Buy vs upgrade vs skip: Should you get the new iPad?

Buy vs upgrade vs skip: Should you get the new iPad?

If you don't have an iPad, should you make the new iPad  your first? If you already have an original iPad or iPad 2, is it worth upgrading to the new iPad? How about if you're using a BlackBery, webOS, or Android tablet, or a Windows netbook? To buy, to upgrade, or to skip and wait for the next one (or something else) is the bottom line for all of us. Is the new iPad just an iterative update or a must have, and for whom?

Here's what to consider.

Should you buy the new iPad as your first tablet?

The new iPad: Everything you need to know!


That's not being facetious. If you're in the market for a tablet, there are smaller options, cheaper options, and option that even do one or two very specific things better.  As a complete devicee, however, no one else is giving away this much technology in this easy-to-use  package at this good a price. Not even close.

  • If price is an issue, consider the $399 iPad 2. You'll miss out on some fantastic specs, but it's ease of use and supporting ecosystem are second to only one.
  • If price and size are an issue, consider a $199 BlackBerry PlayBook or Amazon Kindle Fire. You'll miss out on the ecosystem but get a lot of bang for your buck.
  • If you really need a certain feature the iPad lacks, like a more desktop-style interface, consider one of the many Android tablets or wait for Windows 8 slates. Less ease of use, smaller ecosystem, but typically more flexible and configurable.

But seriously, if you're considering your first tablet, get the new iPad.

Should you upgrade from the original iPad?

If you're currently using the original, 2010 iPad and have absolutely no problems with it -- you're not annoyed by Safari reloading pages when it runs out of memory, you're not annoyed by the latest graphically-intensive games and video or photo editing apps crashing or just plain refusing to run, if you don't need to ever take photos with it, then you're fine. Keep rocking the original iPad until it gives out.

If you're original iPad is starting to feel a little long in the tooth, however, you may want to consider an upgrade.

There's 4x the amount of RAM in the new iPad, which makes everything last longer and go smoother. The optional HSPA+ 42mbps and LTE 72mbps radio literally runs rings around the old GSM radio. It has a good rear facing camera as opposed to none at all. And that Retina display will be like taking your smudged up old glasses off and cleaning them for the first time in years.

You'll also have access to all the latest, greatest, most cutting edge apps with nary a compatibility issue to frustrate or stymie you.

Unless you're an incredibly low-maintenance user, the new iPad is a no-brainer update from the original.

Should you upgrade from the iPad 2?

iPad 2 Hero

If the iPad 2 is currently your weapon of choice, you have the biggest dilemma on your hands, and the hardest decision to make.

Physically the new iPad looks almost exactly the same as the iPad 2. If you're an average user who simply has an iPad for some light reading, browsing, emailing, gaming, video watching, etc. and you enjoyed it enough on the iPad 2 yesterday, you'll likely keep enjoying it the same on the iPad 2 tomorrow.

If you had any pain points, however, especially any big ones, it's worthwhile to consider the new iPad.

  • If you're a hardcore gamer or productivity maven whose tolerance for lag is less than zero, the 2x RAM boost and quad-core graphics boost likely make it a done deal
  • If you're a photo and video enthusiast who really wants a real camera, that 5mp, F2.4, 1080p lens might tempt you to upgrade.
  • If you've gotten used to dictation on the iPhone 4S and want it on your iPad, you'll find it on the new iPad.
  • If you live on mobile data and need the fastest 4G LTE speed possible, you'll be screaming on the new iPad (at least in Canada or the U.S.)
  • If you do nothing but read and wish the iPad screen looked as good as the iPhone 4S, you've got a Retina-equipped upgrade coming your way.

Most people will be fine sticking with the iPad 2 most of the time. If any one of the new features, or a combination of the new features solve a significant problem you've been having  -  it's a worthwhile upgrade.

Should you upgrade from webOS, Android, or BlackBerry?

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 vs. iPad 2 feature comparison

If your current tablet of choice runs Android, webOS or is a BlackBerry PlayBook, here's where it gets tricky.

  • The iPad isn't as customizable as Android unless you Jailbreak it (think root), and that's not always possible at first when a new device comes out.
  • The iPad won't play Flash videos, only H.264 HTML5 videos. So if you absolutely have to have Flash, you're out of luck.
  • The iPad has a slick interface and excellent user experience, but in terms of multitasking and notifications, it's still not as elegant as webOS on the TouchPad. (Then again, they aren't making TouchPads any more.)
  • The iPad only comes in one style and screen size. 9.7-inches slab. No minis, no maxis, no clamshells, nothing fancy.
  • No Sprint support, no LTE support outside North America. (Though it does support HSPA+ 42mbps)

But the iPad has a lot going for it as well.

