The Gold Medal for product launches belongs to Apple for its mobile devices. When a new iPad or iPhone is introduced, press coverage is abundant and emotions build from enthusiasm to fervor to fevered pitch. Pre-orders sell out; lines form at stores, sometimes weeks ahead; and the product name becomes a trending topic. People tweet, post on Facebook and brag to their friends when they finally have a new iDevice in their hands.
This year is the third time Apple has introduced a new iPad. Two years ago, Apple created the iPad and educated us not only on what an iPad was, but why we wanted one. Tablet computers had been sold before by other companies, but never with much success. Naysayers abounded explaining why the iPad would be a flop.
This year’s iPad, the confusingly named New iPad (I so wish Apple had given this new model a new name!), is the first iPad to launch with significant competition from other devices. Android tablets, most notably the Kindle Fire, have made inroads into the iPad’s dominant market share. Already outselling computers from every single PC manufacturer, the iPad is an amazingly successful product.
With 172 million iPads sold last year alone, how does Apple sell even more? They could do nothing and continue to sell an outstanding product, they could lower the price on their existing model, or they could introduce a new model. Apple chose the latter two options.
Unlike cell phones, there is no natural product cycle for the iPad. Cell phones have two year contracts, providing an opportunity to upgrade the device at a significant discount when a contract is up for renewal. Unlike computers, iPad models have not become obsolete, the original iPad works with almost all apps in the iTunes App Store (unless they require a camera).
Whether you’re thinking about an upgrade, adding to your iPad stable, or getting your first iPad, you should consider your goals before deciding which iPad to purchase.
- Purpose - will you be using your iPad for fun, creating content (artwork, music, videos, documents, etc.), work and/or study?
- Resources – will buying a new iPad put a significant dent in your budget or will your bank account barely blink when you make this purchase?
- Passion – do you love having the latest and greatest tech or do you view an iPad as merely a useful device?
- Functionality – what features do you need to ensure your iPad can do what you need it to do?
The New iPad, launched on Friday, offers three main advantages over the previous model, the iPad 2:
- Better screen – Retina display, more pixels;
- Faster speeds – more memory, better processor, and 4G/LTE connectivity,
- Better camera – HD video recording, improved lens and more megapixels
These improvements are significant technologically, yet Apple kept the prices the same as with the previous iPad 2 prices. Apple is continuing to sell the iPad 2, but at a reduced price, giving you plenty of options for an iPad purchase.
Which iPad Should You Buy?
Because the iPad 2 is still available new at reduced prices, if you’re buying an iPad you should seriously consider why you should spend the extra money to get the New iPad instead of a new iPad 2. The improved features should matter enough for you to lay out the extra cash to get the latest model. The main considerations in deciding which iPad to buy should be what features you want and how much money you are willing to spend.
I received my new iPad on Friday, having owned the original iPad and the iPad 2. I laid out the iPad 2 and the New iPad side by side and asked various people to try to guess which model was the 2 and which was the New based upon the display. I wasn’t being unfair, there is no way to determine which one is the new model without looking at the screen. Since a key improvement in the new iPad is the superior screen display, I asked my testers which model was which based upon looking at the displays.
I had them look at my home screens on the iPad 2 and the New iPad, which both had the same wallpaper and app icons.
They looked back and forth between the two. No one could tell the difference. One frustrated tester even remarked, “What, you wanted the new one just because Apple slapped a new number on it?” I had to tell him, “No, there isn’t even a new number on the latest iPad.” He looked at me quizzically.
I then opened a photo on both the iPad 2 and the New iPad. People still struggled, though some noticed improved clarity in some parts of the photo on the New iPad.
In case you’re thinking that my testers need to head straight to the eye doctor, know that they were not the only ones who couldn’t tell the difference in displays between the iPad 2 and the New iPad. Check out this video to see what happened when The Next Web asked people on the street to tell the difference between the two iPads:
The reason my testers and the ones in the video couldn’t tell the difference between the two is because they weren’t looking at updated apps that take advantage of the improved screen on the New iPad. Apps that are new or have been updated for the new Retina display screen make the most of the New iPad’s capabilities. Kindle, NY Times, Angry Birds, ABC Player and other popular apps have already updated to Retina display graphics are using the New iPad’s improved display to enhance the appearance. (See,
24 Must-Have iPad Retina Display apps for new users)
When shown apps updated with Retina display graphics, my testers were easily able to pick which device was the New iPad and which was the iPad 2.
