But publishers fixed things surprisingly quickly. Now most major magazines have beautiful, technically sound apps. (The New Yorker’s hasn’t crashed in weeks.) Magazines have also begun to offer their digital content at a sensible price; indeed, many of them give you the digital version as part of a standard print subscription. That’s a terrific deal for everyone—magazines get to keep me as a print subscriber, which is good for their ad rates, while I get to read their stuff in a variety of ways .
The bigger surprise, though, is how much the Retina display has increased my enjoyment of the iPad. When Apple added the high-resolution display to the iPhone two years ago, I thought it was pretty but superfluous. A phone is a device that I glance at while on the run, not one that I bury my nose in when I’m looking to relax. However great the pictures and text look, I’m going to reach for a larger screen if I’m in the vicinity of one.
I used to think of convenience as the iPad’s main strength, too. Because of its shape and long battery life, it’s an easy way to browse the Web anywhere in the house. Plus, you can use it to play games in the bathroom. But the Retina screen has made the iPad more than just a convenient consumption device—now, for some uses, the iPad offers a qualitatively better experience than a PC. In addition to improving magazine browsing, the Retina screen has made the iPad my premier place for looking at photos. When I browse pictures on my much larger computer screen, and my even bigger TV screen, they look blurry by comparison.
This too-blurry thing has begun to haunt me, actually. When I switch from the iPad to a regular computer monitor, everything looks uglier, and it takes my eyes a few minutes to adjust. I put up with it because I have no choice—I can’t get a laptop or desktop with a screen as good as the iPad’s.
Apple seems to recognize the power of this effect—there are reports that it will soon add Retina displays to its laptops. This would be a boon to the many graphic artists and video producers who use Apple’s portable machines, but I think it would prove attractive to regular people, too, especially if the Retina upgrade comes at no additional price (as happened on the iPhone and iPad). No other computer maker has figured out how to add these super-resolution screens to their devices, so Apple has a chance to lead the market and force everyone to catch up. They’ll have to. Once you see how good these paper-killing screens look, you can never go back.