Monday, March 26, 2012

The New iPad: Do you Buy, Wait or get an Android Tablet?

Apple has wisely called the new iPad, just that - the new iPad. The iPad is finally a fixed device in their product line. The first iPad was a proof of concept; like a beta release. Apple was the only one who thought it would fit into our life either as a post PC device or as a go-between the cellular phone and the desktop/laptop. Even though Apple thought it had a need in out lives, there is no denying they too were surprised as to how successful it has been. Most of the world thought it would fail because it was NOT needed. The iPad 2 was a reaction to the many vendors that threatened to release the iPad-Killer tablet in 2011. They added cameras, that they had laying around from the iPod Touch devices, just as a strategy to counter those attacks by the the vendors. Of course most of those threats were empty threats or mediocre devices that did not represent a true challenge. This new 2012 iPad is what the first iPad from 2010 should have been.
For the first-timers
If you've never owned a tablet and you're considering the new iPad for your first tablet, don't hesitate any longer. The iPad will enough tablet power to last you quite a while. Trust me when I tell you, the new iPad's updated features or stats are irrelevant to you in making this decision. How much memory it has or many pixel it can display means nothing to you - and it shouldn't. All you need to know is that the iPad will be used by you (and your household, if you are wiling to share) for than any other device that you currently own. Yes, the iPad will be used more than your desktop computer, more than your laptop, more than your home gaming system, more than your phone and maybe more than your TV.
The AppStore has so many apps that, if you download the right combination, you will have something to do with the iPad for every dull moment of your life (i.e. while commuting on the bus or train, waiting at the doctor's office, sitting in the car until the kids' school bell rings, etc.). If you buy the iPad and don't love it and if you don't use it more than you thought you would, I will let you use my time machine to zip you back to the point in time before you bought it. Oh, I can't, I forgot I don't own my time machine anymore - I sold it on eBay two years ago. Seriously, you'll love it.
What about the iPad 2? Didn't Apple keep it around at a lower price? Yes, the 16GB iPad 2 is now priced at $399 (or $529 with 3G), and the iPad 2 offers most of the same overall features, but with an extremely less quality camera and a less quality screen. It is capable of running all of the same software (for now), it's technically lighter and thinner, and because many current owners will want to trade up to the new iPad, you could possibly pay even less for the iPad 2. You could get with the iPad 2, but when others show you their new iPad months later or you visit an Apple store or other retailer and see the quality of the new screen, you are going to be pissed that you made such a big deal about a $100 difference in price. There are apps today that won't run on my iPad 1, so it is likely that the iPad 2 will start to be excluded from the approved list at some apps take true advantage of the new iPad features. Why buy now and not give yourself the best opportunity? Really the $100 will seem so small at that time, I have been there before - trust me!
If you are looking for a tablet and think that you will only use it for e-mail, web browsing, and general amusement - think again. With the iPad selling as well it has already done through the pre-sales online, you can be guaranteed that there will be more people telling you about their "must have apps". Don't think that you can go get a cheap $199 tablet and have as much fun and options. The experience on those tablets WILL NOT be the same. I love Amazon, they have all ways been my favor go to online retailer. Their Amazon Fire is not the tablet you want to get for the long run!
If someone is offering you the original iPad 1 for around $200, then take it. You won't get a better $200 tablet anywhere else. This will make a great starter device for the kids or as the "house" tablet to keep people off of yours.
For the upgraders - this can be tricky.
If you have a first-generation iPad, it's time to upgrade. After two years of use, you're now at a tipping point where your iPad's A4 processor does a less spectacular job of running the more advanced apps. The biggest feature of the iPad 1 that will begin to affect your tablet experience is the memory. I am not talking about the internal storage (16GB, 32GB or 64GB), I am talking about the measly 128 MB of memory that is available for the loaded apps. This is typically called RAM. When you start to draft an email, but then switch over to Safari to research and then cut and paste information; the RAM is where this information is stored. That song you have playing in the background, it using RAM. The iPad 2 has 512 MB of RAM and the new iPad has 1 GB of RAM. This means they can run more memory hungry apps and allow you to run more apps at one time.
The longer you wait, the lower the resale value of your particular model of iPad 1 will go. If you sell now, you could make about $200 towards your next iPad. In my opinion, anything less than $200 is not worth selling it. I would rather gift it to someone in the family. Heck a two year old iPad is still more valuable than a brand new Kindle Fire. Like I said above, the new iPad is really the first iPad; so this is the experience that we thought we would get when we bought the original. I have the iPad 1 and will upgrade as soon as I can. I didn't preorder, nor will I be in line in the morning, but I will get it soon.
The choice then becomes: iPad 2 or new iPad? Unless you're just began reading this article at this paragraph you know the iPad 2 is not the device for you. You skipped the iPad 2 when it came out either because it didn't make sense to upgrade because of the incremental upgraded features or you were cash strapped after the first buy. Heck you may have felt that there was no need to even get anything better. Now come the new iPad with the improved screen, gaming performance, 4G data, and higher camera quality. This is the device you want.
The cheapskate might say go with the $399 iPad 2. Coming from the first iPad, the iPad 2's slim design, light weight, dual-core processor, and dual cameras is in fact an upgrade, but not worth forking out the cash - not then and not now. A new tablet owner may be tempted, but as a current iPad 1 owner, you know better.
The iPad 2 now only comes in one capacity (16GB). Yeah, if you sell the iPad 1 for $200, then you only really paid $100 for the iPad 2, but believe me you won't like the decision for two long. Logically, if you have the money to jump from the original iPad to the new iPad, it's a better investment for the short-term and in the long run as well.
For existing iPad 2 owners considering an upgrade, the choice is more difficult. On the plus side, the new iPad's vastly improved screen is stunning for e-books, movies, games, and photos, and the upgraded camera (and iCloud Photo Stream) makes it easy to feed that screen great shots that you can create on the device itself. You also have those 4G models available from AT&T and Verizon, which seemingly offer the first good deal on 4G data we've seen on tablets.
But if you're happy with your iPad 2 and you don't want to part with any money (especially for an iPad that's technically thicker and heavier than your current iPad), there's not much here that dramatically improves the basic capabilities of the device. Unless you count dictation, there's nothing the new iPad DOES that the iPad 2 can't. The new iPad WILL do most things a little better because of the improved A5X processor and doubled RAM and of course the new iPad's screen is way better than anything on the market.

