The iPad 2 is launching today March 11th and consumers looking to grab an iPad may be wondering which model to buy. When the iPad launched in 2010, there were two basic models, the WiFi-only and the WiFi+3G, Each model was available in black and your choice of capacities including 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB. Fast forward a year and you now have three basic models (WiFi, WiFi+3G-GSM,WiFi+3G-EVDO), two color schemes and the same three capacities. That is a total of 18 different configurations for your new iPad 2. We are going to help you navigate this maze of models by pointing out the benefits and drawbacks of each configuration. By the time you are done reading, you should have a better understanding of each model and can use this information to make the right choice for your iPad 2.
WiFi or 3G Model
The iPad 2 can be broken down into two basic models – the WiFi-only and the WiFi+3G model. The 3G model includes an internal cellular modem compatible with GSM or CDMA networks, depending on which 3G model you choose. In the U.S., the GSM model is compatible with AT&T, while the CDMA model will work with Verizon Wireless. Neither T-Mobile nor Sprint will be carrying the iPad 2.
The WiFi model is perfect for people who enjoy using the iPad at home. The device boasts of a 9.7-inch screen which makes it difficult to toss in a bag. You have to be committed to toting around this larger-sized device. If you are not ready to abandon your pocket for a murse, then you should chose the WiFi-only version. The WiFi-only version is also less expensive than its 3G counterpart. The base 16 GB WiFi model costs $499,while the same capacity 3G model costs $629.
Keep in mind that you can still get internet access with the WiFi iPad while out and about using a dedicated WiFi hotspot device or the hotspot feature on your smartphone. Most Android handsets and the iPhone 4 include a hotspot feature that lets you share your cellular internet connection with 3-5 WiFi-enabled devices like your iPad or your laptop. This feature costs about $20 per month and lets you stay connected while on the go. You can also opt to buy a dedicated WiFi hotspot device that connects to a cellular internet connection and lets you tether up to 5 devices via WiFi.
For those that are always on the go and want to carry one device, the 3G version of iPad 2 is a better choice. The 3G version does cost $130 more but its integrated modem makes life on the go drop dead easy. You subscribe to a data plan, turn on your device and browse to your hearts galore. With the 3G-enabled iPad, there is no need to carry a smartphone with hotspot functionality or tote around a dedicated WiFi hotspot. One device and one connection is simply wonderful.
Verizon or AT&T Model
You have decided to buy the 3G model and you may be ready to rest in your choice, but, unfortunately, your decision-making process is not yet over. Unlike the original iPad which was compatible with AT&T, the iPad 2 will run on both AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Potential 3G iPad 2 owners must choose between the two carriers when selecting their tablet device.
Verizon will be selling its version of the iPad 2 with EV-DO connectivity. When compared to AT&T, Verizon’s network has lower overall speeds (on average 1-2 Mbps versus the 2-4 for AT&T in an area where I get 3G coverage for both carriers), Though slower, Verizon has a larger coverage footprint, which is an important consideration for people who travel, especially to rural areas.
AT&T may be faster but that does you no good if you don’t have adequate coverage. When trying to make a decision, take a look at where you will do most of your traveling and compare the coverage maps. If you are always in AT&T coverage, then the higher speeds offered by the wireless carrier may be a better choice. If you travel off the beaten path, then grab the Verizon version which provides coverage where other simply do not.
Another consideration is the pricing for the data plans which vary between the two carriers. Verizon is offering four off-contract data plans for the iPad 2 including:
- 1 GB per month for $20
- 3 GB per month for $35
- 5 GB per month for $50
- 10 GB per month for $80
AT&T is keeping it simply by offering only two month-to-month data plans. These plans can be added to your current monthly statement (postpaid) or paid monthly via credit card (prepaid). Both the postpaid and prepaid option includes
- 250 MB per month for $14.99
- 2 GB per month for $25
Overages on the AT&T postpaid plan will cost you $10 for each extra GB while the prepaid plan lets you buy data in 2 GB allotments for $25 each. Overall, Verizon offers a better value for heavy data users, while AT&T is priced better for those looking to use 2 GB or less.
