Apple's iPad 3G is now officially available to U.S.-based customers. The device boasts all the same features as the WiFi-only iPad, but with the major addition of 3G, which will allow users to connect to the Web when they're away from a wireless hot spot but within range of AT&T's 3G network.
So far, the iPad has been a success. According to Apple, it has sold more than 1 million iPad units since the tablet launched at the beginning of April. And by the looks of things, that success will continue as more users find reasons to buy a tablet rather than a notebook or netbook.
But deciding which tablet they should buy may be difficult. Although the iPad 3G seems like a better option for most folks, it might not be. After all, the newly released tablet is expensive and, for many users, the ability to connect to the Web at home is all they really want.
Besides that, there are other options making their way to the market that might satisfy consumer desire more effectively than Apple's tablet. At this point, we don't know what these options will be. But one thing we do know is that Apple's iPad 3G might not be the best option for most users. It's certainly nice to be able to connect to the Web away from home, but in the end, adding 3G connectivity isn't as decisive as some thought it would be.
1. The iPad with WiFi is just fine
When owning Apple products, most consumers should want to have every option available to them. After all, it's possible that when future iterations of iPhone OS or new versions of applications arrive, owners of the more capable iPad model will benefit most. But that might not happen. Currently, Apple seems intent on supporting both iPad versions equally. Plus, the WiFi works beautifully on the cheaper iPad version. And for most users, living with just WiFi connectivity hasn't proven to be an issue. The option to connect to 3G might appeal to some, but in the end, those same folks might quickly realize that the WiFi model does the job.
2. It's expensive
The iPad is not a cheap device. Consider that there are currently dozens of netbooks on store shelves that offer more functionality than the iPad but at lower prices, and it quickly becomes clear that Apple's tablet is a luxury product. Realizing that, should consumers really pay a $130 premium just to have the ability to connect to AT&T's 3G network? If so, then they should also remember that to connect to 3G, they will also need to pay between $15 and $30 per month depending on usage. If they opt for the cheapest iPad 3G model for $629 and get the cheapest data package, they will still pay more than $800 for the iPad 3G in the first year of ownership alone. Yikes.
3. Do you really want to pay extra money every month?
Speaking of that, consumers must ask themselves if they really would like to pay an additional $15 to $30 just to access AT&T's 3G network every month. Apple has marketed the iPad 3G as the device that will give consumers and enterprise users the options they really desire. But once they find out that they will need to pay a relatively substantial sum just to connect to the Web when away from WiFi, it could prove to be more trouble than it's worth. Luckily, AT&T doesn't force iPad customers into a contract, so they can opt to stop paying for 3G access at any time. But at that point, the iPad 3G is little more than a WiFi-only model.
4. The 3G can't match WiFi
As anyone who has used AT&T's 3G network knows, accessing the Web through the service can't compare on any level with a solid WiFi connection. In my experience with AT&T 3G, I've found that connecting to the Web can be agonizingly slow. And compared with WiFi, it's no contest. Granted, the 3G will provide users with access to the Web in places where WiFi isn't available, but its usefulness can be called into question. For most, 3G will be used as a last option, rather than the desired connection.