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News Analysis
Did Apple Just Bamboozle 3M iPad Buyers?
By Swanni 

Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2012) -- Apple just reported that it sold three million 'New iPads' between Friday, March 16 and Monday, March 19. Is there any wonder? The pre-launch publicity and media attention for the new tablet was unprecedented. And so were the glowing comments from normally sedate tech analysts who called the new tablet "dazzling" and "revolutionary."

The official launch day itself looked like a scene from 1964 circa Beatlemania as thousands of Apple-ites lined up overnight across the nation so they could be the first to own the new device.

"For the people who stayed out here overnight, the real devotees, they say it's enough of a revolution for them to brave the cold weather to be among tthe first in the world to get the new iPad," a CNN reporter gushed on the air Friday.

But hold on, everyone. There's growing evidence that Apple may have bamboozled us all, or at least the three million plus people who have bought the new iPad.

By most objective standards, the new iPad is supposed to include three major improvements on the old iPad 2. Apple itself promoted these three features most heavily in its ballyhooed press event on March 7 announcing the new tablet.


Why are these people in line?

But several reports done by respected tech web sites in the last few days suggests that the three improvements are slight and/or highly exaggerated by Apple. In addition, one of the "improvements" comes with so much baggage that many new iPad owners may never even use it.

Let's start with "improvement" #1:
The new iPad's Retina, high-resolution display.


No one is disputing that the display itself isn't an improvement over the iPad 2. At 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution, the screen exhibits sharper text and more vivid still images. However, the problem apparently comes when you examine one of Apple's most touted reasons for having that high-resolution display: watching movies.

"
The gotta-see-it-to-believe-it clarity of the Retina display on the new iPad lets you watch 1080p videos at their full HD resolution. So get ready for more gripping entertainment than you ever thought possible," Apple's web site states.

However, CNET.com yesterday published an article
saying that videos from Netflix, YouTube and iTunes don't look much different on the new iPad than they do on the iPad 2.

CNET's David Katzmaier describes how he downloaded a high-def version of Hugo to both the iPad 2 and the new iPad, which purports to offer double the resolution of the older model. The new iPad automatically downloaded a 1080p version of the Martin Scorsese film while the iPad 2 got the lesser 720p edition.

However, Katzmaier says differences in the two "were extremely subtle...
Colors looked quite similar on the two."

Then the CNET writer watched Lost via Netflix on both the iPad 2 and new iPad.

"
One of the best high-quality shows on Netflix is Lost but as I expected, I couldn't see any differences in detail between the two iPads when I watched the 'Some Like it Hoth' episode
," the reviewer states.

CNET apparently doesn't believe that the Retina display delivers "gotta-see-it-to-believe-it clarity" when watching movies, which is again one of the big reasons why Apple says you would want to upgrade to the new iPad.

So while you will experience some benefits for paying more for a high-resolution screen -- text, still images, for example -- CNET says don't expect your movies to look any better.

___________________________________________________________________________


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"Improvement" #2
The new iPad's A5X Processor

Techland.com, the tech page for Time Magazine, notes that Apple claimed at its launch event that the new A5X processor would deliver four times the graphics performance of the quad-core chip used in Android tablets.

"Others are using
chips like this Nvidia Tegra 3," Apple marketing guru Phil Schiller said at the event in San Francisco. "The Apple A5 was already twice as fast. And the new A5X brings four times the performance. It is a graphics powerhouse."


Did Apple trick us all?

But Techland writes that Apple's claim is "misleading." The site notes that the web sites Gizmodo and Laptop tested the speed on the new iPad and a Tegra 3-powered Asus Transformer Prime and found they are similar.

"
Sorry to disappoint you, but there was no clear winner here," Gizmodo wrote. "Results seem to indicate that for blasting through graphics, the GPU (graphics processing unit) in the iPad's A5X is faster. But for your average day-to-day usage, the CPU on Transformer Prime takes it. I'd love to see a good, cross-platform CPU test emerge, but until then, we'll just have to listen to nerds screaming at each other."

While I haven't come across a test yet for how the new iPad's graphics speed fares against the iPad 2, it seems that the tech web sites believe that Apple stretched the truth when it promoted the new processor.

"It's also a reminder not to take product marketing at face value," Techland writes.

"Improvement" #3
The 4G LTE Network
The new Apple iPad permits you to use a 4G LTE network from AT&T or Verizon. The plans start at $14.99 a month for AT&T (for 250MB data) and $30 a month for Verizon (2GB).

There's no doubting that 4G is faster than the 3G available in the iPad 2, but at what cost? Several publications have noted that streaming video, music and online games will gobble up your data plan like a Pacman, causing you to upgrade to a more expensive plan or pay heavy overages. The danger here is so great that CNET recommends that you should "think of (4G) LTE as your lifeline when you're out and about, so use it sparingly."

The site adds: "If
you expect to stream movies, music, and video 24-7 over 4G, then save yourself the $130 extra for the device (the 4G version costs $130 more than the Wi-Fi version), the monthly data charge, and the potential overage fees and stick to Wi-Fi- -- or drastically adjust your expectations. Even with Verizon's 10GB plan for $80, wanton data use will have you busting through your limit in just a couple of days."

So, to sum up: The Retina, high-resolution display is nice for text and still images, but won't make your movies look much better. The new processor might be faster, but not faster than what you'll find in similar products. And you might lose your shirt if you use 4G.

What's going on here? What is Apple selling us? And why are so many of us running to the store to buy it?

Is this the high-tech, commercial equivalent of a Jonestown?

If you've got an answer, let me know below in our comments section.


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