Which iPad To Buy? Maybe None. But If You Surely Want One…

When the pre-order floodgates opened today for the iPad, in rushed waves of pundits ready to tell you which iPad you should purchase. We’re not going to offer advice of that sort for one major reason—we’re not quite sure yet that we should be advising any reader to go out and buy an iPad right away. This is, after all, the first-generation version of a major new product line for Apple, fraught with all the sort of question marks that always accompany brand new Apple product launches, and there should be no doubt in any person’s mind that Apple’s engineers are already working on the Son of iPad, quite possibly even the Grandson of iPad, for release in the not-so-distant future. It remains to be seen whether this iPad, its initial iPhone OS software, and the slate of early iPad-optimized apps will be a compelling enough total package to hook more than just the early adopter crowd, or like the first-generation iPod touch, a lame duck in need of some big tweaks. As optimistic as we are about the future of this product line as a whole, the questions about the April 2010 iPads will take at least a little while to resolve.

BUT, assuming for the sake of discussion that you already know that you’ve just gotta get an iPad right away, here’s our advice.

(1) Buy AppleCare for $99. First-generation Apple products tend to really need it.

(2) If you’re buying for yourself—an adult—don’t get the base 16GB model. Particularly given the expanded graphics requirements of the larger-screened iPad, the storage space will quickly seem very confining. Spring for the 32GB version, at the very least; it will have superior resale value. If you’re buying for a child, or for a less than technically savvy parent or friend, the low-end 16GB model will be fine.

(3) We’re not going to tell you to buy the 3G version if you don’t think you’ll ever use it, but if we were only buying one iPad, we’d insist on it having 3G, at least for now. The value of this device as a traveler’s tool is going to be huge, and the ability to just snag $15 per month 3G service as needed is nice, except for the fact that AT&T is completely screwing every current iPhone user by not offering iPad tethering. There should be a modest monthly charge to share an iPhone’s 3G connection with an iPad, and Apple should be facilitating this with the iPhone OS software. Period.

Accessories? Apart from film, we’d wait for a bit before buying any of them. We’re not convinced yet as to the value of any specific keyboard solution, docking station, or case, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to sort out the way people are actually going to carry and use iPads, particularly for input purposes. There are still quite a few questions to be answered regarding iPad charging and mounting in cars, homes, and planes, too.

As with the iPad itself, it’s going to take a little while for the dust to clear with these add-ons. Some developers have new products literally ready to ship now. Others are still struggling to finalize their designs, and expect to ship them in May. It’s going to be a very interesting several months, that’s for sure, and we’re looking forward to riding through them with you.

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