iPad Buying Guide

53 Comments

We all know that you want an iPad. You haven’t even touched one yet, but you have read every word published on the device since before it was announced on Wednesday’s event. You’ve been up all night dreaming about surfing the web, and looking at your address book in split view. You can’t wait to download iTunes movies and watch them on the gorgeous 9.7″ LED-backlit, glossy widescreen multi-touch display with fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating.

In fact, you have been repeating that last sentence in your head all morning as you watch the keynote again after downloading the high-res podcast from iTunes. You are making a list of which iBooks you will buy from the iBookstore so you can decide which title will be the first to have it’s icon gracefully displayed on your faux wood electronic bookshelf.

You are going to buy an iPad. All that is left to decide is which one. This, unfortunately, could be a difficult decision.

What Are the Choices?

There are six variations on the iPad with various combinations of storage, with and without 3G support, ranging from $499 to $829.

Somewhere in that $330 spread is the perfect iPad for you.

Storage Capacity

You have three choices here: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB. How do you decide how much you need?

iPhone apps are generally pretty small (a quick survey of the 400+ apps I have in my library indicates that they range from 56KB for single-purpose utilities to almost 200MB for some 3D games). It would take a lot of apps to fill up your iPad, even when you consider that the larger screen size will likely require iPad-specific games with larger graphic assets to fill that amazing screen from edge to edge with gaming goodness.

Email and all that doesn’t require a ton of onboard storage either, especially when you are using something like Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo, IMAP, Exchange or any other solution that keeps most of your archived messages on the server.

Music and movies are the big culprits here. If you want to carry around a lot of music and movies on the device, you will want the bigger capacity iPad. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll want to watch movies on this thing and show them off to your friends.

The real kicker is the pricing. It costs $100 to go from 16GB to 32GB ($6.25/GB) and $100 to go from 32GB to 64GB ($3.13/GB). The storage is actually getting cheaper as you buy more. Don’t be conservative here. Buy the biggest model you can afford.

To 3G or not to 3G? That is the Question

The 3G model offers nearly on-demand access to a wide-area network when you are out of range of Wi-Fi. In the United States, that access will cost you $14.99 for data transfer up to 250MB for the month, or $29.99 for unlimited data. With no contract required, you can sign up for these data contracts on the iPad itself only when you need it (no word yet if you can upgrade mid-month from 250MB to unlimited for the prorated difference). In addition, you also get access to AT&T hotspots as part of your subscription.

But Why Would You Want 3G?

Adding the 3G support to the iPad will cost an extra $130 on top of whatever size model you choose. I think the biggest reason to splash out for 3G is that this model includes support for assisted GPS. You won’t get GPS at all on the Wi-Fi model. The mapping application demonstrated during the iPad introduction (shown at 22:35) looks absolutely stunning andis  a huge improvement over the iPhone. The speed on the new A4 processor in the iPad really takes the Maps app to the next level.

The only other reason to get the 3G model is to plan ahead for the possibility that you might need to use the iPad while not near Wi-Fi. If you’re taking this thing out to client meetings, conferences with sketchy Wi-Fi, or Apple press events filled to capacity, you will love having a wide-area network option available.

You might consider using a MiFi or other mobile hotspot to provide connectivity for your iPad while out and about, but those solutions all require long-term contracts. If you already have a MiFi or similar device, then just use that. If you don’t, the 3G model at least offers the opportunity to get online when you need it.

Other Considerations

iPhone Users: If you have an iPhone, the iPad 3G might not be necessary. If you are really in a pinch where you can’t use Wi-Fi, you can rely on your iPhone until you get back into range of an access point.

Upgradeitis: It seems obvious that there will be a new iPad next year. Who knows, it might even have a camera. If you think you might upgrade next year, consider what you need for the next 12 months. I think the two models that will have the highest resale demand in 2011 will be the low-end $499 device because of the price point and the $829 64GB 3G model because it will still be appealing to a power user that is looking for a used iPad to save a little money over next year’s high-end model.

What Am I Buying?

I was leaning towards the $829 3G model because I know I will love the iPad but now I’m pretty sure I’ll get the $499 Wi-Fi model. I want an iPad, but I already have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. If the iPad proves indispensable, I will sell the original iPad once iPad 2.0 comes out and buy the biggest and baddest model then.

