iPad 2 buyers guide

TiPb helps you decide if you should buy an iPad 2, on which network, and whether you should get it now or wait until the next generation

iPad buyers guide

Trying to figure out if it's a good time to buy that iPad 2 -- or if you should get the now-cheaper original iPad or maybe even try to hold out for the iPad 3? Or maybe you're still trying to decide if the iPad is right for you, and considering some tablet alternatives? No worries, TiPb has your back -- here's our iPad Buyer's Guide.

Should you buy an iPad 2 or something else?

iPad 2 is the sequel to a category-establishing tablet but no one device is right for everyone. If you want something that "just works", that brings the best internet, apps, and games experience, that's supported by the massive iTunes and Apple ecosystem (tons of content, tons of accessories), and that allows some hacking via Jailbreak, then iPad 2 might be for you.

iPad 2 advantage

  • Ease of use: iPad 2 offers several levels of experience but the first level is so incredibly easy to use that the most non-tech savvy of people, people who find traditional computers intimidating or confusing, can pick it up and get going with it immediately. From small children to special needs to grandparents who've never owned a computer before, iPad offers perhaps the best entry level experience available. At the same time it's highly appealing to expert and veteran computer users who want to spend their time devouring content on the device, not having their time devoured by the device.
  • Mobile internet: Apple was the first to put a usable web browser on a mobile device and absent Adobe Flash, Safari is still the best 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.
  • Apps for that: It's become a cliché but there really is an app for almost everything on the iPad. Thousands and thousands and more every day. 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: This is the iPad's killer advantage: iTunes lets you easily sync your existing content and also gives you access not only to the App Store but music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U (University) and overall more content in more parts of the world than any other service.
  • More: Apple itself 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 tablet has the quantity or quality of extras, from fashionable to functional, that iPad has.

iPad alternatives: BlackBerry, Android, Palm and more

There's only one iPad, however, so if you want more hardware choices like smaller sizes, Flash support, or app marketplaces that aren't curated and controlled by Apple, there are alternatives.

  • Android: If you are hugely invested in Google services and want a device you can more or less tinker away with to your heart's content, you might prefer one of the many Dell, HTC, Motorola, HTC, etc. Android tablets, especially the new ones running Android 3.0 Honeycomb which is optimized for the big screen (see AndroidCentral.com for more). Not all of them are on the market yet, however, and some may not arrive so check and see what's available when you're ready to buy.
  • BlackBerry: If you bleed BlackBerry and want a 7-inch tablet that fits in your salesman suit pocket, you may prefer the PlayBook. (check out CrackBerry.com for more). Again, it hasn't shipped yet but check for updates.
  • HP/Palm: webOS is coming to tablets with TouchPad, a very similar size and shape to iPad but very different software. (Check out PreCentral.net for more). And yet again, it hasn't shipped yet so keep checking for updates.

Take some time, visit the sites above, try out demos at your local big box or carrier store, and see what suits your tastes. Then compare them again to iPad at the Apple Store and everything it offers and make your decision based on the total package.

iPad 2 vs. Xoom vs. Optimus Pad vs. Galaxy Tab 10 vs TouchPad vs BlackBerry Playbook -- Spec wars!

Should you upgrade?

If you already have the original iPad it can be hard deciding whether or not it's worth it to upgrade to iPad 2. Are the cameras, the better processor, the thinner and lighter form factor, the white color, the display mirroring, or any single or combination of new features simply killer enough to make it worth buying the next generation model? We have a whole article dedicated to that, so check it out for more!

Which iPad should you buy?

Once you've decided iPad 2 is for you the next step is to figure out which iPad is for you. Apple is offering 3 different storage capacities in 2 different colors and in Wi-Fi, GSM, and Verizon flavors. Also, and for who knows how long, Apple is still selling the original iPad at a discount.

