To some degree, Apple is playing catch-up, because many of the tablets built around Google's Android mobile operating system have had 4G for some time.
Where Apple continues to claim a huge advantage over Android and other tablet rivals is in the apps ecosystem. The iPad runs almost all of the 585,000-plus apps sold or available free in the App Store, and more than 200,000 apps now are designed specifically for the iPad. Android still has comparatively few tablet-specific apps.
A screen to die for. The display becomes your window into all those apps. And the brilliant screen on the new iPad is the thing that will have you salivating.
You're probably thinking the displays on the first iPad and the iPad 2 were pretty sweet, and you'd be right. Watching movies, reading books, surfing the Web, playing games and admiring photos on the older tablets is not an unpleasant experience.
But then you have a look at what Apple calls the "Retina display" on the new iPad, technology first applied to recent iPhones, and you're blown away.
Examine the new screen side-by-side with one of its near-10-inch predecessors, and you'll swear you just had Lasik surgery. Text on Web pages or in books is so crisp and sharp that you don't want to go back to reading on an older iPad. Movies and photographs reveal rich detail.
Apple explains that with a resolution of 2048 x 1536, and 3.1 million pixels (four times the number on the iPad 2) the screen on the new iPad is sharper than your high-definition television. The company's marketers are using the word "resolutionary."
Apple helps drive the spectacular display with a new version of one of its chips, the A5X, with quad-core graphics. Even Apple goes all geeky on you every now and then.
Photos and video. Last time around, Apple added those two cameras to the iPad 2; this time Apple souped up the optics.
There's an autofocus, 5-megapixel iSight camera, which unlike the camera on the iPad 2 can capture high-definition video up to the 1080p standard. (Movies also play back in full high-def.) The camera has face detection, a sensor that performs well in low light, a fixed f/4 aperture and other optical enhancements.
Taking a lot of pictures or videos with the iPad is a matter of preference. It's not exactly a point-and-shoot replacement and is a little awkward for shooting. Held a certain way, you can sometimes inadvertently cover the lens when pressing the onscreen shutter button. The alternative is to take pictures by pressing a volume button on the side.
But the still images and video shot are generally pleasing, despite the absence of a flash. You can do minor edits inside the built-in Photo app and easily tweet images you've shot from within the app. Apple is also pushing a custom $4.99 iPad version of the iPhoto software that is familiar to Mac owners.
If you shoot video and are prone to shake, you'll appreciate the built-in video-stabilization feature that helps steady your footage. And even if you don't plan on shooting much, many apps take advantage of the cameras on the iPad.
Dictation. Apple may have kept Siri off the iPad's roster for now, but it did add a dictation feature that lets you use your voice to create notes, e-mails or to write something in Apple's optional Pages word-processing app, or for that matter any Apple or third-party app in which you summon the virtual keyboard.
You tap a microphone icon and start speaking, then tap again when you're done. The iPad almost always spits out results right away, but doesn't always hear correctly. For example, the word "maybe" was heard as "baby."
But more often than not the accuracy was decent enough that it wouldn't take long to manually fix errors. Even the commas were typically put in the right places.
The battery. Apple claims up to 10 hours for the Wi-Fi-only models, same as before, and nine hours for 4G and about an hour less for Wi-Fi + 4G.
The iPad got through an entire day of being worked hard with no battery problem. Inside the device is a larger-capacity (and physically larger) sealed battery than the one in the iPad 2.
The third-generation iPad may not be the game-changer that Apple's original tablet was, but you know how this movie is going to end. Apple is going to rake it in on the heels of its latest matinee idol.
Follow @edbaig on Twitter; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclosure: Baig is co-author of iPad For Dummies, an independent work published by Wiley.
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