iPad Dilemma: New iPad or Stick with the Old?
by Alan Zisman (c) 2012
published in Low End Mac
April 30, 2012
I own an original generation iPad. With the recent release of the "New
iPad", I - like millions of other owners of both the original iPad
models and iPad 2s - have to decide whether it's time to upgrade to the
My Current iPad
I bought my iPad the first weekend that they were available in Canada,
a little bit after they had been released in the US. iPad owners - then
and now - are faced with two decisions: the amount of storage and
WiFi-only vs. WiFi + 3G (or LTE with the new model). Mine is the 64
GB/3G model, which has remained the most expensive model in the iPad
lineup. (It was the only model in stock when I went to get mine, but it
was the one I wanted in any case.)
Only a minority of iPad owners opt for the 3G models (3G+LTE in the new
iPad), which costs $130 more than a WiFi-only iPad with the same amount
of storage and requires setting up an account and paying a monthly fee
to a mobile provider. I don't own a mobile phone, but I was pleased
that US and Canadian mobile providers were offering iPad data plans at
a relatively low price and that didn't require locking in to a
multiyear contract; I'm buying data from Canada's Rogers, paying
$15/month for 250 MB of data.
I appreciate the freedom this gives me - being able to access email and
the Web on the bus, for instance, or to use Skype on the road the rare
times it would be handy for me to have a mobile phone. At the same
time, I've never maxed out this relatively modest amount of bandwidth.
I bought the model with the largest amount of storage available, 64 GB,
which remains the largest capacity available on both the iPad 2 and the
New iPad). I don't want to have to ration the amount of music, photos,
videos, or apps I store on my iPad. Currently, iTunes reports a total
of 58 GB of storage (some of the 64 GB space is taken up by iOS and
preinstalled apps). I've got 14 GB of music, 1.2 GB of video, 1.5 GB of
photos, 9 GB of apps, and about 2 GB of other stuff - probably data
files associated with various apps. And I've got about 30 GB free.
If I'd bought a model with less storage, I wouldn't have room for all
I have a lot of apps installed. In addition to the preinstalled stuff,
I've added a couple of Apple's iWork modules - Pages and Keynote - and
the iLife stuff: GarageBand, iMovie, and iPhoto. (The latter two are
not officially supported on the original iPad, but that's another
story.) I've got three screens of other productivity apps, a page of
music apps, a page of games, and a page of travel and language apps.
Many are free, but given the generally low cost of commercial apps, I'm
more likely to buy an app just because it looks like it might be fun,
interesting, or maybe useful.
The result is a lot of apps that I don't really use very often and
could easily do without. The free apps I use most are Google's Gmail,
Echofon for Twitter, Facebook, and Zite, which assembles RSS feeds into
a 'magazine' format. I also use GoodReader ($4.99), a PDF (and more)
How I Use My iPad
I tell people that an iPad isn't really a notebook
replacement - at least not for me. There are lots of things I do
regularly on a notebook or desktop computer that are either doable but
awkward on an iPad (like typing long documents) or not doable at all
(like scanning or burning an optical disc). On the other hand, there
are things that an iPad can do at least as well as a notebook (like web
browsing) or better (like ebook reading or watching videos). The long
battery life (about 10 hours) and (pseudo) instant-on (actually instant
restore from sleep) beat laptops hands-down, and both are (generally
unsung) usability features.
I find the iPad a very nice travel companion - lightweight and
portable, with good connectivity (especially the 3G version!). Good for
email, web browsing, and social networks on the go. Nice for reading
books, listening to music, and watching video content (though getting
video content into a format that lets it be loaded onto the iPad can be
a chore). The 3G version includes GPS, which has been handy.
When my wife and I went to Italy last summer, the iPad was our only
computer for three weeks. I bought an Italian SIM card that provided a
month's worth of data access for about $30; it let us get online pretty
much anywhere - on the train, lost in the woods in rural Tuscany (when
the GPS came in handy!), and more.
It's also a nice device for long, lazy, stay-in-bed mornings or waking
up in the middle of the night. Aside from being able to check email, it
can be nice to be able to read without having to turn on a light and
disturb my sleeping partner.
Despite having content-creation apps, I've never made a word processing
document or a presentation or edited a photo or video on my iPad. Maybe
some people are doing this, but I'm not among them.
What About the iPad 2?
When the iPad 2 came out in 2011, I thought about it briefly. It has
the same storage options, screen size, and resolution as the original
model in a somewhat slimmer, lighter case. It has a faster dual-core
processor and double the RAM (512 MB vs. 256). And it's got cameras.
A faster CPU and more RAM is always a good thing, but I hadn't (and
still haven't) found either processor speed or RAM a limitation using
my older iPad. (Now and again I double-click the Home button in order
to shut down apps that are running but not actually in use, but in
general, the iPad does a very good job of memory management.) And the
camera on the iPad 2 was pretty low-end and frankly, using a large
tablet as a camera seems awkward to me.
So I didn't regret not moving up to an iPad 2.
What About the 'New iPad'?
The third-generation iPad ups the ante yet again. A more powerful
processor with quad-core graphics promises exceptional video
performance. Double the RAM again - to 1 GB. Rear camera much improved
over the iPad 2's. And a high-resolution Retina Display with four times
as many pixels as the screens on either the original iPad or the iPad 2.
All very nice - though I'm a bit concerned that Apple didn't boost the
storage - apps rewritten to make use of the Retina Display are
inevitably larger, as are higher-resolution photos and video files. The
result: Users will need more storage.
So Am I Planning to
Nope. The New iPad looks great, and if I didn't already have an older
model, it would be a great purchase. But even with the much-improved
camera I don't see myself wanting to take pictures with a tablet. Apple
offers a camera-connection add-on that makes it possible to transfer
images from a digital camera or its memory card, and that still seems a
reasonable option - one I've used now and again.
And while the increased RAM, more powerful CPU, and lovely Retina
Display all seem nice things, I don't see the new iPad making a
qualitative difference in any of the things I currently do on my older
model - and, at least now, I'm not seeing any new New iPad-only apps
that I just have to have.
I'm sure that in a year or two there will be uses for the more
powerful, higher resolution iPad that I won't be able to do at all on
my older model. At that point, I may have to reconsider.
But for now, I'm sticking to my original model.