Tell Us Which Model You Will Buy

Here’s your chance to weigh in. Vote in the poll to tell everyone which iPad you’re planning on buying.

53 Comments

Salkinium

“It costs $100 to go from 16GB to 32GB ($6.25/GB) and $100 to go from 32GB to 64GB ($3.13/GB).”
Actually you would have to subtract the standard 16GB from your calculations.
They do not cost “zero” dollars in the base version…
Results: $100/(32GB-16GB)=$6.25/GB, $200/(64GB-16GB)=$4.17/GB
=>”It costs $100 to go from 16GB to 32GB ($6.25/GB) and $100 to go from 32GB to 64GB ($4.17/GB).”

FBronze

It seems quite serious there are no exact usage of iPad; since iPhone had been, HAD BEEN, blamed for their usage -expansive, but no specific- it seems it is hard to blame them either.

But the fact is, the reliability of iPad is not high as other devices, iPad is the PC, but not because it requires real COMPUTER to use it! I have been using iPhone since 1G, and using iPhone 3G right now, and still without syncing to iTunes iPhone always became unstablized machine.

I can not say what iPad is, since I didn’t buy the ticket or get the invitation this time or didn’t really been there, but it seems it at least requires other netbook, which Mr. Jobs never ever relied or admitted as computer, to sync in iTunes.

How Ironic.

Marco

And what if AT&T gave you the option of tethering with your iPhone for an additional $25 a month on the wifi only iPad?

Cathie

Question –
Can you use the non 3G IPad with MiFi or do you need the 3G model to make that work?

Weldon Dodd

I don’t see why not. The MiFi provides a regular wi-fi connection available for any device to use, including the iPad.

Glenn

Living in a town with population 50,000+, yet having no 3G within 250 miles, and wi-fi available everywhere, I will opt for the wi-fi version.

Simon

Will I be able to use iPhone tethering ability to get access to 3G on a wlan-only iPad?

Paulo

My only question is if it will be possible to tether the 3G internet connection from the iphone to the iPad…
It it is possible then it will be the wifi version for me since I already have a 3G plan on the iphone and whenever i’m not on a wifi zone I can use the tethering from the iPhone…

Christopher

No, I won’t buy one. Definetely not. We have a PC, a MacBook and an iPhone to surf the net etc. The two latter ones even do well for couch surfing.

Maybe if and when the iPad (stupid name) has a camera for video conferencing I will get my mum one to see her grandchildren regularly. But that be in 2011 at the earliest and mayby I’ll just get her some different device then.

Zac

I’ll get one. Life is too short to wait for version 2. Time is something you can never get back.

The software that was demonstrated seemed unfinished to me. I expect to see the home screen, dock etc to be changed to suit the iPad better.

I also expect to see ‘smart’ multi-tasking, ie the iPad won’t let you have apps open if you are not using them, limit the number of apps, notify you of battery drain of open apps which you are barely using, etc or something along those lines. Or that’s what I would design into the system. I would not allow 15 apps open for example.

David

I’m a college student, and am looking forward to buying my iPad. Can you guess which Ill buy? Yep, the damned cheapest. It will be replacing my lynux netbook (with only a 4GB HD) which I use everyday to type notes directly into Google Docs. Im expecting the apple case, and a bluetooth keyboard, to run at least another $250. Guess I’ll have to mow some lawns this summer.
@Jan, you sell it on craigslist to all those college kids who cant mow lawns!

Jan

Several people have mentioned that when the next upgrade of the iPad comes out that they would sell the one that they purchase this year. That sounds good, but who do you sell it too? How do you sell it?

Tsubame

Not having an iPhone (but having an iPod Touch) I see myself getting the 16 GB 3G model.

I have my iPod for music, no music is going on this device. On the other hand, I may want a movie or two, but probably only on rentals so I don’t realistically need more than 16 GB of space on this thing I feel.

I may consider 32 GB too, but probably no more than that.

3G because well, I don’t have an iPhone, it’d be great for me.