  • Storage: If you don't carry around a lot of movies you probably don't need a lot of storage. Wi-Fi only iPad 2 starts at $499 for 16GB and that's plenty if you're mostly using the web and accessing your content online. If, on the other hand, you want to bring all your music, movies, and TV shows with you, and if you want to load up every big game you can imagine, you can upgrade to 32GB for $599 or a whopping 64GB for $699.
  • Color: If you want everyone to know you have an iPad 2 get it in white because the original iPad was black only. However, white probably won't be as good if you watch a lot of videos or play a lot of games because the reflected brightness won't let you experience as dark or rich colors.
  • 3G: If you're only using your iPad 2 at home, school, and work (or have Wi-Fi personal hotspot on your iPhone or smartphone) you can save yourself some money and get the Wi-Fi only version. If you need internet access on the road, you're going to need to shell out $629, $729, or $829 (depending on the storage you need). You'll also have to pay anywhere from $15 to $30+ for data every month you want to use it.
  • iPad 1: Right now Apple and other retailers are selling the original iPad starting at $399. If you don't want FaceTime, HDMI display mirroring, or the thinner, lighter form factor, save yourself some cash and pick up the 2010 model.

When should you buy an iPad?

So you know you're getting an iPad and you know which one you're getting, your next decision is whether you should go get an iPad 2 now or wait for Apple to release the next generation iPad 3 next spring (if not sooner).

Spring's the thing

So far Apple has released both the original iPad and iPad 2 in spring -- April and March to be specific. If you're reading this anytime around then, it's probably safe to buy it without worrying that it'll be made obsolete for roughly another year. There's a slim chance there may be an iPad 3 in September, so keep your browser locked to TiPb if you're reading this anywhere around then.

January is scary

Conversely, if you're reading this in January, Apple is probably just about to announce a new iPad and unless you don't care and absolutely, positively have to have a new tablet now, now, you should hold off until they do. So far every new iPad has been the same price -- starting at $499 -- as the old one but offers more for the money. At the same time the old model has so far been dropped in price (starting at $399 right now) so you can save if you need to.

In between, buy when you need

If you're reading this smack dab at the 6 month point, maybe right before the Holidays and you want to know if you should buy, here's the simple question to ask: Do you need it now?

If you've broken your current tablet, lost it, or otherwise simply have to buy a new iPad now get it and have no regrets. There will always be something new on the horizon but that won't help you if you need a tablet now.

Will it get cheaper later?

Typically no. Apart from sales (Apple has one a year on Black Friday, other retailers may do periodic sales) Apple doesn't drop prices of current generation hardware. When the next iPad comes out it will probably keep the same price points but offer more for the money. However, Apple does drop the price on the previous generation hardware (the 2010 iPad is currently reduced by $100) so the advantage of waiting a year is saving a little cash.

Bottom line

If you don't need an iPad now but just want it, wait as long as you possibly can wait then buy the best iPad available when you can't wait any more.

Which carrier network should you choose?

If you're getting a 3G iPad 2, then carrier comes first. If you only have one good carrier in your area, that's the carrier you should go with. If you have two or more carriers that are all pretty much the same in your area, then it comes down to things like customer service, , coverage in areas you may travel too, overall speed and reliability of the network, etc. If you're not sure ask your neighbors and colleagues which carriers they use and what they think of the service. Wherever you use your iPad most, find out which carrier makes the people there the happiest.

Verizon vs. AT&T

AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone: Which should you choose?

In the US there's currently a bigger decision to be made because the two iPad carriers use different network technologies: AT&T on GSM and Verizon on CDMA. Speed vs. coverage, roaming vs. reliability, you have some choices to make. You won't be able to change later without buying a new iPad (they're not cross-compatible) so think it through.

iPad 2 AT&T Verizon pricing chart

Where to buy?

That's it. You know you're getting an iPad, you know when, and you know on which carrier. You've done your homework, you've made your choice, and now it's time buy. But where you should you buy it?

iPad 2: When, where, and how can you get it?

Apple Retail and Apple Online

If you have an Apple Retail Store in your area you can go there, and if it's in stock, leave with your new iPad right away. They also offer help with your purchase and will even help you get set up free of charge. If you're worried about protecting your investment, they can also get you setup with AppleCare, and their Genius Bar can help you with hardware problems in the future. Corny as it sounds, It's not just shopping, it's an experience. Apple Retail has the best customer service in the business and it shows. There are no discounts, however, not ever.

If there's no Apple Retail store near you there's also Apple Online in many countries. Again, no discounts but you're dealing directly with Apple.