Original iPad or iPad 2
This is probably the most difficult decision to make when considering an iPad. The original iPad is now available for $399 and refurbished for $349. This $10o or $150 savings may be a critical factor when making a purchasing decision. With the newest model, customers will get a faster processor, dual-cameras, FaceTime support, a thinner profile and possibly increased RAM. The iPad 2 will outperform the iPad 1, but is the performance jump big enough to justify the extra cost?
As an owner of the original iPad, I can tell you that the tablet does great as a casual web browser, for using the occasional application like Dropbox or Grocery Gadgets or even playing the occasional game. It all comes down to usage and what you are willing to spend. If you see yourself using FaceTime, then get the iPad 2 with the cameras. If you play lots of games, then get the iPad 2 with the faster processor. If most of your activity will center around web browsing or eBook reading, then save $100 with the original iPad. For myself, I am going to stick with the original iPad for a while. It is my “on the couch” or “in the kitchen” device and does all that I need it to do for those times when I don’t want to pull out my full laptop.
For those still unsure, we listed the specifications for the various models. The major differences between the three iPad 2 models are highlighted in green.
|iPad 2 WiFi||iPad 2 WiFi + 3G (Verizon)||iPad 2 WiFi + 3G (AT&T)||Original iPad|
|Platform||iOS 4.3||iOS 4.3||iOS 4.3||iOS 4.2.1|
|Processor||1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor||1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor||1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor||1GHz Apple A4 processor|
|RAM||256 MB (?) 512 MB (?)||256 MB (?) 512 MB (?)||256 MB (?) 512 MB (?)||256 MB|
|Storage||16, 32, or 64 GB internal||16, 32, or 64 GB internal||16, 32, or 64 GB internal||16, 32, or 64 GB internal|
|Cellular||N/A||Verizon model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)||GSM model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)||GSM model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)|
|Display size||9.7 inches||9.7 inches||9.7 inches||9.7 inches|
|Display resolution||1024 x 768||1024 x 768||1024 x 768||1024 x 768|
|Display type||IPS LCD||IPS LCD||IPS LCD||IPS LCD|
|Video-out||HDMI: requires Apple Digital AV Adapter||HDMI: requires Apple Digital AV Adapter||HDMI: requires Apple Digital AV Adapter||N/A|
|Rear camera||Unknown megapixel with 720P HD recording||Unknown megapixel with 720P HD recording||Unknown megapixel with 720P HD recording||N/A|
|Front camera||Unknown megapixel with VGA recording||Unknown megapixel with VGA recording||Unknown megapixel with VGA recording||N/A|
|Video calling||Yes (WiFi only)||Yes (WiFi only)||Yes (WiFi only)||No|
|Location, sensors||compass, accelerometer, gyroscope (No AGPS)||AGPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope||AGPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope||AGPS (3G model only), compass, accelerometer|
|SIM||N/A||Micro SIM||Micro SIM||Micro SIM in 3G model|
|Weight||601 grams||601 grams||601 grams||680 grams|
|Dimensions||241.1 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm||241.1 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm||241.1 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm||243×190×13.4 mm|
|Data Plans||N/A||1 GB per month for $20; 3 GB per month for $35; 5 GB per month for $50; 10 GB per month for $80||50 MB plan for $250 or a 2 GB plan for $25||50 MB plan for $250 or a 2 GB plan for $25|
|Price & Availability||$499 for WiFi-only 16GB version,. Available March 11 in U.S. from from Apple and other retailers. March 25 internationally.||Up to $829 for WiFi+3G 64GB version. $629 for 16 GB model. Available March 11 in U.S. from Verizon Wireless, Apple, and other retailers. March 25 internationally.||Up to $829 for WiFi+3G 64GB version. $629 for 16 GB model. Available March 11 in U.S. from from Apple and other retailers. March 25 internationally.||Starting at $399 for the WiFi 16 GB model. Available now in the U.S. and internationally from Apple and other retailers.|
[Updated] Fixed error in the pricing on the 250 MB per month AT&T plan. Now correct at $14.99 per month as of today. Thanks for catching that guys!