My Morning Purchases

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Between the hours of 8:30 and 8:45 this morning, I bought two things:

1) Breakfast, consisting of a wheat bagel and a Diet Coke. Purchase price: $1.74.

2) An iPad. Which cost me more than the breakfast.

People have been asking me “So which iPad are you planning on buying?” and I still don’t know how to answer, even though I’ve actually bought one now. I’m not anywhere near the average consumer.

So instead, I’ll tell you what I think about the two major variables in this sort of decision. You’re in on the ground floor at $499. Where should the rest of your money go? Is it even worth buying a better model?

I think the first thing you should spend money on is additional storage. The iPad is going to be one hell of a great content device and my experience with my iPhone tells me that although you can make any amount of storage work, a mobile device pays the greatest dividends when there’s a good chance that answer to the question “Gee, I wonder if I have that file or content with me?” is “Yes.”

This is an especially big deal on a device like the iPad, which comes with a big, gorgeous screen. 16 gigabytes is useful. It means that I can cautiously put a movie or two on it, and maybe a vodcast subscription, and sure, I can have a couple of photo albums on there so long as I don’t go nuts. But 64 gigs means I can throw media on there with the reckless exuberance of a dancing hippie who doesn’t know that the Rolling Stones have hired Hell’s Angels as event security.

It also means that when apps like AirSharing and Evernote come to the iPad, the device can truly be that one electronic file folder that contains every document or scrap of research you’ve touched in the past month or will ever want to lay your hands on.

Put it this way. I’m in a coffeeshop and writing this on Lilith, whose 500 gigabyte hard drive contains just about everything I’ve created and everything that’s ever caught my eye online. If it suddenly occurs to me that what this blog post needs is right here, right now, is a statue of George Washington regarding a lesser public sculpture, I don’t need to hit the Internet for just the right image or head home to my desktop:

Thomas Ball's statue of George Washington, in Boston's Public Garden. Sculpted during the Civil War, it was the country's first equestrian statue of the first President. Photo by me.

So get as much storage as you can afford, I say.

Onward to the 3G question. I’m starting to wonder if 3G is going to be terribly important. “Internet everywhere” is impulsively attractive, but do you really need mobile broadband? New England is practically lousy with free WiFi. There’s so much radio traffic here that it interferes with the migration patterns of many local bird species. As I entered the coffeeshop this morning I passed by a whole family of wrens, shivering in little Bermuda shorts and wondering what the hell happened.

And if you already have some sort of device that can share its mobile broadband connection — a phone with an app that turns it into a mobile WiFi base station, or a MiFi — the question’s of moot.

Still, Apple and AT&T are offering a sweet deal on the data connection: $29 for a month of unlimited traffic, with no contract or ongoing commitment required. If you want mobile broadband this month, you buy 30 days of mobile broadband. Done.

As a MiFi owner, I’m more interested in the 3G model’s GPS features. Live navigation on a pocket device is lovely. But what can we do with it when the screen is THIS big? What happens when this live, interactive map is flat on a table where three people can peer at it and make suggestions? What kind of car app is possible, when there’s enough screen real estate to deliver a lot of information in a concise and uncluttered way?

If you’re truly seeking my advice, and your funds are limited, I say give the 3G model a miss and put that extra $129 into additional storage, or an important accessory.

If I were an ordinary consumer, I bet I’d be opting for the 32 gig WiFi model, with the wireless keyboard and the desktop dock as no-brainer addons. I think those two accessories will have a bigger impact on my use of the iPad than 3G and GPS. I’d want to own the 64 gig one, but we’re trying to economize in this scenario.

Of course, if I truly were an ordinary consumer, I’d be patient and wait to see what the reviews have to say about the iPad. It’s a rare person who can afford to pre-order a $499 thing sight-unseen. I think most of the folks who are rushing to pre-order the iPad are folks like me who have pre-existing plans for theirs.

What did I actually get? Oh, the top-of-the-line model: The iPad 3G with 64 gigs of storage, due to ship a few weeks after the WiFi-only iPad.

My decision was influenced by factors that would never apply to a regular consumer. iPad 3G, or the WiFi-only model? By one way of thinking, I needed to buy both. I need to have one in my hands on April 3 (meaning: the WiFi edition) but I’ll also need the 3G model because I’m writing a book about the iPad, and the 3G model has unique features.

Damn. I remind you that I am a freelance journalist in a rapidly-collapsing print market. I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll have an Apple loaner on April 3. I don’t know for sure, mind you. But you need to place your bet before the betting window closes and no matter what I bought, I definitely wanted my pre-order to be near the head of the pack in case models were in short supply.

