Today in Apple history: iPad gets an eye-dazzling Retina display


Do you remember the iPad 3?
Photo: Apple

March16March 16, 2012: Apple introduces the third-generation iPad, the first iPad to come with a Retina display. Marketed as simply “The new iPad,” it’s widely known as the “iPad 3.”

Boasting that beautiful screen and Apple’s then-swanky A5X chip with quad-core graphics processor, the third-gen iPad quickly becomes a big success. Disappointingly for customers, it will only hang around until October 2012, giving it the shortest lifespan of any iOS product in history, at just seventh months.

A display to remember

The arrival of the Retina display was great news for iPad fans, who were able to enjoy astonishingly crisp visuals on the 9.7-inch display. The Retina display had been introduced with the iPhone 4 in mid-2010, making its arrival on the iPad both inevitable and highly anticipated.

In fact, the 264 pixels-per-inch was a lower density than on the iPhone, but due to the fact that users typically hold their iPads further away from their eyes than their iPhone, Apple was able to stick with its Retina marketing term.

The iPad 3 also supported some pretty great features, including a 5-megapixel camera, HD 1080p video recording with software-based image stabilization, voice dictation and support for LTE networks in North America.

In the marketplace, the device did very well, selling 3 million units in its first three days. This also represented the pinnacle of Apple’s dominance of the tablet market, with more than 60 percent of all global tablets bought during Q2 2012 being ones manufactured by Apple. By contrast, today Apple has around 24 percent of the market.


Not everything about the iPad 3 was met with universal acclaim, however. The first iPad became the fastest-selling new product in Apple history, and the second one improved on it. The iPad 3 was the first time that Apple faced an issue it continues to grapple with: how do you make a new iPad compelling each and every year?

Some reviews took on the almost begrudging tone you see with modern iPhone reviews, in which the reviewer knows that the new device is better than its direct predecessor, and can’t therefore award it a lower mark, but struggles to get too excited about it. The iPad 3 was evolutionary, not revolutionary.

At the time of its launch, a number of customers were disappointed that the iPad 3 was thicker than its predecessor, while otherwise sticking almost exactly to the design of the second-gen iPad. There was also disappointment that it didn’t come with an A6 chip, as had been heavily rumored.

The biggest criticism of all was that Siri didn’t make it onto the device, having been marketed as a big selling point of 2011’s iPhone 4s. This was in the first few months following Steve Jobs’ death, so every Apple product was being scrutinized to draw out larger points about Tim Cook’s approach to new products.

Ultimately, the greatest disappointment with the iPad 3 — which was otherwise a great device — was just how short a lifespan it had. Apple debuted the fourth-gen iPad just 221 days after the iPad 3 had been on sale. The iPad 4 added the Lightning connector (making the iPad 3 the last iPad to support the old 30-pin dock connector), and featured Apple’s new A6X chip.

Did you own an iPad 3? What are your memories of it? Leave your comments below.

  • Steve Harold

    This was my first iPad and I remember it very very well! It was so amazing so stunning.

  • TheMadTurtle

    I still own an iPad3 and it’s my only tablet. I love the Retina display and since it functions just as good now as it did when I bought it, I have no compelling reason to upgrade. It’s primary use for me is media consumption. I read on it a lot and occasionally watch Netflix.

    • aardman

      Yup, my iPad3 still going strong and I don’t see any reason yet to replace it. Apple was too successful with the iPad, people cling to their iPads far longer than anyone expected. I suspect for most people, that space between a smartphone and a PC consists of a very narrow set of functions that Apple filled as far back as the iPad3. Is it a failed product? No, but it isn’t the device that supplants the smartphone. I have no realistic idea what the next mega-product after the smartphone is. I can’t even imagine it, and by all indications nobody else can either. Not even Apple.

    • LPB

      Same here, my iPad 3 is still going strong, although it is quite slow now to do anything productive at all. It’s even struggling to load some websites. I’ll upgrade to the next model.

  • SiriLover

    I still have my iPad three. But I use it as rarely as I can because it is so very heavy. I now own an iPad Pro 9.7 and it is so much lighter I can carry it around all day as opposed to the iPad 3. I still think the weight of that iPad 3 is one of the things that caused ganglion cysts in my wrist.
    Siri did eventually come to the iPad 3. However, I think that one of the reasons why iPad 3 was so quickly displaced by iPad four is that the processor chip just was not powerful enough to support that retina display. I was disappointed for it to be displaced so quickly , and I really thought that as an act of goodwill in the upgrade cycle Apple should have given iPad 3 owners a discount on some upgrade either the iPad four, the Airs, or the new 9.7 pro. They knew they had done us wrong.

  • TheMadTurtle

    Yeah, these old iPads were built like tanks. I have an OG iPad that I have loaded with tons of great games and educational apps that our 3-year old uses all the time. It’s survived 3 boys, in fact. It’s been dropped, thrown, sneezed on, drooled on, you name it and still works great. We homeschool and the older two boys both have newer iPad Airs (iPads Air?) that we use with school apps. We felt like we needed the newer iOS for newer apps, but for the little one, the old OG iPad still works great.