  • The iPad has multiple layers to it; the first layer is that it is so incredibly easy to use that the most non-tech savvy of people, people who find computes too complex or intimidating, can pick it up and get going with it immediately. At the same time, it's highly appealing to expert and veteran users users who want to spend their time getting things done, not getting their tablets to do things.
  • Apple was the first to put a usable web browser on a tablet and absent Adobe Flash; Safari is still the most powerful HTML5 browser in the business. Likewise, the built in Mail app shows rich content with pictures. VPN, ActiveSync, and other enterprise-friendly features are also built right in.
  • It's become a cliché but there really is an app for almost everything on the iPad. While other platforms are struggling to field tablet-optimized apps, the iPad App Store is drowning in them. Pretty much every major app and currently all the best games are easily available in the App Store and are so functional people actually use them more than the great web browser these days.
  • iTunes and now iCloud, which does a lot of what iTunes used to but without the cable, lets you easily sync your existing content and also gives you access not only to the App Store but iTunes music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U (University) and overall more content in more parts of the world than any other service.
  • Google services, Microsoft services, Dropbox, and other services are also well supported by Apple and/or apps.
  • If you live near an Apple Store, and you have a problem with your iPad, there's no passing the buck between retailer and manufacturer - there's no sending your tablet away for lengthy repairs. You make a Genius Bar appointment, you show up, they fix your iPad or swap it for a new one (if you're still under warranty or Apple Care). They'll also help you set it up and teach you how to use it. If you're new to tablets, this is the single best reason to go Apple.
  • Apple also creates a ton of other products to supplement the iPad, including Mac computers, software for Mac and Windows, and together with their partners provide more cases, chargers, docks, car kits, and accessories of every kind. No other smartphone has the quantity or quality of extras, from fashionable to functional, that iPad has.

If you've only been using another platform because you were waiting for the 2012 iPad to make the jump... jump!

If there's something your current platform does that you know for sure the iPad doesn't do, then stick with your current platform, you'll only frustrate yourself.

Should you upgrade from a netbook?

This is more difficult to answer and a lot will depend on your personal use case. Flippantly, I'd say "yes, in a heartbeat". Netbooks have failed as a product category because aside from being small and cheap they were simply really bad computers.

For specific things like surfing the web (sans Flash), email, watching hi-def video, playing games, reading eBooks, etc., the new iPad simply smokes a netbook. Add a Bluetooth keyboard and you can even pound out significant amounts of content just as well as netbook.

About all you can't do is run Windows or Office. If those two things are vital to you (and they are to a lot of users), you'll be happier with a netbook.

If you don't depend on Microsoft and apps that run on Microsoft, get the new iPad.

Any questions?

If you've already decided to get the new iPad, let us know which one you got and why. If you need more advice or want some other opinions, just ask!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Buy vs upgrade vs skip: Should you get the new iPad?


Great article, thanks! I'm an iPad 2 owner.. and after yesterday's presentation, I still haven't decided if I'll upgrade to the new iPad.

iPad is the biggest waste of money known to man. Just by a Playbook under $300 has way more functionality than this giant iPod touch. It has flash which the iPad Doesnt and You can even connect it to your big screen which is awesome and is also something iPad can’t do unless u buy an overpriced adapter which can only do 4:3 not even 16:9. You isheep are so brainwashed over this crap..

very ill-informed comment... tablet is not a religion... get over your grudge and enjoy superior technology of iPad. Or else stay in you shell salivating over your "precious"...

RIM is a failing company and make terrible products. They dont put enough time and effort into a single product to make it good so all of them are just mediocre. I am the BES admin for my company and have had tremendous struggles with blackberries. Thats why we are starting to switch to iPhone/Android and it has been smooth sailing.

Flash sucks. It's slow and buggy on computers, PlayBook and Android tablets.
The iPad doesn't need HDMI out cause it has the beautiful Wireless AirPlay mirroring. Leaps ahead.

I held out for the iPad 2, but for whatever reasons, did not get one. So the iPad(third generation) will be my choice. The price is the same, and all I need is the WiFi version. the thought of retina on the iPad is amazing. Glad I waited. If I had the iPad 2, would not upgrade. I have the iPhone 4S, and that would be enough. It really boiled down to what I need a iPad for vs a Mac, or pc. With just the iPhone, I rarely use the pc. My work has now allowed us to use exchange on the Apple devices, but it is really geared to the iPad screen size. It will be nice.

Honestly I was confused on upgrading to the new iPad, but being that I currently own the iPad 2 and my girlfriend has been dying to get her hands on an iPad. I think the decision is easy now, because the differences between the two make it worth the purchase and I can just give her the iPad 2 since she is not such a heavy user of the iPad as I am. Just the camera alone caught my attention. For those who are android lovers I cannot argue the fact that it is more customizable, but at the same time some of the apps aren't that great as they are on apple devices.
(btw..I'm currently a nexus owner and not afraid to admit I am somewhat of an apple lover)

ipad 2 owner here, in the past i was planning on upgrading and giving my gf my ipad2, but she ended up getting one. after the presentation there is nothing that makes me jump out and replace my current device, its going to do all the things i do pretty much the same, and the whole retina thing to me is not that enticing.

