With a higher-resolution display, a 4G LTE connection, and a better camera, the tablet isn't a completely new device, but that hasn't stopped it from sending consumer interest through the roof. Already Apple has sold out of online preorders, and analysts are suggesting that the company could sell a record-breaking 1 million iPads on the first day of sales alone.
Apple iPad (2012)
If you really want a new iPad, my guess is that either you've ordered one already or you're going to get in line on Friday and hope for the best (CNET's Scott Stein advocates the former, by the way). But I'd also wager there are quite a few of you who are on the fence. Perhaps you bought the original iPad and never traded up to the iPad 2, or maybe you never jumped on the tablet train at all. Believe me, I understand that a shiny new gadget can be tempting, but this particular gadget also comes with a $499 price tag. That's a lot of money to drop on one device, especially if you're not sure that you really want it.
That's why waiting is not a bad option. In three months you not only could save the money, but also the weeks of seeing the new iPad in action may help you make up your mind. What's more, the mad rush of early buyers will have died down by June and there will be plenty of iPads on store shelves. Yet, beyond these obvious points, there are other clear reasons why passing on the new iPad, at least for now, may be wise.
Windows 8 is coming
Two weeks ago at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 beta. If you haven't been following the story of the next version of Microsoft's OS, now is a good time to start paying attention. As CNET's Seth Rosenblatt said in his hands-on, Windows 8 is a breeze to use, it's tricked out with social networking and synchronization, it's robust enough to handle Photoshop, it gracefully moves from touch to keyboard and mouse, and it's got some top-notch security. And most importantly, it was created to unify the desktop and the tablet.
You need to look at Windows 8 only for a moment to see that it is completely different from anything we've seen from Microsoft before. You'll notice many of the design elements that made Windows Phone 7 so refreshingly new such as tiles, lots of color, and a simple, user-friendly interface that doesn't bury you in layers of menus. It's all enough to keep me intrigued, while recognizing that Microsoft has a fair share of work ahead of it. Though the final version of Windows 8 will drop this summer, we still don't have specific information about when a real Windows 8 tablet will go on sale. It will happen, absolutely, but we'll have to wait to see when Microsoft's hardware partners can deliver products and just how good those devices will be.
Granted, those are a couple of sticky points. But even so, I'm enormously curious to discover what the end result of Windows 8 will be. Just as you need to actually try Windows Phone 7 before judging, we'll need to get quality time with a Windows 8 tablet. So you're undecided on whether to get an iPad for now and don't run to the hills at the sound of the word "Windows," why not wait? Just this week we heard that Nokia may unveil a Windows 8 tablet this year. Given that Nokia was the first manufacturer to really embrace Windows Phone 7, that would be promising development. And even if doesn't happen, it's worth finding out what else will.
There's always the iPad 2
If you know you want to buy Apple, there's another option right under your nose. The iPad 2 may be a year old (a lifetime in the gadget world, I know), but there's plenty of power inside that slim package, and it all comes at a cheaper price. No, you won't get to savor the superior screen or the faster 4G speeds, but the iPad 2 isn't that different. You still get two cameras, FaceTime video chat, a zippy dual-core processor, and HDMI-out support. Sure, the data connection tops out at 3G, but that's irrelevant if you buy the Wi-Fi-only model.
New iPad 2s start at $399, with refurbished models taking an even smaller bite out of your wallet. At the time of this writing, eBay had hundreds of listings for iPad 2s priced at less than the retail price. And that number should only increase as more current iPad 2 owners upgrade. If you go the used route, though, just make sure that you're buying from a reputable seller.
Stick with the basics
Just as there are people who use a cell phone only for communication, there are consumers who don't need a lot from a tablet. Though Apple has come to define its mobile products by the app and media experiences they provide, some folks just want a tablet to browse the Web and read e-mail. And if that describes you, there are some very capable devices that start at $199. As CNET's Donald Bell says, they won't buy you bragging rights with your friends, but they're a great place to start.
Amazon's Kindle Fire, for instance, offers all the basic tablet features plus a robust market for apps, e-books, and digital media. It's certainly true that you get a smaller and lower-resolution display than on the new iPad; the internal memory is low (8GB); and you'll miss higher-end features like GPS, cameras, and mobile data, but, hey, it delivers a lot for $199 (as do a few other budget tablets).
The rival Nook Tablet has a few more premium features than the Kindle Fire, though its media selection isn't quite as sharp. It's also more expensive at $249, but that's still much cheaper than a new iPad 3. And as long as you're considering Android, Google's OS is finally beginning to offer Apple some healthy competition. Some Android tablets are just as expensive, but they can also offer features the iPad can't touch.