Carrier Stores and big boxes

If you want brick-and-morter but don't have an Apple Store, your carrier will often have one or several stores in your area. Drop buy or get it shipped to you. If you're getting a upgrade discount or other carrier incentives it's a great way to get it all setup right away.

Big box and chain retailers, everything from Best Buy to Walmart also carry iPad. If you have loyalty points or they're just super convenient, check them out as well.

Buyer beware

Shady operators also try to sell discount iPads, sometimes devices that aren't even really iPads but cheap -- and highly breakable -- knockoffs. It goes without saying you should avoid those. Any deal too good to be true probably is. If you save money only to end up with a tablet that doesn't run iOS and you really just wasted your money.

After you buy

Once you've gotten your new iPad and are ready to set it up, get apps, get accessories, maybe get Jailbroken, here's how to get going:

Need more help?

No article can cover every detail or address every unique circumstance or concern. Luckily TiPb also hosts the iPad Forums, a vast community where users can ask questions, give feedback, and get help. Check them out:

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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iPad 2 buyers guide


Color: If you want everyone to know you have an iPad 2 get it in white because the original iPad was black only. However, white probably won’t be as good if you watch a lot of videos or play a lot of games because the reflected brightness won’t let you experience as dark or rich colors.
im confused , why would the bezel effect the quality of the screen?

For the same reason that photographs and paintings have a particular-color matte around them. The color of the matte emphasizes the color in the photo or painting. A white matte can often brighten and wash out the picture. In effect, the bezel of the iPad serves as a matte. A black matte is going to deepen contrast and lead to less eye strain than a white matte.

I think hotspot app on iphone 4/5 vs 3G ipad needs consideration.
Can get 4gb with tethering plan on iphone and an extra 20 a month. Only 2 gb for a 25.00 plan on AT&T 3G ipad.
Pluses for hotspot app on iphone:

  1. Let's you tether any wifi device.
  2. You've already bought the 3G chip in your iphone. Save 130 instantly.
  3. Save 5 dollars a month over ipad data plan (att).
  4. Possibly get LTE (with verizon) or HSPA+ (att) with iphone 5 which may mean faster speeds when tethering.


  1. Ipad is instant on but to use data it takes a few seconds to fish the iphone out and enable the hotspot app.
  2. Iphone battery will run down faster. Ipad's battery much better even using 3G.

With all the misleading AT&T vs Verizon commercials, one thing I STILL have no idea about is which NETWORK will be faster/better with the 3G iPad. Any guesses?
I'm disappointed the iPad 2 isn't dual mode, but perhaps there were antenna issues.

3g for ATT is definitely "faster" in speed. however most people talk about the consistency level of att service. Personally , here in CT, i have no issues with ATT and my speeds are always fast. I had verizon before , also had no issues with drop calls etc, however speeds didnt even come close to ATT.
I guess it all depends on your service.

Best way to answer that is to research your area (or those areas you frequent often). AT&T is great where I'm at, but others claim Verizon to be better where they're at.
I wouldn't go by any arguments you read here. They never end.

I'm going to get mine at Best buy. They have the best return policy of all in case I decide the IPAD 2 isn't right for me. Apple Store/ Carrier will have a re-stocking fee when best buy will take it back for nothing but a smile.

Just checked at Best Buy in Charlotte, NC. No need to wait until 5pm at the Apple Store. They are selling the iPad 2 at their store opening on Friday morning. First come, first serve, no preorders and limit 1 per household. Just FYI.

I'm sorry Rene, but as a web developer, I can tell you that Safari is NOT the best browser in the business. If you are comparing it to mobile browsers, then ok. But please don't compare it to Firefox. I am talking ab out usability and how well it renders websites.

A bit off topic, but Safari isn't even the best browser on the iPad. Perfect Browser is faster, has tabs, and will render pages in any way you want (Safari mobile, Internet Explorer, Full Safari, Firefox, etc), and also has private browsing...

Hey! I know this is kinda off topic but I'd figured I'd ask. Would you be tsierented in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa? My website covers a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be tsierented feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

the question I have is....will all launch stores hold it until 5pm on launch day or can I stroll to best buy at 10 am and pick it up?
anyone know?

