Some people don't have a clue as to why they need the new iPad

Do consumers really understand why they need the new thing from Apple? No, they don't, in many cases.

Though some people I talked to on Friday said the new iPad (top) was definitely heavier and thicker than the iPad 2 (bottom), I was pleasantly surprised at how similar--as in almost identical--the two were.
Brooke Crothers

Visits to two Apple stores on Friday confirmed my Apple Shiny Slab Theory. That is, some consumers, deep down, don't really know why they buy the newest Apple thing.

After attending a meeting in Hollywood on Friday, I stopped by an Apple store down the street in Century City (aka, Beverly Hills) and another in Santa Monica. I estimate I spent more than two hours total in those two stores.

My intention was not only to try to gauge the level of interest in the new iPad but also to form (I hoped) a bulletproof rationale for upgrading from my iPad 2.

During the course of comparing my iPad 2 with the new iPad (see photos) one numbingly consistent (as in "here we go again") query to Apple staff by prospective buyers--and I'll paraphrase--was: "Hey, I really don't see any difference between this new iPad and my iPad 2. Can you show me what's different?"

The Apple staff was quick to rattle off 4G, better camera, dictation, and, of course, the Retina display. But the improved camera and dictation was of little interest to the buyers I stood next to. 4G was important to a few but not material for others.

But, ah, that new display. Everybody was obsessing about that. That glorious, pixel-packing, eye-popping screen.

Too bad most of the people--again, this just an infinitesimally small sample of people standing at the same table during the couple of hours I was there--could not see the difference.

They squinted at text, flipped through photos, and scrolled up and down Web sites. And the refrain became predictable: "Hey, I still really can't see any difference." Or bottom-liners would just say something to the effect of: "No diff, man." (The latter group was typically at the store very briefly and seemed to quickly decide that they weren't interested.)

The text on my iPad 2.
The text on my iPad 2. Brooke Crothers
Text on the iPad, gen 3. The difference between the iPad 2 and new iPad is more noticeable in person..
Text on the iPad, gen 3. The difference between the iPad 2 and new iPad is more noticeable in person. Brooke Crothers

But most customers were obviously searching for reasons to buy. And I chimed in on occasion, laying out what I believed was a critical difference. "See, the text is more resolved, less pixelated on the new iPad." And indeed it is (again, see photos). My commentary seemed to have little effect, though.

"Yeah, I kind of see what you mean," was the tone of most responses. (Translation: "OK, the text is a little prettier. So what?")

But wait. They bought the thing anyway! I witnessed one guy whip out $900 in cash (all twenties) after asking a few hasty (and very untechie) questions about the screen. Others were not quite as impulsive but were close.

Almost to a person these people did not seem to be tech savvy. They didn't come into the store with notions dancing in their heads about Retina Displays, pixelation, quad-core graphics, or LTE vs. HSPA+.

So, this confirms my Apple Shiny Slab Theory. In short, certain buyers will, zombie-like, march to the Apple store and part with their cash. Yeah, they have vague ideas about new cool tech, but it's all very vague.

And, come to think about it, it's still a little vague to me as well. That's never stopped me, though.