The Ultimate iPad Buying Guide

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The iPad is one of the most coveted pieces of technology on the market today. It’s a symbol of status, savvy, and power. If you have an iPad, you know your tech. If you know your tech…you rock.

But there are many types of iPads to choose from out there and knowing which tech is right is for your life can be confusing…especially really if you don’t know much about it. The most expensive iPad is the 64gb iPad Retina with wi-fi and cellular connection (ipad 3) at £659, which is 144% more expensive than the cheapest iPad the iPad mini 16gb with wi-fi, and these are brand new prices from Apple there are other ways to save too. So just by choosing the right iPad can save you big time.

This guide will help you buy the right iPad for your life, your work, and your play.

Which iPad do I need?

Compare iPads side-by-side

Mini Wi-Fi Mini Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad 2 Wi-Fi iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular
Wi-Fi. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price Wi-Fi + Cellular. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price Wi-Fi. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price Wi-Fi + Cellular. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price
16 GB/7.9in screen/A5. £269 16 GB/4G capable £369 16 GB/9.7in screen/A5 £329 16 GB/NOT 4G capable £429
32 GB/7.9in screen/A5 £349 32 GB/4G capable £449
64 GB/7.9in screen/A5 £429 64 GB/4G capable £529
iPad 3 (Retina) Wi-fi iPad 3 (Retina) Wi-fi + Cellular
Wi-Fi. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price Wi-Fi + Cellular. Memory size/Screen size/Processor/Price
16 GB/9.7in screen/A6X £399 16 GB/4G capable £499
32 GB/9.7in screen/A6X £479 32 GB/4G capable £579
64 GB/9.7in screen/A6X £559 64 GB/4G capable £659

Which features do I need?

Basically, there are three models each with two variations to choose from. The iPad Mini boasts a smaller screen and a smaller price tag, but the same 4G capability as the iPad with Retina Display.

Yet, the iPad 2 doesn’t come 4G ready, but it has the same screen as the iPad Retina.

There are differences in the camera and video camera options as well.

The Mini and the Retina both have 1080 HD recording for high quality videos, but the iPad 2 only goes up to 720 HD. Quite a jump if you’re looking for the highest quality recording options.

If you compare the cameras, you’ll find the Mini proudly sports the same powerful lens and capabilities as the Retina, leaving the iPad 2 with a lesser quality imaging system.

A 10-hour battery life on all three insures you won’t look for a charging station every 3 hours whether you have the Mini, the 2, or the Retina.

In short, if you need an iPad that puts out the crisper, cleaner, sharper images and videos, the iPad Mini or the Retina is for you.

But if you want a powerful work station with a larger screen that is cheaper than the Retina, the iPad 2 may be a good fit for you.

Oh, one last note…Siri.

That’s Apple’s virtual assistant at your fingertips and if you need speed and organisation, you need Siri. With this top tech voice command option, you can record events, reminders, search the web, and more without even touching your keypad. You can check the weather, news and stay organised all with the press of one button.

Check out this video on some of the things Siri can do, then decide if Siri is worth the extra £100:

Siri makes life easier and faster…and I love it!

Pros of each iPad

Mini iPad 2 iPad 3 (Retina)
Lightest Light Crisper images and site viewing
Smallest (can hold comfortably in one hand) Bigger screen for easier viewing Fastest
Offers much of the same features as Retina (minus processor and Retina) More affordable than Retina Benefits of Mini with bigger screen
Better quality images and recordings Hours of surfing and listening and watching without recharging Better quality images and recordings
More affordable than iPad 2 Offers Siri
Got Siri Hours of surfing and listening and watching without recharging
Hours of surfing and listening and watching without recharging

Cons of each iPad

Mini iPad 2 iPad 3 (Retina)
Smallest means harder to view 16GB is maximum memory More expensive
Doesn’t share the Retina quality of sharper viewing No Siri Option Copyright of high quality images recorded using Retina are more likely to be infringed upon with sites like Pinterest
Doesn’t have the same super dual core A6X as the Retina Doesn’t have the same super dual core A6X as the Retina The amount of bandwidth used to use a Retina is larger and costs more
Doesn’t offer same quality graphics as Retina

To pay for Retina or not to pay for Retina?

The new iPads Retina display makes everything crystal and crisp. The one on the right is the Retina display. The one on on the left is the iPad 2.

Retina (right) is infinitely more clear than the iPad 2 (left). And a huge benefit to those who will work incessantly on their new iPad for work and for play.

At a £130 price difference, you may want to decide if your vision is worth it. And if you can afford the data, since the Retina will suck far more data from your plan if you’re on cellular.

How much memory do I need?

16GB 32GB 64GB
Great or the casual user who streams lots through iTunes and other outlets. Great for the picture connoisseur who religiously cleans off pictures and vids to his desktop. Great for the App heavy user with many images…beware: you still need to clean it regularly.

Wi-Fi is cheaper than 3G – 4G

The Wi-Fi capable iPads are great ways to watch TV and movies, to listen to music, to record your life. It’s also cheaper than the cellular plan iPads, in general they are £100 more up front, plus the 3g version requires a monthly fee to work.

iPads with cellular could potentially replace your phone, and unless that’s what you intend, it’s smartest to go with the Wi-Fi only option. Because with mobile data plans on your iPad and on your phone, you’re going to pay twice. That said, if you live in an area where Wi-Fi isn’t always an option, you may have no choice but to go Data.

Is 4G LTE worth the extra?

