How to buy an iPad
24/09/12 Filed in: Hardware
This is a driving instructor’s guide to buying an iPad. Read on to find out about the different types of iPad, how much storage space you need, and whether to go Wi-Fi or 3G...
First there was the iPad.
Then there was the iPad 2.
Now there is the “New iPad” (3rd Generation).
Lets make things easy for ourselves by calling them iPad 1, iPad 2 and iPad 3.
Some basic tips:
Don’t get an iPad 1. It’s getting a bit old, slow and forgetful. It doesn’t support the latest software.
Do get an iPad 2. It’s arguably the best iPad out there at the moment, and definitely a good choice for driving instructors.
Consider getting and iPad 3, but only if you really have to have the latest model, or you can’t live without the high resolution Retina display.
The iPad 2 is an excellent device. It’s thin, light, fast, has a good screen and great battery life.
The iPad 3 is better in some ways and worse in others. It packs more precessing power so should be faster. However, because the screen has four times as many pixels, things sometimes happen more slowly on the iPad 3, which can be a little frustrating. Lighting up all those extra pixels also takes a lot of juice, leaving the iPad 3 with a shorter battery life than the iPad 2, especially if used in bright surroundings.
The iPad 3 is slightly thicker and heavier due to the increase in battery size required to power the new screen. That new screen is gorgeous, however. It's what Apple calls the Retina display, meaning the individual pixels are so small your eyes cannot make them out at normal reading distance.
iPad 2 in a nutshell:
Faster than iPad 3 at loading some graphics, slower at most other things (but still pretty fast)
Great battery life
Battery charges quickly
Can see pixels on the screen if you look closely
Cheaper than iPad 3
May be obsolete sooner than iPad 3
iPad 3 in a nutshell:
Fast, but can be slow to load graphics such as when turning the page on a magazine
Battery life not so good (especially when screen brightness is turned up high)
Takes ages to charge battery
Gorgeous Retina display
Most expensive variety of iPad
Newest variety of iPad (and therefore won't be obsolete for a while yet)
If you’re a driving instructor, I would say that faster charging time and better battery life is going to be more useful to you than the Retina display. That’s why I would recommend the iPad 2. It’ll also cost you less. You can pick up a refurbished one from Apple for around £300, or buy a second hand one on eBay from someone who’s trading theirs for an iPad 3.
16GB, 32GB or 64GB?
Unless you’re going to store a lot of video files on your iPad, you’re unlikely to need 64GB of storage space. You might need 32GB if you’re going to be carrying plenty of music and/or photos around with you. Otherwise, 16GB should be just fine. That’ll be enough for all the apps you can eat, plus a bit of music, quite a few photos, and the odd video.
Wi-Fi only or 3G & Wi-Fi?
Many people will only use their iPad at home or in cafe which provides Wi-Fi access, so would not need to consider the 3G option. However, for a driving instructor, 3G is worth thinking about. It’s great to have internet access on your iPad wherever you are. You can bring up a screenful of maps anytime, plus it makes web browsing and email so convenient in the car. You can email mock test results and pupil progress sheets immediately at the end of a lesson. You can book a pupil’s test as you sit with them in the car. You can watch cute cat videos on YouTube whenever you have a few minutes to kill between lessons.
Another possible option is to get a Wi-Fi only iPad and use the internet connection on your phone to connect to the internet. This is usually done via Bluetooth or by using your phone to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot which you then connect to with your iPad. It’s worth investigating such options as they could save you money. (You’re probably already paying for 3G internet access via your phone, yet you would have to pay extra for a separate iPad 3G connection.)
Black or white?
This, perhaps, is that hardest decision of all. You’re on your own with that one!
Where to buy?
Buying direct from Apple is usually a good idea. If you buy a 3G iPad from Apple, it will be unlocked so you can use it with any mobile network.
Apple also offers some great deals on refurbished iPads, which are as good as new and come with a full one year warranty.
If you buy from eBay, thoroughly check the description of the item and the seller’s feedback. Don’t buy unless you’re certain it’s the real deal!
UPDATE 26/03/13: I've posted an updated version of this article. Read it here.