This post is a response to several questions Iâ€™ve received from readers and friends who are on the fence about buying an iPad. I have found that in each case that Iâ€™ve answered the question, the answer always varies and for this reason I will try to come up with a list of scenarios based on feedback as well as include information about these two models to help you decide which is best for you. As this article states I regret purchasing the iPad Wi-Fi model for a number of reasons which Iâ€™ll be sharing with you below.
If you have an iPad purchasing experience to share or regret buying the model you chose, please share it with us and why you would have bought the other model instead. This post is intended for current and potential iPad users, refrain from spamming about your thoughts on why other tablets are better, etc. This is not an Apple vs. the competition post.
Note: I purchased a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad and I regret not buying the 3G model.
Before we begin lets start with the most obvious differences between the two devices.
You will notice that the 3G model of the iPad has a black plastic cover that can be seen on the top edge of the device when viewed from the front. This black area is the 3G antenna the device uses to communicate with cell towers. You will also notice that the Home Screen displays a 3G Status icon which indicates the device is usingÂ a 3G connection. Other than that the 3G model weighs an extra 1.76 ounces and has additional software options that allow you to connect to 3G service from wireless providers.
The iPad 3G Model starts at $629 for a 16GB model and the Wi-Fi iPad starts at $499 for a 16GB and itâ€™s a $130 difference I would be more than happy to pay. If you happen to get a 3G iPad you then have the option of signing up for two data plans. These data plans require no contract and are paid on a month to month basis.
iPad Pricing by Model
The data plans come in two flavors; a 250MB/month or a 2GB/month plan, each at $14.99 and $25 per month respectively. The best part is that you can manage your 3G account from within the iPad, thereâ€™s no need to call AT&T, deal with customer service representatives or anything like that.
Screenshot of data plan selection within iPad.
There are several instances that I have found myself left with an utterly useless i Pad. I recently spent a week at the beach where I took my iPad and my laptop to do some work between breaks. I was already prepared for fact that there was no Wi-Fi at the property we were staying at, I had setup tethering for the iPhone 4 with my laptop. However I wasnâ€™t prepared for the fact that I barely used the iPad during the entire week, this led me to the conclusion that unless you are playing games on the iPad or have movies/videos stored on your iPad, it is absolutely useless without an internet connection.
My wife and I travel to visit the in-laws quite often and in that 4 hour drive an iPad with a 3G connection would be perfect. Not only will it make the trip more entertaining it will also serve as a great GPS device when we are going around exploring. Thereâ€™s no GPS out there that can compare to the 9.7 inch touch screen on the iPad, but of course if youâ€™re on the road you need that connectivity for maps data.
Lets imaging for a moment that you had an office or a cube with a good angleâ€¦could you imagine all of the stuff that you will be able to do and watch while at work, during your lunch hour of course. With a Wi-Fi connection you will most likely be locked out of the wireless network at the office so the next best thing would be your 3G iPadâ€¦think about it, no need to worry about being tracked online. If you happen to use Mozillaâ€™s Firefox Home App all of your bookmarks from your home computer will be synced to your iPad and you will be able to access all of your favorites while â€œworkingâ€ very hard.
So you got to friendâ€™s house to show off all this really cool stuff that your iPad can do, but as it turns out your friend has no Wi-Fi connectionâ€¦there goes all the cool stuff you can show on the iPad. Sure you can show them the SketchBook App from Autodesk, but then youâ€™ll be showing your friends how much you suck at art. Itâ€™d be cool to be able to pull up Netflix at a friends house and watch the latest episode of 24 or Prison Breakâ€¦but you cannot do that without an internet connection.
So there you have it, some scenarios that should help you determine whether or not you should buy a Wi-Fi or 3G iPad, like I said, it boils down to what you expect to be doing with it and where.
Other iPad Buying Advice
Should I wait for the next iPad? It depends, rumors are flying that the next iPad will sport a 7 inch screen and run for a lower price, rumors also have this device coming out this holiday season. Of course none of these rumors have been confirmed by Apple, but there are some good sources. I would probably get the 7 inch iPad to write about it, but I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d trade the 9.7 inch screen for anything smaller. If these rumors turn out to be false, then the next iPad will probably be out sometime next year. So it really dependsâ€¦you could sit there and play the waiting game, but as we all know, in the world of technology there is always something new right around the corner.
What features will the next iPad have? This is all speculation, but sources online indicate that the next iPad will sport the following; smaller screen size (7 inch), Retina display (like the iPhone 4), different design (to match iPhone 4), iOS4, cameras (front and back a possibility), additional memory.
Is screen glare a problem with the iPad? Yes. The screen is beautiful, however I find the reflective surface to be extremely annoying. You might want to look into getting an anti-glare film sold by these companies.
Speck iPad Anti-Glare Screen Protector Film 2 Pack from Buy.com
Premium Apple iPad Anti-Glare Screen Protector from Buy.com
Will the iPadâ€™s screen get scratched? Although unlikely (I have yet to scratch mine) the iPadâ€™s screen can and does get scratched, to give you some piece of mind there are companies out there that make anti-scratch films for the iPad, I highly recommend Zaggâ€™s products because they have a lifetime warranty, but I will also list others you might want to consider:
invisibleSHIELD Screen Protector from Zagg.com
Do I need aÂ case for my iPad? Yes! Iâ€™ve reviewed some cases on this site, but nothing comes close to the iPad case from Apple. It offers a flap cover for the screen. Itâ€™s thin, protects the iPadâ€™s entire body from scratches, and it looks great on the iPad, it also serves as an iPad stand. The only thing that sucks is that it runs for about $40 from the Apple store.
11 iPad Observations that I Agree With
I subscribe to a great blog iPad Learning Lab which you should check out where I found some great iPad observations that I agree with. I have adapted Nigel’s conclusions based on my experience with iPad, but they are very similar.
- Once you own an iPad it will become part of your digital life, your laptop and your iPhone will forever envy it.
- It is a great device for consuming content, however the content creation needs to be simplified a bit more – this is where developers come in. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good and easy to use apps out there, but it is a new way to interact with a computer and developers are still trying to figure out ways to improve the content creation piece.
- It offers an awesome web experience (no Flash though)…think about it. You can take the web with you anywhere there is an internet connection and it’s comfortable.
- Bundled applications like Calendar, Mail, Notes, have a long way to go. Paid alternatives offer a better experience.
- The keyboard is very easy to get used to, especially if you have an iPad case which offers support for the device.
- An iPad case of some sort is a must. The back can scratch and extra padding goes a long way in case of a drop.
- You may end up fighting with your kids and your spouse (in my case, my wife) to get your iPad back. My 7 month old baby loves playing the piano and my wife loves accessing Facebook and the web on the iPad.
- There are a ton of hidden features and awesome apps out there, check out the iPad page and join iPad forums to learn about new tools and iPad tips.
- If you’re going to buy the iPad and can’t decide between a 16GB/32GB/64GB model, the minimum you should opt for is 32GB, with movies, apps, and pictures, space tends to be scarce. Trust me. I bought the 16GB and wished I would have gotten the next size up.
- Wi-Fi or 3G? I hope that the article above has convinced you of my stance on this question. 3G all the way, if you don’t plan on using it just don’t pay for that particular month, simple as that.
- It’s fast. I have yet to experience a moment of angst because I’m waiting for a process to complete or waiting for something to happen. The good apps barely crash and turning on the iPad is an instant away.
Whichever iPad you decide to buy you can be certain that you will find easy to follow how-toâ€™s, iPad App reviews, accesory reviews, and other iPad information on our iPad page.
If you have any tips to share, please use the comments form below.