After months of fevered speculation, Apple’s new iPad has been revealed. It pretty much matched our predictions (except for the lack of Siri, the annoying iPhone digital assistant), and the biggest surprise was that there were no real surprises.
The new high-res screen and fast LTE data service are solid improvements, but are they worth upgrading for if you just bought an iPad 2 last year? We’re torn — the current model is still a great piece of hardware, but who really wants to show up at the coffee shop with last year’s gear?
Before the original iPad came out in 2010, I wasn’t going to buy one. I thought it was too stripped-down to be useful. Then, I got a chance to play with an iPad a couple of days before the official release date, and I was hooked. Last year I sold my original and got the iPad 2 right away, and I still use it every day. But now, it feels like Apple has gotten trapped in this annual upgrade cycle, and they have to come up with something new every March. The new features are solid improvements, but I’m not feeling the same urge to be a first-adopter this year.
I thought the same thing until I started to really look at the camera and video capabilities of the new iPad. The Retina display, the ability to shoot 1080p video, plus the much-improved ability to edit photos right on the iPad are all big winners for me. How cool is it that I can take pictures, give them almost Photoshop-level editing on the fly in the new iPhoto app, and then post them online, all from the same device? Slap a real keyboard on this thing, and I just might be ready to send my laptop to that great e-waste pile in the sky.
The new iPhoto app is probably more important than the hardware, but I can also download that on my iPad 2. The other big issue is that the new, much-hyped AT&T/Verizon LTE antenna doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t know anyone who uses a 3G iPad, we all just have the WiFi version. And the prices from AT&T and Verizon for data are getting ridiculous, especially since you’re probably paying nearly the same amount for a data plan on your phone already.
It’s a bit of a trap: You’re encouraged to download and stream HD movies from iTunes or Netflix, or download big apps and games, but the phone company wants to charge you $50 for 5GB of data, which could be just a couple of HD movies (so make sure you’re on WiFi when using Netflix).
That LTE connection is nice, especially if you travel frequently and don’t always have WiFi access. How many times have you stressed out because you’re headed somewhere and are not sure how you’re going to stay connected while you’re there? Or you’ve had a connection, but it’s too damn slow. It would be great at airports, where the expensive public Wifi is often really sluggish.
I’m still torn, but I think the biggest temptation would be that new high-resolution screen. Not for movies or games, which already look fine on the iPad, but because I use it for reading websites, ebooks, and newsfeeds all the time. The new screen makes the text much sharper, closer to actually reading on paper. That would be my main reason to upgrade, and it’s still not really enough. Unless, of course, someone remembered that my birthday is in March and wanted to get me one.
The new iPad is available for pre-order now, and in stores March 16, starting at $499 for the WiFi versions, and $629 for the LTE version.