So I went with the 3G. I did hesitate a bit over the “accessories” question before completing my order. Ultimately, I didn’t buy any.

I already have the Wireless Keyboard and that’s the only accessory that I consider to be a slam-dunk. I don’t wanna drop an extra hunnert bucks, only to discover a month later that the folding easel I keep my iPad in makes Apple’s $29 desktop stand irrelevant, and that I almost never see the benefits of an extra $29 charger.

Why might that be? Because apparently the iPad can charge from its USB sync cable. This is just conjecture, but I imagine that the only thing the 10-watt brick can do is charge it faster. My office is already lousy with USB wall chargers. If it takes twice as long to charge it via USB — I’m just making up a number, here — how likely is it that I’ll actually take advantage of that extra time?

[Edit to clarify: you do get a 10W charger with your iPad.]

There was another factor at play: for the love of God, I was already spending $829, before tax, on this thing. I’m being paid more than $829 for the book so please, shed no tears. Nonetheless, to a freelancer, that kind of an expenditure is like a deacon hearing people whistle in the church. It fills me with a secret sorrow.

All I can tell you is that when I arrived at the coffeeshop, something made me order the 75-cent can of Coke instead of the $1.69 bottle of juice…

93 thoughts on “My Morning Purchases”

  1. I went with the 16GB wifi model for simple reasons. First, I want one ASAP, so 3G was right out. Second, I’m absolutely dreading the announcement of next year’s model, which will make anything I buy right now look like a joke (think iPhone > 3G > 3GS jumps), so I’m minimizing my up front investment. Third, my iPhone isn’t going anywhere, so I don’t see any need whatsoever to store music on this thing. I also have little to no interest in watching letterboxed movies on it. Storage is going to be all apps and ebooks, and I doubt there will be any games or other apps with >2GB install sizes for it in the near future.

  2. After reading your article I called Apple and changed my order from 32 GB 3g to 64 GB 3g. I did buy the plain dock. Already own a wireless keyboard. I decided not to buy Apple’s carrying case. Thought I’d wait to see what third party offerings look like first.

    I did not buy AppleCare. My reasoning is that it comes with a one year warranty and you can purchase AppleCare any time during that year. No need to do so up front. If they should come out with an improved model during the year I might want to upgrade and could apply the AppleCare savings to the new purchase price.

  3. Oh no, you di’ent say, “with the reckless exuberance of a dancing hippie who doesn’t know that the Rolling Stones have hired Hell’s Angels as event security.”

    I have fact checked this, and yes, indeed you did say that.
    …and that’s why I read your stuff, Andy! Keep up the info-stream and your unique sense of humor.

  4. AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGG!!!!!

    I’m not poor but I’m not rich. In Nov ’09 I bought a Mac Mini and about $600 in accessories (monitor, external hard drives for backups and videos and backups of videos – don’t forget to back up things).

    So my budget for now is building but not to where I need it to be.

    My first thought is, Apple … WHY is the GPS only in the 3G version? Why?! Why!? WHY?!?!?!?!!?!

    I doubt I’ll ever use 3G because my wife is already all over my case about the $120 per month for two iPhones plus Comcast Cable and 2 TiVos (no other DVR is 10% of TiVo) as well as other bills. Another $30 a month isn’t going to please her. No big deal for not signing up for 3G but $150 for just the GPS then? Ouch. BIG ouch! Not having it will be like losing half an arm. Yes, I do feel it is that important.

    What this means is that an iPad for me is further off as I squirrel away money for my next geek purchase.

    I didn’t mention memory. Yes, 64 gbs is the way to go. Files/data are/is only getting bigger. 32gb might be enough for today but what about next year? Have to go for 64 gbs.

    I’m wondering if the iPad will work with my DICE unit like my iPhone (sort of) does letting me play my music through my Prius’ speakers…

  5. Just a quick word on the pricing. You pay the same price difference going from 16GB to 32GB as you do going from 32GB to 64GB. Obviously, that makes the 32GB model not a good deal, assuming you can fill that 64GB with something. The first extra $100 buys you just 16GB; the second extra $100 gets you another 32GB. Given the real price of flash storage, that first $100 hurts and the second isn’t so bad.

    Plus, I need to put every movie the kid might enjoy on a long holiday on here… :)

  6. Wi-Fi vs. 3G: Since I have an iPhone, I can’t think of what I would need 3G on a bigger screen for, so I ordered the 32GB wifi. Also, I would expect some location services to work using your network location like my Mac does.