Mike

I will be getting one. The 32 GB with WiFi and 3G would be the best way to go on a new devise like this cold. It being an Apple devise is the only reason I would get a new devise at all. Think about the load of junk this would be if Microsoft tried to bring this out. Me personally I am waiting till next year and getting the 2.0 and let all of you work out the “gee I wish it had this…” type of things.

tys

I’m leaning toward the cheapest model.
I’ll get it a month earlier and I can use tethering for wifi.
I don’t see putting my music collection on it and probably only occasionally watching movies, so 16GB is fine.
Like others have said, I may go top-o-the-line when the next generation comes.

Petr

No need for 3G. If you have iPhone with data plan and your carrier allow tethering (or you hacked it) why bother paying another one. I assume you carry your iPhone everywhere, so why don’t just tether internet to the iPad over BlueTooth where WiFi is not available.

Lawrence

I think either the 32 or 64 GB WiFi only would work for me – I already have an iPhone – why would I need 3G functionality on the iPad? The WiFi versions release about a month earlier than the WiFi+3G, and I know I won’t want to wait for it! Plus I don’t really want to give AT&T any more money for their spotty service. Oh, and the non-3G version weighs a tenth of a pound less and doesn’t have that ugly black strip on the back of it. Small things to be concerned about, but weight and appearance are important… I anticipate using the iPad predominantly at home (so what’s the need for location services?) and when I go out, I have my iPhone…

Veit

The iPad with 3G is a MUST for me and also for business use. I travel internationally 2-3 times a year. Today, buying international data access from AT&T is outrageously expensive. With the iPad, I will be buying one-month pre-paids from Apple’s partners in the countries I visit and just swap SIMs. Unlimited data access for 30-40 Euros? You cannot beat that!
Mid-term, I’d like to travel with just an iPad, but on the first trips, I will bring my notebook as I learn more about the limitations of the iPad’s business apps (Pages, Keynote and I also expect ports of some other office apps to show up). Even better, Apple shows an adaptor for SD cards on the iPad’s website. Presumably just for photos and videos but I wonder whether that gets opened up to allow office apps to open files on an SD card. But hey, I can dream.

mpmchugh

If only AT&T would offer iPhone users a $15 per month unlimited tethering plan for the iPad — that would be ideal.

David

Seriously! Im convinced everyone at ATT is lying to me about not having tethering available for the iPhone. We know it can be done, so WTF are they doing?

Brad

I’m springing for the basic $499 wifi-only model. As the article mentioned, I have an iPhone, so if I NEED access while not covered by wifi I can just use my iPhone. It’s not like the 3G-only features provided on the iPad are not offered on the iPhone that I already have and already pay for the data for; the only advantage would be the screen size, and I deal with it now so I think I can deal with it during the few times when wifi isn’t available. Additionally, when I am using my navigation on my iPhone I am usually driving or walking, and I can drive holding the iPhone in one hand or picking it up as needed. I don’t think the iPad would be convenient (or safe) to pick up and hold in one hand while driving, and I can’t imagine trying to mount it on my dashboard or center console. On a less-important note, I don’t like the black plastic on the top back that the 3G antenna necessitates. $499 will be a nice starter price, and when the new and improved model comes out next year, I can upgrade to 3G at that time if I find that I am missing it.

Jason G.

I was leaning towards the $829 3G model because I know I will love the iPad but now I’m pretty sure I’ll get the $499 Wi-Fi model. I want an iPad, but I already have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. If the iPad proves indispensable, I will sell the original iPad once iPad 2.0 comes out and buy the biggest and baddest model then.

This is EXACTLY my thoughts. At first, I was just going to get it all. Then, I realized that my iphone will always be in my pocket, and I get by with that now. Having an iPad with 3G probably isn’t necessary. And, if I spend less now, I’m less wary of upgrading when iPad 2.0 comes out. Less fights with the wife too.

Sadie

Considering that I own an iPhone 3GS and a computer, I have zero desire or need for an iPad.

cc

The site’s domain name is…

“smart bitches trashy books”

No wonder the bad review. They need to change to IPads from their PC tampons.