Of course the iPad 2 has cameras too, but they suck. The new iPad's rear camera is actually very useable for both pictures and 1080p videos. Some people have complained that you will look dorky holding an iPad up to capture pictures and video, but I disagree. I think the benefit that it provides will out weigh any stigmas that may exist temporarily until we as humans make the adjustment that we will ultimately make. Heck, I used to lug a huge VHS equipment home video camera around in my lifetime. This won't need a power cord after 15 minutes. Plus you have the tools to edit, modify and improve the captured media without removing them from the device.
I personally don't think that the upgrade from the iPad 2 to the new iPad is justifiable. I felt the same way about the jump from the iPad 1 to the iPad 2. But if you're feeling the limitations of your iPad 2 and you'd like the new version with its feature upgrades, who am I to deter you. The average trade-in value for a current 16GB iPad 2 is around $200-$250, which would knock a nice chunk off the price of a new iPad.
For professionals
In spite of being criticized as a "couch potato" or consumer-only device, the iPad has infiltrated the professional world in a huge way. If you already use an iPad for work and are wondering if the upgrade is worthwhile, here's how I would see it.
Do you think that the new iPad's high-resolution display will give you a professional advantage? If you're a creative professional or Real Estate professional who routinely shows off a visual portfolio to your clients, then it's a worthwhile purchase.
Next, consider what impact the 4G data capability may have for you. If you're a jet-setter who travels light, the iPad 4G offers a combination of durability, design, battery life, and wireless data bands that you won't find in other products.
Finally, there are the little touches that may hook professionals, such as Bluetooth 4.0 peripheral support, voice-to-text, and 1080p display mirroring over HDMI (with a $49 adapter or a $99 Apple TV).
Unlike the iPad 2, both the Verizon and AT&T models of the new iPad support worldwide 3G GSM networks for connectivity, but 4G won't be available globally.
To 4G or not to 4G?
For business people 4G is something you have to look at because the speed is much improved. Most of us are used to paying a two-year contracts for data coverage via a mobile hotspot. I use a Verizon MiFi because I need connectivity for the iPad and my Ultrabook. So I am already paying for 4G, so I don't need 4G built into the new iPad.
If you don't already have or need connectivity to other devices like laptops, then the 4G ma be an option. Plus the new iPad can become a hotspot if the carrier allows it. It appears that Verizon will allow this, but AT&T will not (at least out the gate). This might be a factor for some. Plus the 4G data plans associated with the new iPad is based on a month to month basis. Plus there are no contracts to get in the way.

I still groan at the $130 you pay up front for the privilege of Apple soldering in a wireless modem that probably costs it a few dollars to produce. Still, as ploys go, it feels a little more honest to me than a two-year contract.
So, down to brass tacks. Is it worth the extra $130 for a 4G-capable version of the new iPad?

Well, if you have the extra $130, go for it. Aside from the up-front cost, it's a no-risk feature. You don't even have to activate it unless you're in a pinch and can't find a Wi-Fi connection. Think of it as a security blanket.

But before you take the plunge, it's worth spending some time figuring out if your phone can already act as a 3G/4G hot spot that can be connected to a Wi-Fi-only iPad. Your phone is something you're always likely to have on you, so it may be a better option for your "just in case" cellular data than spending $130 on a feature you may never use. Plus, looking at current resale prices of older iPads, the value of the additional cellular data feature doesn't necessarily add as much to resale value as an investment in capacity.

AT&T or Verizon?

When you go to buy an iPad 4G, don't just blindly choose the model on your existing carrier. The models and capabilities of each carrier's iPad 4G are slightly different, and since you're not tied to a contract, you're free to choose whichever carrier you'd like.

If you're really hoping to make the most of 4G data speeds, be sure to check each carrier's coverage map to see if 4G is even offered where you live. Also, check the pricing on each carrier's data plans for the iPad. Currently, AT&T offers the lowest entry-level monthly plan, but pricing may shift over time.
If you plan on taking the new iPad on any globe-trotting adventures, do some research to figure out which carrier's iPad will be most compatible with your travel plans. Fortunately, unlike the iPad 2, both carrier models for the new iPad support worldwide GSM/UMTS networks and include Micro-SIM card slots that can be adapted for foreign networks.

Finally, if the idea of using your new iPad as a cellular hot spot appeals to you, take a moment to make sure the feature is supported by your preferred carrier. At launch, only Verizon is supporting the iPad's new hot-spot feature. Even if AT&T jumps on board, there's a good chance that each carrier will handle the hot-spot capability differently, and there's always a chance that additional fees could pop up, so do your homework.


Final thoughts

Here's the spoiler: it really doesn't matter what you do. If you wait another year, the next iPad will only get better. If you buy it and you're unimpressed, there's a good chance that you can make nearly all your money back selling it used. Who knows? If you're lucky, there'll be a shortage and you can turn a profit.

But whatever your thoughts on Apple, the company has not made its billions by disappointing customers. Odds are, you're going to like this thing.

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