Apple announced the iPad as a magical and revolutionary new product, their most advanced technology ever, and their attempt to grow the widely popular iPhone OS into the troubled tablet marketplace. It becomes available for pre-order this Friday, March 12 and goes on sale on Saturday, April 3 (in the US, international launch in late April).
But should you buy one, and if you should, when? Check out our advanced iPad preview for information on the device itself, then keep reading after the break for our advice on buying!
If, for you, the iPad is the "next big thing", the ultimate couch and coffee computing appliance, the best way to read everything from email to ebooks, browse the web and your photos, enjoy music and movies, use apps and play games -- both current iPhone apps and a glorious new class of iPad apps to come, then yes. Yes, you should order on March 12 and make sure your shiny new iPad is bought and bound and arrives at your door on April 3, or is waiting for you to pick-up at your local Apple Store day and date.
What else can we tell you, you decided to buy the moment Steve Jobs put sneaker to stage at the iPad event in February. And you don't even care to wait a month for the 3G version, do you? Sigh. Yes, you should pre-order on March 12.
If this isn't you, however. If you won't buy without touching it first. If you won't take the iPad on faith alone and want a chance to handle it first, to try it out, then don't pre-order. Wait. If you're really super-eager, Apple has another option for you...
That was a trick question. If you're camping out or otherwise lining up outside your local Apple Store, you're hard core fan and just like the pre-orderer above, you already know you want it. And you'll probably line up and get a 3G version too, won't you?
If you're pretty much sold on the iPad as is but you want to make sure, you want to go into the Apple Store and turn it on, swipe it around, launch the apps and play with it a bit, then this is a good option. It'll still be Wi-Fi only on April 3rd and until late April, but after that you can try out an iPad 3G as well. It won't be much different in the Apple Store, of course, but you can think about whether an extra $130 is worth it for on-demand unlocked, no-contract 3G service when and if you need it.
Think about wether you use an iPhone or iPod touch, and whether you're fine with Wi-Fi at home, at work, at the coffee shop, etc. or if you're annoyed not having the internet absolutely everywhere. You likely won't carry your iPad as much as your iPhone or iPod touch (it's not as pocketable) but the option is worth some consideration.
Probably not. Apple did drop the iPhone price fairly soon after launch, but the outrage was such that they ended up giving every early adopter a $100 Apple Store credit by way of apology. They learned that lesson the hard way. When the iPhone 3G came out, heck when the iPod touch came out, they priced it aggressively and have only dropped the price when newer generation models were introduced (iPhone 3GS came in at $199, pushing iPhone 3G down to $99).
If you really, truly want to wait for a price drop on the first generation iPad, then...
If Apple follows the iPhone and iPod touch model, the 2010 first generation iPad will be eclipsed next year by the 2011 second generation iPad. It will likely have more storage (up to 128GB?), more RAM, a faster chipset (Apple A5?), and maybe even a front-facing camera for video iChat (we dare to dream!). Heck it (or the 2012 third generation iPad) could have a higher screen resolution (1080p?), AMOLED, of course, and longer battery life. And when it does, the currently mid and high end iPad will likely become cheaper (i.e. 32GB will replace 16GB at the low end price point).
So, if you have no problem waiting a year, you'll likely be able to get more for less. If anything about the current iPad is a camera-lacking deal breaker for you, if it's lacking the ports, physical keyboard, and camera to make use of the blurry pixel-doubled apps that'll be available at launch, if you just don't trust first generation hardware at all, ever, then by all means you should wait until next year (or later) before buying.
If, for you, the iPad "just a big iPod", something you don't need and have no interest in, is too large to pocket, too limited to run production apps, and has no place between your smartphone and your laptop then you likely shouldn't buy it.
May we offer you something in a JooJoo?
If you're still undecided. Interested but not compelled, eager to try Apple's newest mobile device but wary of being an early adopter, if you're still undecided, here's my thoughts.
What's waiting worth to you? A baseline iPad Wi-Fi in the US will cost you $499. That will work out to $41.66 a month for the next 12 months at which point you could always sell or gift it and buy a second generation unit. Is the usage you get out of a 1st generation iPad between now an 2011 worth $41.66 a month, $1.39 a day to you?
If it is, then get one sooner or later, ordered sight-unseen or after a thorough hands-on. If it isn't then wait until next February or April for Apple to show off and release a 2nd generation iPad and see if that's more to your liking.
That's our advice, but if we missed anything -- or just plain got something wrong -- let us know yours!