Anthony

The 3G model with 64GB sounds like the one to go for, there’s no substitute for speed not to mention true mobility! Storage will be key but GPS sounds very interesting. Any idea how it will cope when a 3G signal drops off to a GSM one? Will filling a bigger screen with a non 3G signal still be at an acceptable speed? While I’m at it what about syncing with mobileme? Will it update changes I make on my iphone? Also when syncing with itunes can you you choose what to sync to the ipad or will it simply mirror the iphone?

Weldon Dodd

EDGE is quite a bit slower than 3G on my iPhone. The bigger screen won’t really matter for loading web pages. The iPhone downloads the whole page and then optimizes the display for the small screen. The iPad will also download the whole page and then optimize for the bigger display.

MobileMe syncing is usually just small changes (like a new phone number for one contact) and goes quick enough that you won’t notice on 3G or EDGE. It should have full syncing just like an iPhone. You’ll want to do the first sync on wi-fi.

When syncing with iTunes, it should be like any other device (iPod, iPhone, AppleTV) where you choose what to sync for each device individually.

Aaron Smith

I came to the exact same conclusion. This will be an extravagance this year, but next year when the model with the camera and 4G (LTE) come out, and my iPhone 3GS is feeling long in the tooth, the high end version will be much more appealing.

So $499 for this year (plus the keyboard dock, of course).

I’m wondering it they’re going to pull the same thing they did with the original iPhone and drop the low end model and price before the end of the year. I could see them doing a major revision to the line around Halloween to hit the holiday sales. Then again, they could just wait the full year…

Mike Perry

You’re right, at $130, the cellular model almost makes sense solely for the GPS, particularly if some clever navigation apps come out to take advantage of that 10-in screen. It’d be much better than navigating with a tiny iPhone screen.

cc

Somebody is going to come up with a nice car mount.

Garmin and Tom Tom must be bummed!

HD

Cool article and touched exactly on the point that many people are scratching their heads right now, which model to get?

I was leaning towards to entry level one and then thinking of reselling it when another model comes up, but I like the idea of having 3G/GPS on it. I already have an iPhone. So tough to decide.

As for another user’s question on the size of eBooks. I have a Dan Brown novel in ePub format that’s about 1.3 MB, so you can fit a lot of books in there. Currently I read books using Stanza on my iPhone.

What to buy? What to buy? I know I will want next year’s model as well, so I have to think this through.

adam jackson

Yeah. I’ll be getting the one with 3G and scrapping my current 3G Data Card that plugs into my MacBook Air. I only use the 3G card for email and most things my iPhone does already, i just find comfort in the air for that larger screen. At $65 bucks a month, the $30 a month 3G price for iPad is killer and with no contract.

Pair that with real GPS and it’s a no-brainer. I’d love the 64GB model but that’s really getting into some serious cash. $729 will probably be where I stay. Especially considering it’s 9.5% sales tax in CA so $729 becomes $800.

If Amazon sells the Wifi + 3G version which means tax free I might go for the 64GB strictly for resale value. My iPhone 3GS w/ 32Gbs of storage has been adequate for music + movies.

but I have to add, My MacBook Air is in my day bag every single day. Even days that I spend all day at the beach, at the park or walking around the city taking photos, the MBA is always with me w/ the 3G card because work calls and emailing / loading up complex HTML pages on the iPhone just isn’t any good. The iPad will replace my MacBook Air as the overnighter / weekend trip work.

MacBook air will still be my primary travel machine and the Core i7 iMac will still happily sit at my desk for work & play.

rick m.

Interesting article, thanks. One thing not mentioned that would help me decide what model to buy is the size of an average e-book. Do you know what is the size (in MB or GB) of an average digital book?

HD

About 1.3 MB per book (epub format). It may vary depending on what graphics and illustrations it may have, but purely text novels are about that size.

Weldon Dodd

It depends a lot on how many images are included. Text, by itself, is tiny. Moby Dick by Herman Melville is about 650KB in ePub format. War & Peace by Tolstoy (the longest book I could think of to check) is 1.6MB.

Galley

I’m not 100% positive if I would need a data plan or not, but I’ll be getting a 3G model so I at least have that option.

bart

I’m looking at the 16gb-wifi model. Since it’s got bluetooth, I figure I could tether it to my iphone and use the 3g connection through the phone (the way I do with my macbook now).

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