  7. I’m in Australia and I’ll be pre ordering the 64gb 3G. 64 gb to have the option of dumping my photos onto it in the field.

    I believed the the tablet rumors last year and sold my Macbook, replacing it with a iMac 27 which I love.

  8. I’m worried about your diet – a bagel and a diet coke?! It’s false economy … a bagel and a coke is not going to see you into old age! Get some fruit into you at least!

    Congrats on the other purchase.

  9. My iPod Touch has 3.68 GB of stuff, and that includes over 2 GB of music. I agree with others that the iPhone/Touch is the better music player (I have 2 besides the Touch: a 30 GB classic, and a Nano). That 3.68 GB includes several book apps, several Bibles and biblical resources, and other apps that I would think to be space intensive. Any movies I look at will be rented, not purchased. So figuring 2 more GB for iWork/MS Office docs, and another maybe 1/2 GB for the iWorks suite and more books (Kindle, iBooks), and I’ve only filled the 16 GB half-ful.

    I needed 3G for several spots I frequent where wifi is nonexistent or iffy. Plus it gives me large-scale maps for travel.

    So the 16 GB 3G is what I’ve ordered.

  10. Diet Coke contains aspartame, a nerve poison… You may want to save your brain for writing the book.

  11. I went with 32GB WiFi, since I already have a MIFI. Felt weird ordering it, already knowing it will get passed on to my folks or nephew once the next model is announced. But then again, I *am* a girl still using the 1st gen iPhone.

    Andy if you get stuck without one for your trip, c’mon downtown and borrow mine. I’m getting it delivered, rather than facing the mosh pit at the store. I can’t imagine anyone more capable of giving it a test run :)

  12. Diet Coke for breakfast?!?!? This reminds me of that quote from the movie “City Slickers” soon after Jack Palance’s character dies, “He had bacon for every meal. You just can’t do that.”. Andy, I really enjoy reading your reviews and articles. I’d like to read them for some time to come. That won’t happen if you keep up the Diet Coke for breakfast routine.

    As for the iPad. I bought the 64GB WiFi only model, as well as all of my other friends. Most of them have an iPhone as well. No one I know can stomach paying AT&T more money for their spotty 3G coverage. They can certainly afford it, it’s definitley a matter of principal. As for GPS, the iPhone is more than capable, either as a handheld unit, or as a car nav device. My prediction is the $499 model will do very well indeed, and the sales of the WiFi only models will dwarf the 3G models by such a wide margin that Apple will drop their current lineup in the future and offer only one 3G model.

  13. I pre-ordered the 16GB WiFi and the folio case thing. I don’t want to wait for the 3G. I’m hoping Amazon will have a deal on the Apple Care so I held off on that for now.

  14. Diet Coke is great at breakfast. And nerve poison can only help a writer’s brain.

    I want the 64GB 3G model for sure, but I’m not going to preorder, I’ll just buy it at the Apple Store once I can walk in and get one and walk out with it.

    I want the 3G because once I have an iPad, I’m not using the browser on my Mac anymore. I love touching the Web, just pushing buttons, not mousing around, and I want my Mac to run my creative tools all the time. I want the 64GB because I moved from DVD to iTunes movies a couple of years ago and will want to have a bunch of movies on there. And I have 32GB in my iPhone, so it seems right to have 64GB in the iPad. I’m really mobile so I know I’ll use both devices a lot. And I’m done with paper books. I travel too much, I want them all in my iPad.

    Enjoy your iPad!

  15. Good post – first of Andy’s I’ve read, but will continue now I’ve stumbled on it. Topic right on the button of what I’ve been thinking over, as we in the UK wait for more specific info than ‘coming late April’ (gee thanks, Steve!). I’ll think some more meanwhile. Apart from the extra expense, does anyone have an idea if the 3G/GPS chips will drain more power, even if idle? My back-of-head thoughts say yes, but not sure how significant would be the effect on battery life.

    Come on ‘late April’!

  16. Nice article with very good reasoning. I ordered a 64 GB wifi version because I didn’t think the 3G would be something that I would need. However, I forgot that the GPS functionality is bundled with that! Oh, well. Now I’m perplexed about which case to get. The Apple case looks nice but over at iLounge I read that they weren’t impressed with it. The Quirky case looks interesting but there isn’t a ship date because they have to get to a certain number of orders. Any thoughts about cases?

  17. Leave the Diet Coke alone- that is the least of Andy’s fitness issues. Lifestyle changes are in order before everyone radar locks onto a soft drink.

