difference. The self-proclaimed "enormous nerds who fixate on pixel density" got some colleagues together and asked them to check out the "new iPad," which was really an iPad 2. And the gushing commenced. They thought it was lighter, brighter and overall tighter.

As they said: "Apple doesn't even need to try anymore." Frankly, so far in terms of marketing at some of their authorized resellers, it seems they aren’t, really.

In my own look over the weekend, I found confused customers at several Best Buy and Target stores in Los Angeles. Lighting the way to the brand new non-numbered iPads were huge, white displays for iPad 2. 

IPad 2? No wonder many of the customers casually passing through didn’t know what they were looking at. It's hard enough to determine which iPad you've got in hand without the in-store displays confusing things more.

In launches past, Apple would have representatives at the ready in authorized retail stores, eager to answer questions and help stir up excitement. There were billboards, bus stop placards and TV ads with catchy music running on almost every channel. So far, I saw only one huge billboard this weekend -- for iPad 2.

Apple does have a new TV ad pushing the retina display. Aside from having the seductive quality of simply being that irresistible fruit in the tech garden of Eden, it seems promoting the sharper screen and the better camera may be a tougher sell than being able to command your device with your voice, as you can on the iPhone 4S with Siri.

Ultimately, as much as I love getting my hands on new Apple devices, I found it a lot less fun to visit the new iPad in the stores. After saying yup, the screen and camera are better, half wondering whether it really was the new iPad, there isn’t much reason to keep playing with it.

That said, while the lack of supermodel sex appeal in this version might keep folks from monopolizing the displays, it probably won't keep too many people from buying -- whether iPad 2 or the new iPad. 


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