More Retina display apps are launched/updated daily so if you want an iPad that shows these apps at their best, choose the New iPad. These apps take up more room on your iPad, so if you have an original iPad or an iPad 2, don’t update an app just to get a better image. You won’t see any difference and the updated app will consume more room on your device.
If you choose the Wi-Fi only model of the New iPad, the improvements in speed may be difficult to notice. Loading apps side-by-side and surfing the Internet on Safari all showed that the differences between the iPad 2 and New iPad were barely perceptible.
The most significant speed differences between the two models was when connecting to the Internet over cell phone networks, 3G for the iPad 2 and 4G/LTE for the New iPad. To take advantage of this feature you need three things:
- A New iPad with 4G/LTE (adding $130 to the price)
- Data coverage from a carrier (AT&T or Verizon in the US)
- 4G/LTE Coverage
If you want to have access to the Internet on your iPad when you’re away from Wi-Fi, you will need to buy data coverage from a carrier. You don’t need to commit to a data plan for an extended period of time, you can buy it as you need it. If you find you use data coverage often, you should consider how much data you are using and get a data plan to fit your needs. The figure to the right shows the monthly prices for data coverage for the New iPad.
The increased Internet speed of 4G/LTE only matters if you can actually get 4G/LTE coverage in your area. If you live in Europe, you’re out of luck. The 4G/LTE networks in Europe are not compatible with the New iPad.
If you live in the US, you still may not have 4G/LTE coverage, as it is still quite limited. If you aren’t in one of the 4G/LTE coverage areas, your new iPad can still connect over 3G, but you won’t have the lightning fast speed advantage of 4G/LTE.
Are you really going to use a camera on your iPad? Is the iPad going to be the best camera you have? An iPhone 4S has a better camera, with 8 MP versus 5 MP for the New iPad. If a better camera is your sole reason for getting a New iPad, perhaps you should save your money, get an iPad 2 instead and, with the money you save, get an iPhone 4S.
What About Apps?
Currently only a handful of iPad apps take advantage of the Retina display of the New iPad. More apps are launched/updated every day using Retina display, but these apps can be very large, using a chunk of space on your iPad. As apps become more sophisticated, they grow larger.
Because the storage space on your iPad cannot be expanded, you’re making a commitment when you buy an iPad. Retina display apps, interactive books and HD videos can command much of the capacity of your iPad. For example, Barefoot World Atlas, an excellent interactive atlas app for kids utilizing Retina display, uses 1.5 GB of space. You can see how loading apps and other content on your iPad could quickly make you wish you had invested in more space.
Do you insist on watching movies and TV in HD? Do you save a few bucks renting a video in SD or do you pay the extra to watch it in HD? If you are a big fan of HD and are willing to pay more for it, get the New iPad. If SD is fine and you’d rather save your money for other things, get the iPad 2.
Space on an iPad may be more of a factor for you than the display or speed. If your iPad budget is limited, you may want to invest in extra space rather than the speed or the display. If you get a 16 GB iPad, you might quickly be struggling to manage your space as the new apps overtake your iPad’s capacity. If you’re going to be getting more than a few apps, 32 GB should be the minimum size to consider.
The good news is that you can still get an iPad 2 new. The Apple Store only sells the 16 GB iPad 2 model new, but at Best Buy, Radio Shack and Amazon, you can buy 32 GB and 64 GB models of the iPad 2 new for much less than you can buy the New iPad. (Make sure to compare prices between the retailers as prices vary significantly.)
If you’re considering upgrading from the iPad 2, take a look at a New iPad to see if the improved display makes a big difference to you. If you do a lot of reading on your iPad, you may highly value a sharper display so upgrading would be worth it. But if you use a limited number of apps, and those apps haven’t been updated yet, you can wait until they get the Retina display and then take another look at the New iPad.
If you have the money to spend, want the latest and greatest model, appreciate the improved speed and camera and will use apps that utilize the improved display, then get the New iPad. Just don’t sacrifice space to buy one. With increasing space needed for sophisticated apps, ebooks, HD videos and other content, you will want the highest capacity you can afford.
If the improved speed, display and camera aren’t very important to you, save some funds and get an iPad 2.
Are you considering the new iPad? What features are important to you? Let us know in the Comments section below!
I am honored to have a guest post today at Adrienne Smith’s blog. Please check it out at The Top 10 Sites to Promote Your Business!
* Home screen image display by Brendan Lin
** iPad pixel image by Jeff Turner
*** The Voice image by Gui Ambros