Since it became available last April, the iPad has been a technological marvel. Its touch-screen, ease of use and wide-range of apps make it a fun and functional device as well as a productive tool for business. There are over 15 million iPads in use today, according to Steve Jobs' March 2 keynote address.
Despite its popularity, the truth is that none of us need an iPad. We just all want one. If you've considered getting one of the new models that came out recently, however, you may have been overwhelmed when you realized there are 18 different options. Here’s a run-down of what models are available, along with my recommendations.
Color - Black or White?
The black iPad is less distracting. It blends with the content you're viewing and is less reflective than the white model. If you're considering the white model, check it out in the store first.
WiFi/3G or just WiFi?
3G gives you internet access whenever/wherever. WiFi only gives you access if you're near a hotspot (at home if you have wireless, Starbucks, etc.) The 3G models are an additional $129, but having the 3G option is insurance that you can get online when you need to. If you’re a business user or frequent traveler, this is important and worth the additional investment. However, I would recommend that you only activate a data plan when you're sure you need one; it’s only a 30-day commitment.
AT&T or Verizon?
Both offer WiFi iPads with no-contract, month-to-month 3G data plans. Verizon offers a MiFi unit to accompany it, which means you get a wireless hotspot for up to five devices. This can be a handy option if you want to connect your laptop wirelessly, too. Keep in mind this bumps up the data plan you'll need, which can get pretty pricey.
The cost of the AT&T and Verizon data plans are fairly comparable. It may come down to coverage. I suggest checking their coverage maps. One important thing to remember is to pick a data plan that you WON'T go over. If you do, it'll cost you. Remember how much we pay for extra texts and minutes when we go over our phone plan? Same applies here.
16GB, 32GB or 64GB... how much storage do you need? What are you planning to keep on your iPad? A 16GB iPad will hold about 400 songs, 400 photos, two movies and a few dozen apps -- including about a dozen books.
There are two cameras on the iPad2 -- a front facing (for video chatting) and a rear camera (for taking stills and high definition video). You should continue to use your smartphone for photos, as it will probably give you better pictures. Many phones can also shoot HD video as well. Your phone is more accessible and probably has similar or better quality than what you’ll get from the iPad2 camera.
If you plan to take a lot of videos, store your entire music library or load all of your family photos, you may want to consider getting the 32GB model.
Once you've decided on which iPad options are important to you, the next decision will be whether to go to a store or order online. Online delivery is currently estimated for two to three weeks, but this may adjust as Apple’s inventory changes. If you want to buy at a store, call first as their inventory is usually sold within the opening hour.
One more suggestion -- the Smart Cover is a very cool accessory for the iPad, as it adheres magnetically and converts to a stand for typing or upright viewing. It also will put the iPad2 to sleep when closed and will wake it up when opened. That said, even if you purchase Apple’s Smart Cover, you should still get a protective cover.
Bottom line: If you have the first generation iPad, it may not be worth another investment for this faster, thinner, lighter model unless you're someone who needs the new model's cameras. Then again, if you're considering buying an iPad, need has little to do with it anyway.