March 15, 2012, 10:10 AM — The iPad has been a remarkable success story. Apple sold 15 million of the original model in the first nine months of the product's existence, a number that blew away even the most optimistic prognostications. With last year's introduction of the iPad 2, things kept accelerating. In a little less than two years, Apple has sold roughly 60 million iPads, dominating the market it created.
Maintaining Apple's lead in tablet devices is the job of the third-generation iPad, a product that doesn't mess with success. Like the iPad 2 before it, this new iPad is not a re-thinking of the original concept. Instead, Apple has chosen to focus on a few areas of improvement while keeping the overall package the same. Though it's an approach that can frustrate people who are disappointed by anything that's not a quantum leap, Apple executes it to perfection and reaps the rewards.
In my review of the iPad 2, I suggested a rule of Apple product evolution I called "Jobs's Law"--that the latest version of any Apple product is likely to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The third-generation iPad breaks that law. It's actually slightly thicker and slightly heavier than the iPad 2, and in many cases users won't perceive it to be faster.
But the changes Apple has wrought with this iPad aren't about making it thinner or lighter or faster, but about making it better. And on nearly every front, the third-generation iPad is markedly better than its predecessor.
It's all about the Retina
In mid-2010 with the release of the iPhone 4, Apple introduced us to a new concept--the "Retina display," so called because the screen was packed tightly with so many pixels that the dots would be imperceptible to the human eye. At 326 pixels per inch, the iPhone 4 and its successor, the 4S, provide text that looks like it was printed on paper and display photos and videos in high definition.
Far and away the most important feature of the third-generation iPad is that it, too, has a Retina display. Its 9.7-inch screen has a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels (a total of four times the pixels in the same space), or 264 pixels per inch. Although that's a lower pixel density than the iPhone's Retina display, you tend to hold an iPad further away from your eyes than an iPhone, so the Retina definition still works out.