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Which iPad is right for me to buy?

If you’re planning on buying an iPad when it goes on sale this Saturday, you have some deciding to do. Unlike the iPhone, there are six different versions of the iPad, ranging in price from $500 to $830.

The three models shipping this weekend are Wi-Fi only, while another three — shipping late April — include both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.

Your first decision is between those two fundamental differences: Wi-Fi only, or 3G plus Wi-Fi? After you decide which route to take, from there you need to pick a storage capacity: 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB.

For a lot of us, the decision is complicated by the fact that we already own an iPhone or iPod Touch — or another smartphone, for that matter.

So let’s break it down for you.

Wifi or 3G?

As far as I see it, the iPad is a device that will either be used by someone who spends most of their spare time lounging on the couch, and the other is the businessman who travel a great deal.

For the majority of users, Wi-Fi will probably be sufficient, assuming you have a wireless network set up in your home.

But nonetheless there’s a strong argument for choosing one of the 3G-equipped models. If you travel often, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a hotel lobby or restaurant that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, and at that point the lack of 3G could be irritating.

3G will cost you more, of course. Each 3G model costs $130 more than the corresponding Wi-Fi counterpart with the same storage.

What makes the 3G option especially intriguing for the iPad is there’s no contract. It’s all month-to-month, and you only buy a plan when you need one: $15 a month for 250 MB or $30 a month for unlimited data. During the months when you’re not traveling, you can simply turn the 3G service off.

In short, if you’re a very mobile person, the 3G model probably suits you best. If you’re a homebody, you’ll be happy with the Wi-Fi version.


If you have a lot of music, videos and presentations and you are planning on putting everything onto your iPad, then 16 GB will get filled up pretty fast. Thus, we would have to recommend going with a 32 or 64 GB model. However, I use Spotify for all my music needs, so no space will be filled on the device with mp3 files, thus saving a lot of room (Spotify will be launching in the USA in the 3rd Quarter of 2010).

The iPhone/iPod Touch factor

If you already have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, a good question to ask is whether an iPad will fit in to your life at all. The truth is the iPad is so new that it hasn’t proven to become a necessity for anyone, and if you’re using an iPhone, you might find it fulfills most of a tablet’s potential functions already.

Also unknown is the degree to which the iPad will play nicely with your iPhone — in particular, whether it’ll be possible to tether the iPhone to the iPad, which would eliminate the need to spend more money on a 3G model and its associated monthly fees.

Steve Jobs said in an e-mail to a customer that tethering an iPhone to an iPad would not be doable, but we doubt that’s completely true, if you’re willing to take a few risks. There’s a good chance the iPad will be jailbroken (i.e., hacked) as soon as it’s released, so a tethering workaround seems probable — though be aware that jailbreaking can void your warranty.

If you own an iPhone, our advice would be to wait a few weeks to see if a tethering solution emerges before deciding between the 3G or Wi-Fi model.

And if you own an iPod Touch, which was cleverly touted by Jobs as an “iPhone with training wheels,” then the iPad 3G is a good opportunity to graduate to the cloud. The best part is that you won’t need to commit to a hefty monthly contract like you would with an iPhone, so an iPad 3G is all the more appealing.

The Bottom Line