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Dear Aunt TUAW: Should I buy the 3G iPad?


Dear Auntie T,

I was hoping you could help me decide something since I think many people will be trying to figure out the same thing. Namely, is the 3G on the iPad worth it for my purposes?

I live in NYC, which has lots of available Wi-Fi. I have a laptop and I also have a Sprint mobile broadband for those rare occasions when I can't pick up Wi-Fi somewhere. I noticed in the last few months that I haven't used it at all. The places I use my laptop (library, cafes, graduate school classes) all have Wi-Fi. These are the same types of places I'm planning on using my iPad (with one exception: Beth Israel hospital doesn't have Wi-Fi, although I've yet to need my computer there)

Is the 3G price tag, coupled with the AT&T price tag, worth it? Should I get the Wi-Fi only version now and wait for the price drop and hardware bump sure to come in version two?

I would greatly appreciate your opinions on the matter. I've read your blog for years and highly respect the articles and advice you produce.


Your niece Trish

Dear Trish,

A lot of people have spent a good deal of time guessing about the mythical and yet unannounced version 2 of the iPad. Will it have a camera? Will it have more storage? Will it cost less? Is it worth buying? Those are all the wrong questions in Auntie's opinion. The right question is this one: "Are you an early adopter?"

If you're an adopteraholic, the only thing you have to ask yourself is "3G or Wi-Fi-only" because the difference between "March" (most likely April 2nd) and "April" is just a few weeks. And the $130 answer is, in my opinion, buy both.

Wait, that wasn't the right answer. That just slipped out.

The actual answer is, wait if you can bear it. Ask yourself: how extreme an adoptaholic are you? Because I am, seriously, buying both. (See? That slipped out again.) As a tech writer, I need to acquire the first hardware I can get my hands on -- and I'll be doing that -- but as a customer, there is only one iPad out there: the iPad 3G.

That decision stems from two needs: data and GPS.

The 3G gives you the option of using AT&T's prepaid $15 or $30/month service if and when you want to use it with no obligation to do so. Data is there if and when you need it -- and most people will eventually need it. That's because many people do things like travel in cars, commute on trains, fly out of airports (many of which still don't have free Wi-Fi), visit doctors and DMVs and auto mechanics, and so forth.

Being able to opt into data at the drop of a hat is, in itself, worth a price boost. Is that option worth $130 to you, not to mention the extra monthly costs of actually using data? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly is to me. That's because the iPhone has completely trained me to be its data slave. I love the ability to hook myself into the vast windy intertubes, no matter where I am.

The other reason that $130 is worth the cost is GPS. I have become a complete and utter GPS addict in the past few months, ever since I got my 3GS. Wi-Fi location is nice, sweet, and occasionally useful but real, unfettered GPS is awesome. I'm a big walker and I find that GPS + walking + apps like Yelp are insanely wonderful.

Is Apple gouging you with the $130 upgrade? Er, probably yes. Is it worth just making do with Wi-Fi? That's the question you have to ask yourself. Me? I'm getting the 3G iPad.

Love & hugs,


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