I'm seriously considering saving $100 and buying the ipad 1 now. The new ipad seems to be more oriented toward providing a better gaming platform with its processor speed and different gyroscopes, but I don't really play a lot of computer games. Also, the facetime and camera stuff isn't really necessary, as I always have my iphone on hand and can take pictures with that (and the camera looks like it will be better). For me, I'm looking at the combination of the ipad and the iphone and figuring out which tasks I am more likely to do on one and the other. Since most of what I'll want the ipad for is internet, reading, and email, while I'll use my ever present iphone for photography, maps, music, and fitness apps, I think a combination of ipad 1 (and wifi only, since my phone can cover outside of wifi zones) and iphone should do the trick. Is my logic right? Talk me into the ipad 2, please?

You can buy a refurbished iPad on Apple.com for $349.00. It comes with a brand new outer shell and new battery with full warranty. Can't go wrong...

One other thing I would like to express is that as an itrelnatave to trying to fit all your online degree programs on days and nights that you conclude work (since the majority of people are exhausted when they get back), try to receive most of your instructional classes on the saturdays and sundays and only one or two courses on weekdays, even if it means taking some time away from your saturdays. This is beneficial because on the saturdays and sundays, you will be more rested and also concentrated for school work. Thanks for the different suggestions I have realized from your site.

You should also check out eBay I just sold my ipad on it and there are tons listed. Maybe you can get one with more storage or 3g for a great deal.

If you want the iPad on launch day, then you are going to need to get there AT LEAST 3 hours fboere the stores opens. If you want to be at the front of the line, you will need to be there 5-7 hours fboere doors open.

I've had iPad 1 for a few months now and I barely use it. It's just too slow at cruising the web. I want iPad 2 just for the speed. Maybe I'll actually use it now.

Sadly, it's a total scam. Advertisers are always tniyrg to get information from you so that they can sell you stuff. A few years ago, their best tactic was to tell you that you won something (YOU WON A NEW DIGITAL CAMERA!). When you clicked the link, you got survey question after survey question and never did get your prize. Nowadays, they are tniyrg things like the Facebook iPad advertisement to appeal to an audience of people just like you.My advice stay clear!

I may have passed over it, but are we to infer from the All Things D chart that verizon isn't going to be offering a prepaid plan like att? If so that really is a poor decision on Vzw's part. Thats what I liked about Apple's 3G model, i could choose to buy a plan if I really needed it, but didn't have to have it.

GPS question. I know it's only available on the 3G version of the ipad but does it require the built in 3G to work? For example can I tether it a mobile mifi or phone and use maps/gps over wifi without actually flipping on the 3G and buying data on the ipad?

No, aGPS (assisted GPS) will not work with the wifi connection you create through tethering your phone to the iPad. The aGPS works by triangulation of the device's proximity to the various cell towers in the vicinity. Therefore, a wifi hotspot does not provide aGPS location. It does however provide an IP address location which is no different than the location of the phone from which you are deriving the 3G signal.

I am a big fan of Apple products, but when the first iPad came out I decided to wait and see what all the hype was about. After months (around Christmas time) of playing with and drooling over my friends iPad is when I decided that I would get one. Of course by that time everyone was talking about the iPad 2 so I decided that I would wait for the iPad 2.

ATT vs Verizon debate:
Also important but not mentioned expressly is whether you travel outside the US regularly. If you do & intend to use your iPad, get the ATT 3G iPad.
Most of the rest of the world, esp most of Europe & Asia, are on GSM standard, so the Verizon CDMA iPad won't work, whereas the ATT one will. Save on international data-roaming charges by just buying a local SIM card, configuring the Cellular Data APN and you're good to go. I believe some telcos in some countries even sell a data-only SIM card (I bought one from Telstra in Australia last Sept at A$30 for micro SIM card + 3 GB data, to be used within 30 days or rolled over if account is recharged/topped up within 30 days).

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Facetime for Mac beta says that I need to update my Facetime on my iphone. I wonder if this beta edition will work on jailbroken phones that have not updated to 4.1?

Hi i have an iphone 3gs and when i download programs on cydia the download go to the half or something then it say the programs name and error or something what should i do?

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