iPad Buying Guide


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.


ted lasky

Just got it, 64gig + 3g and love it already. Web browsing is FAS*T. Cool apps and “Pages”! Why is Apple the only company that does it with style? If it were up to Microsoft, the mPad would be five pounds, and you’d see the “C:>”.

But, then there is, in my opinion, the absolute worst AT&T network. Camels could carry data faster, and more reliably. I have the iPhone, original, and will not upgrade until they get Verizon. And, I hoping some other carrier makes sim cards for the iPad so I don’t have to put up with their truly ridiculous, not even beta-worthy, network.

AT&T: Steve Jobs, what were you thinking!!!?


Nice article! Really appreciate the breakdown on the app and movie sizes! While I dont currently have a MacBook, since mine went kaput about a year ago, I do have my IMac and dont plan on having a highly demanding need to be connected to the app store and the internet 24/7. Now-a-days, you cant swing a dead cat without hitting a wifi hotspot, so I will be getting the 32g wifi model. I also have a feeling that it will probably have automatic connectivity while in sleep like the macbook does. So basically as you take it with you, and hit hotspots you can set it to sync your email. I know I am going to get a reply with “but that means you trust all hotspots and give potential access to your email.” Well that isnt completely true. While the host would be able to see content, they wouldnt be able to get access because of encryption. Plus, I’m not exactly emailing launch codes to the president or anything and dont really care if they read my email.


not the functions, nor the systems, it’s the appearance that doesn’t appeal. would consider one if the edges were thinner, and with a display scale that looks closer to 16:9……


16GB / 3G since I’m in real estate. It will be great to hand to clients while showing homes. Then when the new one comes out I’ll just give this to my wife (she loves getting my hand-me-down Apple gear).

Alan Weinkrantz

I am now leaning to the entry level, because I can always store big stuff on my Macbook Pro. I am hoping that I can travel with the iPad and no longer carry a computer at all.


Is the iPad going to allow you to backup iBook purchases? iPhone Apps don’t need to be backed up since you can always download them for free. iTunes content HAS to be backed up since you can’t re-download it for free. Any idea how this will work for iBooks? Will I be able to download them to my Mac or to a hard drive? Are iBooks gonna be DRM free? Will I be able to share them with other users like the Nook allows?


if it’s 3g and it connects to a provider such as ATT, does it have mobile phone capabilities as well?


Good article. I’m glad I found your site via the “7 in 7” articles you wrote.

To the question: I see iPhone, iPodtouch and iPad as a triad, of which people need two. I would have a TracFone (I’m in the boonies with NO mobile phone reception, so iPhone is a non-starter. TF is cheap and works when I’m in cell phone country). So I have an iPod touch that I now carry when traveling. Away from airports and McDonalds etc. though, I’m off the net.

I’ll add to that a 3G iPad, so I have solution for traveling in a car, or while visiting relatives who aren’t in the computer age, etc. The iPod will be in my pocket when I’m in the meeting room in the city.

I can probably forgo upgrading my aging PowerBook; the things that I use it for that the iPad can’t do better are few. In which case, I’ll upgrade to two iPads (one 3G, one wifi) which wife and I will use at home, plus always upgrade iTouches with big changes (camera version coming?). This cuts my future computer outlays considerably, while leaving me with one or more cutting-edge products, and almost always capable of accessing the ‘Net.

Apple’s going to these things by the boatloads.

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