Currently technology in UK is 3G. 4G is still transitioning into UK. When it does become fully functional in UK, it will be 4G LTE. Right now, if 4G isn’t an option, then it’s a moot point in your iPad decision. Because it could be a couple of years before 4G LTE is mainstream.

Is the iPad mini a real alternative?

The Mini is a light, sleek alternative to the iPad 2, but when compared to the Retina and it’s power processor and quality graphics, it may be worth the price to opt for the larger Retina, if images and video are a major factor in your decision.

The iPad is restricted to 16GB

Being restricted by it’s 16 GB memory is what holds the iPad back for us. Yet, 16 GB is plenty of storage (especially if you mostly stream through the iPad, rather than download and store). But the capability to do more is always nice to have, especially in business.

Mobile data plans

Many people use their own mobile phone data plans to connect their iPads to the internet. Be aware, using your iPad will eat up more data than your phone, so pick up an app that will track your usage for you.

My Data Manager for Android and iPhone shows you your total usage and where you’re spending most of it so you never have to pay another overage again.

But which plan should you pick up?

If you don’t anticipate using too much data with your iPad, you can opt for a 500 MB plan.

Average users, though, should consider a 1GB plan.

And power users who use their iPad for almost everything online should check out 3 GB data plan options.

Tethering – Use your mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot

Many people don’t have ready access to Wi-Fi, so using your phone as a hot spot means you never have to worry about Wi-Fi availability. There are a couple of steps to tethering:

Jailbreak your phone. You can use the Official Unlock website and pay to have your phone legally unlocked so all your warranties stay valid. Or you can choose to do it on your own here.
Download PdaNet to your newly jailbroken phone.
Connect and surf.

Now, T-Mobile, who offers unlimited data, deems tethering not applicable to your “Unlimited” data plan. But 3, offers a £25 Sim-only rolling plan that allows you to tether without draining your data.

iPad Buying Guide

Cheapest UK Deals

If you’re not buying a cellular ready iPad, you’ll be hard-pressed to find deeply discounted prices as Apple controls the market price pretty strictly.

However, if you’re looking for a cellular package to go with, you’ll find the best combo deal at:

Broadband Genie:

Pretty sweet deal, consider your up front fee is £69 and you’re getting 15 GB downloads per month.

So that is £69 up front, then £25 per month for 24 months (£600), so a total of £669. The iPad 2 cost £429 from Apple, so minus that away from £669 and you get £240. So you are paying £10 per month for 15GB downloads per month

Sounds good?

Not bad, that’s true, but there’s a another way…buy your iPad separately, then locate sim only deals. The cheapest is via GiffGaff, which only costs £5 a month. But this does mean you have to shell out £429 up front for an iPad 2 and for £5 per month you only get 500mb of data, less than 5% of the data allowance on the deal above.

These are the three tariffs from GiffGaff:

You can get more data for less money, if you’ve bought your iPad outright.

Refurbished Vs. New

Buying a refurbished iPad sounds good when it comes to saving money. But is it worth it to buy a piece of technology that’s already been broken?

We say no.

But, that’s just us.

Technology like the iPad for the casual user who is looking for a status symbol, rather than a piece of business equipment would do fine with a refurbished machine that still carries the Apple guarantee.

But for those serious about their work, new is the only way to go.

You can buy refurbished iPads directly from Apple. Which are fully tested and include a one year warranty.

Alternative you can buy secondhand iPad from:

Summary and Conclusion

You can choose the Mini for the first hand held iPad that boasts 16 – 64 GB memory, a 7.9 inch screen, and an A5 Processor. Or the iPad 2 which has the same processor, but is more limited on memory (16 GB) and has a larger screen. Or, you can go with the iPad Retina which has the graphics and image capabilities that reach beyond the iPad 2 with an A6X processor, making it the fastest and the most clear in display, camera images, and video – but also making it the most expensive.

The most expensive iPad is the 64 GB iPad Retina with Wi-Fi and cellular connection (iPad 3) at £659. This is 144% more expensive than the cheapest iPad – the iPad mini 16 GB with Wi-Fi. Do you really need that extra size and memory for what you’ll use your iPad for?

To carry cellular or not? The choice is yours, but do you need 3G or 4G? Cellular is an extra £100 more upfront, plus you need an monthly tariff plan, (a minimum cost of £10 for a good package). A two year cellular will cost you £100 upfront plus £240 for your monthly allowance. Will you really use your iPad that often away from a Wi-Fi hotspot? Don’t forget, just because you’re not within range of a hot spot doesn’t mean that 3G/4G connections will be available or that you’ll get a decent download speed from it.

Happier’s recommendation for the cost conscious is to go for the Wi-Fi only version.

Should you buy outright or buy from your provider? Well, that depends on your funds. You’re going to pay more monthly if you have to pay for your plan and your product. But, if you buy your iPad and get a Sim-only deal from your data provider, often you’ll find it’s cheaper.

There are 6 types of iPads to choose from. Depending on your needs, it may be that the cheaper version, isn’t the best value for your money. Consider carefully what you will use the iPad for, then make your decision.

And for the biggest savings, buy your iPad outright. Then purchase a Sim-only deal. The rates are much cheaper and you won’t be locked into a contract, if you prefer not to be.

And lastly, if you opt for the Wi-Fi only, check into tethering your phone so you can have your own mobile hot spot without having to double up on data plans each month.

The Ultimate iPad Buying Guide, 4.6 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

  • andywedge

    This is a good guide. Not sure I agree with all the ideas. I think the iPad 3 is really worth it. The savings come through the efficiency of using an iPad in your daily life

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