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Choosing between a new iPad and an iPad 2

Lex Friedman | March 16, 2012
Maybe you're not one of the millions of folks who already owns an iPad. And maybe you're ready to do something about it. Apple's added an extra wrinkle for you to consider: Which generation iPad should you buy?

That is, if you live in an area that offers LTE coverage. Neither Verizon nor AT&T have extended their 4G networks across the nation yet. When LTE's not available, your next-generation iPad will fall back to the same 3G networks that serve the iPad 2.

Still, carriers are building up their 4G reach. Verizon plans to be in 400 markets across the U.S. by the end of 2012 while AT&T is targeting the end of 2013 to entirely replace its current network with LTE coverage. You may not live in an area with LTE coverage now, but you might soon enough. For that reason, the third-generation iPad trumps the iPad 2 if you place a premium on network connectivity.

How to decide

So if you don't plan to use your iPad for extensive photography and constant reading, you don't need more than 16GB of storage, and cellular connectivity is a moot point for you, should you just save the $100 and go for the iPad 2?

The answer is a definite maybe. $100 buys an awful lot of apps; saving that extra hundred bucks on your iPad purchase affords a whole lot of games involving birds in various emotional states.

But the new iPad is, objectively, a better iPad than the iPad 2. Beyond the Retina display, the new model also adds support for voice dictation and more RAM than the iPad 2. When Apple inevitably releases another new iPad in 2013, it's possible that new iPad 2 owners will feel more buyer's remorse than folks who opt for the new iPad instead.

The original, first-generation iPad still supports iOS 5 completely. Will it support iOS 6, or will that be limited to the two newer iPads? At some point, an iOS update will surely leave the iPad 2 in the lurch while keeping the third-generation iPad supported. But then, at some point, the third-generation iPad will be out of date, too.

Thus, if you have the extra $100 to spend, the new iPad is objectively superior to the iPad 2, and more future-proof. But if saving the cash today helps your bank account, it's impossible to be disappointed by the iPad 2, which is a perfectly fine tablet in its own right.


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