Many Apple Store Customers Can’t Tell The New iPad Apart From The iPad 2 [Video]

The staggering difference in quality of the new iPad’s display isn’t hype, it’s real. It’s a jaw-dropping difference, one that finally turns the iPad into the promise of its potential: a living, breathing page through which the wide world can be explored. The new iPad is the best consumer display on the market at almost any price, period…

Which makes it completely befuddling that in a blind test, a surprising amount of Apple Store customers couldn’t tell the difference between the iPad 2 and the new iPad.

In a decidedly unscientific test, the guys over at The Next Web found that many of the people they quizzed coming into and out of their local Apple Store couldn’t tell a new iPad apart from its predecessor.

In fact, many of the people asked to identify the crisper, more densely pixel packed display chose that of the iPad 2.

It’d be interesting to hear what the reasons were why people chose the iPad 2 over the new iPad. It’s hard to escape the fact that many of the people who choose the iPad 2 over the new iPad have glasses, implying that they may not have eyesight good enough to distinguish retina quality in a display (which as Apple defines it means the ability to distinguish one pixel from another with 20/20 vision).

I wonder if other things enter into it too. For example, the new iPad is calibrated to be slightly warmer than the iPad 2: could people who prefer cooler colors have chosen the iPad 2, even though the new iPad was visibly clearer?

Someone call Stanford. This phenomenon needs to be studied!

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  • eikonklast

    I stopped at an Apple store to check the new iPad and I could not tell the difference right away. I was also disappointed by the speed of the apps I tried. They seemed no faster than my iPad 2.

  • FriarNurgle

    I likely can’t tell the difference between $50 earbuds and $1500 earbuds. 

  • RyleyLamarsh

    One of the first things I noticed was how crisp the apps looked in a folder. Stunning clarity.

  • The Hitman

    The only thing that looked different between the two was text. Other than that I couldn’t tell the difference either.

  • robkellas

    My experience is that the iPad 3 has a slightly dimmer screen (at max brightness) than the iPad 2. That maybe why people are mistaking the 2 for the 3.

  • Robbert_Jan

    The glasses theory of course doesn’t hold up: If you wear glasses (with the right prescription glasses), your eyesight becomes 20/20 again.

  • Peter Johnson

    I have found its not as big a difference for me as others are reporting, however it’s quite possible for this test that low-res non-retina icons look worse on a retina screen than they do on a non-retina screen.

  • mloiterman

    A lot of people can’t tell the difference between 1080p Blu-Ray and regular DVDs. So this isn’t surprising.

  • Spam

    My 2 second theory; most people read left to right and if the improvement is not blatantly obvious, may be apt to chose the first screen (first impression). Reverse the iPads, repeat the test and see what happens. 

  • Blake Beavers

    This just in: people that know nothing  about the two products, don’t know their differences.

  • crateish

    I can explain this: People are largely, morons.

  • Jay Bitcrushtheoontz Poohead

    Most people were picking the one on the left. I kind of wonder what would have happened had they switched hands. There was one guy who when asked moved in for a close look at the screens. Then immediately picked the new iPad.

  • Harvey

    Looking at a simple 1024 x 768 pixel graphic, both displays will look exactly the same.

    But open a Web page, or a book page, with small text on it and you’ll see the difference immediately!

    On the 3rd generation iPad, you can read the small text easily and comfortably WITHOUT having to zoom into it and then back out again. You can’t do that on the iPad 2.

  • Dan

    When faced with two products, it is simply incorrect to say “point to the one you think is the newest”- No one speaks properly anymore. It would have to be “point to the one you think is newer”- enough said.

  • davrosuk

    This.

    Incredibly small text is still clearly readable on the new iPad, and a blur on the iPad 2. There were times I needed to zoom in a bit to make stuff readable and I no longer have to do that.

    Pictures are stunning on the new screen – here’s a neat demo assuming you have both devices: (1) Open up maps. (2) Turn on Satellite view. (3) Zoom in to London in the UK and bring the Isle Of Dogs into view (That’s the bend in the river Thames to non-Londoners) – not too far in, you want it to fill around 1/3 of the screen. Do the same on both. You’ll notice immediately the difference. Now, have a look at the Millennium Dome on both and then you’ll be really impressed.

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    ^^^ This

    Also if you’re looking at wallpaper, icons, and apps that were designed for the old ipad they’ll look similar because they’re the same resolution.  Compare with art assets that have been scaled up to the new resolution and you’ll see the difference.

