iPad 3 Is Coming, but Is It Worth an Upgrade?

NEWS ANALYSIS: While only you can decide if the about-to-be-released iPad 3 is worth the cost for you and your business, there are some changes that might make upgrading worth it.

Apple€™s introduction of the iPad 3 is cleverly planned to coincide with the massive CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, in early March. This means that I€™ll be forced to miss the lines that are sure to stretch for blocks, the madness, the pepper-spraying of fellow customers. But I€™ll still have to make a decision about whether to drop another $500 on a second iPad, assuming Apple keeps the same pricing structure it has in the past, which it probably will.

For people who don€™t have an iPad, but know they€™ll need one, the decision is fairly easy. Wait a month and buy the new one when it shows up at Wal-Mart at a $3 discount. For everyone else, there are a number of questions you should ask yourself to decide whether you want to buy one, or just keep using what you already have.

  • Do you need the new Retina Display? This will give the iPad 3 much higher resolution, which will make photo viewing a better experience, and it will give you television and movies in true high definition. I use an iPad in conjunction with my photography, so for me, this is an easy decision.

  • Are you planning to use the camera? The original iPad didn€™t have a camera, and that€™s the model I have. The iPad 2 had a camera, but it was dreadful. While I€™d never use the iPad 3 camera for anything involving serious photography (I€™m lusting over the new Nikon D-800 so you can see what I mean about photo quality), it would be handy to be able to fire off a quick snapshot while I already have the iPad out anyway. Maybe I could use it for photos from airliner windows.

  • Are you doing anything that would take advantage of the higher-speed processor? We don€™t know for sure whether the new processor on the iPad 3 will be dual-core or quad-core, and I€™m not certain whether it will matter to most people. But the new display needs to have a better processor so that it can display video properly.

  • Will you need Long-Term Evolution technology? The new iPad may have LTE available. It might not. Verizon certainly has enough LTE coverage to be useful, if you need it. But to date, I haven€™t found that I need anything other than WiFi, so it may not matter to you.

  • Do you want Siri, assuming it€™s included? Apple€™s Siri personal assistant could certainly function on an iPad, but to be really useful, Siri needs access to GPS and it probably needs at least a 3G data connection. Currently, you can€™t get GPS in a non-3G iPad. Right now, there€™s no way to know whether this will remain the case in the iPad 3, or whether Siri will be offered on this platform. If you have your heart set on talking to Siri, maybe you should consider an iPhone.

  • Will the iPad 3 really meet your needs? While the iPad 3 will clearly have some very nice features, before you give into iPad 3 lust, remember that there are some other very capable tablets out there. The Samsung and Motorola tablets based on Android are very nice, have slightly different form factors and they have some apps that don€™t exist for the iPad. Plus, if you're an Android user, there€™s some value in the consistent user interface.

  • Can you deal with the ethical issues of buying an iPad? By now, you€™ve heard about the difficult conditions in the Foxconn factories where the iPads are built. Are you comfortable with that? Samsung builds its tablets in Korea, with far better conditions. Motorola builds the Xoom in its own factories, using its own employees. If Apple€™s labor issues concern you, then not buying an iPad is one way to express your concern.

Obviously, the list above is far from the full list of things you may think about when the iPad 3 comes out in early March. But these points should at least kick-start your decision process. One important thing to think about with the iPad 3 is that it appears to be a much greater leap beyond the iPad 2 than the iPad 2 was beyond the original iPad. When the iPad 2 was released, I couldn€™t find a reason to replace my original iPad. The upgrade wouldn€™t do any better at letting me view photos, it wouldn€™t let me use its e-reader features any more effectively, and it didn€™t have any new apps that I needed and couldn€™t get on the original.

But the iPad 3 will be a big enough improvement to actually consider, even if you have an iPad 2. If you need the new features and the iPad 3-only apps, then this might be time to go looking for that $500 you€™ve socked away somewhere. As long as you can deal with the ethical issues.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...