Apple plans to release the iPad 3G on April 30 to those who have preordered the device and shoppers who plan to pick one up at the company’s retail locations. Now that a launch date has finally been confirmed, it’s time for consumers who have yet to order an iPad to consider which version of Apple’s tablet they really want. Admittedly, it’s a difficult decision. Both devices have advantages and, depending on a how a consumer plans to use the tablet, opting for the cheaper WiFi-only version might be a good bet.
But for potential iPad owners who are still on the fence and can’t quite decide which version to pick up, we’re going to make it really easy for you: the iPad 3G. As nice as the WiFi-only version of the iPad is, it will look like the hobbled cousin of the 3G version once that’s released next week. Owners should be able to get much more out of the 3G version than the WiFi-only model. It might be more expensive, but the iPad 3G is the best bet both for consumers and for enterprise customers.
1. It’s 3G
Let’s just get the obvious point out of the way: The iPad 3G allows users to connect to a high-speed Web connection wherever 3G networking from AT&T is available. That’s important. Currently, owners of the WiFi-only iPad can only connect to the Web whenever they’re within range of a wireless hot spot. That means no checking e-mail in the car or surfing the Web at a park. If nothing else, 3G connectivity provides users with options that the WiFi-only version doesn’t. That’s a major selling point for many consumers.
2. Look toward the future
Although Apple will support both versions of the iPad, the 3G model future-proofs consumers. What Apple and developers have planned for the iPad is unknown. They could offer new features or interesting new applications that would accommodate owners of both versions of the tablet. But there’s a stronger possibility that as time goes on, Apple will only offer improvements to 3G owners. It followed a similar strategy with the iPhone in an attempt to move consumers to the newest version of the mobile phone. What would stop it from doing the same thing with the iPad?
If a consumer plans to use the iPad as more than just a Web-surfing tool, the 3G version is the best choice. As Apple has said time and again, it wants to make the iPad an alternative to current mobile computers, like netbooks or lightweight laptops. Users can type up documents, create spreadsheets and perform several other tasks. But having the option of connecting to the Web wherever a 3G connection is available will increase the user’s productivity. Sure, a WiFi-only model would be similar to using a desktop or a standard laptop, but 3G increases productivity beyond that.
4. You’re an enterprise customer
Although the iPad looks like a consumer-focused device, it has some uses for company employees. The device is readily mobile, its virtual keyboard works well enough to get work done and, thanks to 3G, employees can be online at any point in the day. The corporate world will find a lot to gripe about when it comes to the iPad, but it might also like what it sees in some cases. If an enterprise customer is looking to use the iPad at work, the 3G version is the only option.
Facing Facts About the iPad
5. More app possibilities
Part of the value of owning an iPad is the access to Apple’s App Store. Since the iPad comes without several apps users might want, the App Store quickly becomes the go-to place to find all the functionality that Apple doesn’t bundle with its device. In many cases, that means needing a connection to the Web for the app to work as described. When a user is home, connecting to the Web via WiFi isn’t any trouble and using such apps is a cinch. But when away from WiFi, only a 3G connection will be able to keep the iPad as functional as a user wants.
6. More GPS ability
Unlike the WiFi-only version of the iPad, the 3G model comes with full GPS functionality. As soon as a user boots up the iPad 3G and works on it away from a WiFi hot spot, GPS satellites will be able to pinpoint its location. The WiFi-only model, on the other hand, uses known WiFi hot spots to find a user’s location. Although that’s better than nothing, it doesn’t truly pinpoint the exact spot at any given time for use with location-based apps. That might not be a deal breaker, but given the recent popularity of location-based services, more users than we think might want to have their exact locations broadcast to the rest of the world.
7. 3G coverage is optional
The beauty of the iPad 3G is that users aren’t forced to enter into a contract when they buy the device. So, if users decide that 3G might be useful down the road, but for now they will be content with WiFi only, they can still buy an iPad 3G. If or when they decide they want to connect to the Web via 3G, they need only pay $15 per month for up to 250MB of data or $30 per month for unlimited data. And they can cancel that service at any time. Not bad.
8. The WiFi-only version won’t be supported for long
If we consider Apple’s history with mobile products, it becomes clear that the underpowered, old models that it once offered are quickly phased out in favor of new, capable versions of the respective device. Remember the iPhone 2G? Yeah, it’s history. And since multitasking will only make its way to the iPhone 3GS, it looks like Apple is trying to push users to the newer version of its mobile phone. Apple has a long history of doing that. The iPad won’t be any different.
9. The time factor
The iPad 3G has been in the cooker a month longer than the WiFi-only version of the tablet. That’s important. Lest we forget, the WiFi iPad suffered from connectivity issues that Apple is still attempting to address. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the 3G model won’t suffer from those problems too, but given the fact that Apple has known about it for a month, it’s entirely possible that a fix has already been implemented in the 3G model. The same can be said for any other quirks Apple might have found along the way. The WiFi-only iPad might be a robust offering, but the 3G version will likely be a little better.
10. This is Apple we’re talking about
If Microsoft was offering two versions of the same product, getting the hobbled model probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. That company has a long history of supporting products until it really shouldn’t. But Apple doesn’t. Steve Jobs has made it clear with every product his company offers that the most expensive versions of that device will get preferential treatment over the cheaper versions. It makes sense. Apple can make much more off the more expensive models. Plus, by only giving desired features to the more capable versions, Apple is softly prodding customers to move to the new product. Apple doesn’t like less capable products. That will quickly become clear with the WiFi-only version of the iPad.