    Go to any porn site, you’ll see right away the porn doesn’t look so good, because you can see all the low res image quality.

  • Micha? Belka

    This is what I wanted to post. They are showing just a home screen. When you try to read (esp. serif fonts) difference is huge. After few days with the new iPad it is hard to use iPad 2 again. It hurts.

  • Rmlgtp

    Who cares?! I don’t care if the next 5 versions of iPads are indistinguishable from the iPad two, they are so distinctly apple and that’s all that matters. They’re quality products with very little need for changes, and get upgraded yearly to add great new features. There isn’t much competition out there in the aesthetics of tablets. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  • CLiDED

    I’ll wait for a worthy upgrade. I’ve played with the iPad 3 over the weekend, and it runs apps the same speed as the iPad 2. The screen is nice, but not $100 more nice, IMO.

    And since my 4S has an 8MP camera, and pics get put into my photo stream immediately, the 5MP camera in the iPad 3 doesn’t wow me, either.

  • Shaun Green

    I tried the new and old iPads side by side in the AppleStore and I couldn’t tell the difference either. After really looking closely for a while I could tell the iPad 3 was a sharper picture but I certainly would not call the difference jaw dropping or anywhere close. The iPad 3 screen is just a little bit better.

  • pcmedman

    The difference becomes more obvious when you read small text on websites or various apps etc. I bet if he had show a website with text on it, most people would have seen the difference. If you watch a movie, look at pictures, or just look at the home screen, you can still tell the difference, but it’s not as obvious.

  • John

    I guess it is not real surprising. People’s interests and abilities vary a lot. We make a lot of accommodations to our surroundings to extract content. We screen out glare and fog and dirt on windows to extract information. Also, if the content was low resolution that would obscure the difference. If you ran the test with designers or photographers and displayed a PDF with different fonts and high resolution photographs the result would be quite different.

    Go to a microscopy conference and show high resolution TEM or STEM micrographs to the attendees and I think nearly everyone would spot the difference.

  • John

    The CPU runs at about the same speed as the iPad 2. The GPU is faster which may be apparent in some apps but not all.

  • Richard Collins

    I cannot tell the difference between my old iPad 1 and the new iPad 2. 

  • John Howell

    Or the wallpaper on that screen may not have been HD?

  • JP Jay

    I agree, I wouldn’t call it a jaw dropping difference either. 

  • tornacious

    I would choose the smokin’ hottie holding those two luscious iPads.

  • Alex

    One of them will make your wallet feel lighter ….

  • Bascomb

    I’m a 62 year-old Apple FANatic, since 1984. Love all things Apple. I was primed to tell the difference immediately, but standing at the Apple Store and comparing the two, I could not. Granted, I was not looking at high-quality graphics, just the various pages of apps and a few web pages (which would not necessarily show the increased resolution). When I opened a document, I could immediately tell things looked sharper, but it wasn’t an astounding difference. I’m sure after owning one for a while, I’d be very pleased. 

    By the way, since I had already read that the faster processor wasn’t meant to speed things up but rather to power the display, I wasn’t surprised that it seemed to be no faster than the iPad 2. Then again, both are way fast enough for me… or most anyone, I imagine.

  • thehibbs

    I bet most people don’t keep up w/ their prescription…

  • thehibbs

    Tru dat! I can’t tell you how many people have told me that!

  • zviivz

    It has a point but I don’t buy this comparison. It’s hard to tell just by looking at the home screen. Compare the screen again when you load eBooks or PDFs. I bet you would say ‘ahhh’.

  • zviivz

    You’re right. Reading ebook or PDFs on iPad 1 is not easy on my eyes. The fonts looked fuzzy. So, just by comparing the home screen is unfair. 

  • embrya

    I hate you Apple, you broke my iPad 2! After using the iPad 3 for couple of days I went back to my iPad 2 and it looks awful. My iPad 2 will never look the same again. Thanks a lot Apple!

    Any word on iPad 4???

    But seriously, the optimal viewing distance for the iPad is 10 to 12 inches. You can clearly see that the iPads are held close to 2 feet away from the unsuspecting customers. At that distance both iPads would be indistinguishable. Here we have a classic case of an hypothesis in search of an experiment.
    Nice try though

  • moopenguin32

    I couldn’t tell the difference either. I wear contacts and keep my prescription updated. After listening to Sunday’s CultCast, it appears that some of the Cult of Mac staff don’t really see a difference either.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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