Besides the actual name, this tablet looks amazing. iPad is to other tablets what iPhone was to other smart phones 2 years ago. Like it or not, the iPhone has lost its lead on Android and once any user is "stuck" playing around with a top/current Android device they'll quickly learn that iPhone 5 better deliver because in the phone market, Apple has lost their lead. Don't get me wrong its a remarkable phone. Innovative in almost every way. But it's fallen behind. The iPad, however, remains way ahead of the competition. I don't see iPad's losing their lead in this category for some time. Their computers are so far ahead and their marketing is second to none. Apple makes the general public believe that their products are flawless, indestructible machines that don't break. But they do. However, like this article mentions, their customer service is phenomenal. The iPad wasn't broke, so I'm glad they didn't try to "fix" it. The iPhone, however, is great but is in desperate need of "fixing" :)

@HG - You think Android phones are better but that iPad is better than Android tablets.
Other than the obvious which is that iPad is light years ahead on apps, I find your comment perplexing.

I have the original Ipad and it still works fine and I use it everyday. Yes it would be nice to get the retina display. But there is really no reason to upgrade until it does not work anymore.

Ill upgrade from ipad2 just bc the retina display. I hate the resolution on ipad2... It's so frustrating looking at the iPhone's display then look at the iPad's one. Plus! I really need more GBs... buying the 32gbs one next week.

Well said, R! For me the Retina display and the extra graphics ores and RAM plus a great camera really seal the deal. I had an original iPad and sold it to buy a 2 and sold that to buy the 3rd Gen. If I'd kept the original I wouldn't be able to sell it or as much now, so I actually came out ahead by upgrading both times a few weeks prior to the announcement of the next gen.

Xoom tablet owner here, making the jump to an iOS based tablet for the first time. Xoom is great as a fully functioning computer but the software support has alot to be desired. Still keeping around my Droid Razr so I can experience the best of both worlds (and tether my wifi iPad to LTE)

Do you anticipate any problems using your Razr as a hotspot for the iPad? I have Xoom also and am considering getting an iPad, using my Skyrocket as a hotspot. I have had problems connecting my Xoom to an android phone's hotspot(probably a Honeycomb problem).

I watched the presentation on my ipad (1) as the most natural thing in the world. I can hardly remember the days when I didn't have an ipad. My ipad is always with me and I love it. It is 2 years old. I say again, 2 years old!
Apple makes amazing products. The only achievement that exceeds their products, is how they have managed to hype a 1-year lifecycle.
I'm with Steve, that a camera doesn't belong on an ipad. I don't need a screen of such high quality that it's impossible to detect the quality difference unless you use a loupe. No, my safari doesn't reload every time nor do apps generally crash. The ipad - any ipad - just works amazingly well.
The latest ipad is the best tablet made, no doubt about it. Buy it if you don't have an ipad. I plan to check it out when it lands in stores here later this month, but I am not planning to change my amazing, truly revolutionary ipad (1).

Yeah AirPrint or an adapter that costs a paltry $35. iPad Camera Connection Kit. Gives USB port and SD slot

I have the original iPad and my biggest concern is that there will be a whole wave of new apps (in my eyes, iPad content) which I will not be able to have access to.
I'm still debating whether or not to get one, but after reading this, I'm leaning to yes...

Idk why anyone would want "the new ipad" if the appstore looks the way it does just rediculous i hope apple ixesnthis its reminding me of how crappy androids and bbs marketplaces are

Thanks for this post. I was kind of undecided on whether I wanted to upgrade from my iPad 2 or not, but your post put everything into perspective for me. I really am completely content with my iPad 2 and will stick with it until next year's model (:

I'm still debating here. I'm probaly going to get my mom one and test it out. I've been thinking about the Galaxy Note 10.1 as I'm a huge Samsung fan. But your article is ignoring a few things.

  1. If you get an iPad, you can still get access to 4G with Sprint's Network. Clear shares the same network, go with them and you get UNLIMITED 4G (not truly unlimited, but at least 12G before throttling) with a MiFi. It might be something extra to carry around, but at least it's unlimited.
  2. The Kindle Fire is great, but I really wouldn't recommend Blackberry at this point (though BB is the most solid phone I've used to date)
  3. Android Tablets can be great. The Asus branded one, especially the Transformer Prime series are EXCELLENT. BUT they are expensive (more than iPad in some cases) and you might not get good app support to take advantage of all that power.

Even though the new iPad isn't as big of an upgrade as some think, I'd still recommend it simply because its the best definition of a tablet to date. Couple it with Onlive and its near perfect.
One last thing, if you DO get a tablet please make sure YOU HAVE A DECENT LAPTOP. You WILL run into things you can't do..but that doesn't mean not getting one. I honestly love HBO GO better on a tablet than a laptop or even my TV. It's so convient. But when I need heavy editing, a PC is a must.

I have 5 bucks says Office for iPad comes out for 2012
PS I don't know why anyone would buy an Android tablet. Wait for a Windows 8 one. Which would grab my attention potentially as well. Will keep iPad 2 for now.

I recommend to all potential buyers, do not go with the 16 Gb model for the 3rd generation. I did, then returned it 4 days later for a 32 gig. Unfortunateley there were no 32's in stock so I went with a 64 gig. A 16 will fill up faster than you think and I dont care to sync more than I have to. Go for a 32 at a minimum.

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