    Don’t know where you all are seeing all of this free WiFi access. I travel constantly all over the US, Caribbean and Mexico and usable free WiFi isn’t that prevalent. If you want to sit in a greasy floored fast food restaurant or spend hours of your day in a hotel lobby maybe, but if you want to enjoy your iPad in the comfort of a hotel room or say, while in a Boston restaurant, get the 3G model or be prepared to pay for intermittent connections at $6-12 per day.

    Different story if you already use something like a MiFi for a laptop or iTouch connection, but the iPad is going to replace both of those devices in a light, handy form that meets 95 percent of a traveler’s needs.

    Unless you live in a 3G vacuum area (we have a map for that) the $15 per month data plan that can be updated on the iPad itself makes the 3G option a no-brainer.

  18. Andy – Do you think we will be able to write to the SD card using the “iPad Camera Connection Kit” – or use the USB in the other one. I believe they are import only. BooHoo…

    BTW I ordered a 16GB +3G, especially for the GPS I expect that the GPS will be able to use a Nav App that has on board maps w/out the 3G plan. Correct?

    Later –

  19. I snagged the 32GB WiFi version yesterday and look forward to its arrival the day before my 30th birthday. I dismissed all of the haters and harsh critics, I want to go on this ride along with everyone else who is ordering it now.

  20. I went with the 16MB Wi-Fi only with the idea that I would use the cloud for streaming and storing content. I planed to use Simplify Media for access to my music and photos but just discovered they appear to be going out of business. Ugh! It’s rumored that Apple might have bought them. There must be other similar services, however. I think we will see many new options for streaming and storage being offered for the iPad. If I’m off the mark about use of the cloud, I welcome input so I can change my order.

    I also like the idea of buying the lower price model knowing that its a reasonable way to explore my interest and use of the iPad informing a possible future purchase when V2 version of the iPad arrives.

    A point is well made about the lack of a GPS in the Wi-Fi only model. Not going with 3G might be a regret even though I have an iPhone with GPS.

    Given I have have 13″ MacBookPro as well as an iPhone, I’m hoping the 16GB Wi-Fi model will prove to be just right for me. I’m sure I will only know the answer to this a few weeks following April 3.

  21. I, too, enjoy a Diet Soda for breakfast. Coke Zero, actually. I prefer my caffeine delivered cold. Never could acquire a taste for coffee. Every few years the smell seduces me and I try it, and it’s right back to Coke In The Morning.

  22. If you are getting the 3G mainly to have GPS capability, it might make more sense to just buy a dedicated GPS and leave it in the car. For $139, you can get a decent unit, and it is a one time fee – no monthly service charge. I know it is nice, in theory, to have everything in one device, but there are still advantages to dedicated devices. (Like you can leave the dedicated GPS in the car for your kids or spouse, and keep the iPad with you for reading…).

    I’ll be the cheap curmudgeon and take a pass on the first iteration. I see this kind of device as mostly a living room computer, for reading the news and surfing the web without the weight of a laptop or the discomfort of sitting at a desk. I want to see how fast the price comes down, if some publications will offer discounts with subscriptions, and what other vendors come up with to undercut Apple’s pricing.

  23. Good article Andy!
    I went for the 32gb wifi model with the $29 dock.
    I only plan to use the iPad at home, probably on the couch 90% of the time. The other 10% will be on an airplane or at a coffee/book-shop. I am hoping 32gb of storage will hold me for a couple years. Maybe in ver 2.0 I will go for 3g or maybe it will be 4g by then? The base 16GB seemed too small and the 64gb seemed overkill. I want to get a few movies, some pictures of the kids and my photography, and some music on this device. I have a 32GB iPhone and that seems to be a good amount as well. I am guessing in 2 years I may be tight on space..maybe?? But I will also be tempted to upgrade to the next revision 2 or 3 by then. Can’t wait for it to arrive.
    Curious what others have chosen and why…

  24. I can’t believe all these clowns bagging you because you had a bagel. Enjoy the iPad. iPhone Fully Loaded is on the bedstand and will get into same as soon as I finish Trust Agents (can’t multi-read). All the best.

  25. Andi

    I have been a big fan for a while now and well I would like to say thanks for another quality article. I have bought mine from the us store, 32gb wifi, living in Melbourne Australia a: I can’t wait for it to be avialable here (they make it avialable in the store and then put you on a back order wait) and b: I have a decent chap who will put it into a box, slap a down under sticker on it and send it my way, all for a six pack of Tasmanian Boags Beer.

    Keep up the great work

  26. I have to side with Andy on the Diet Coke for breakfast thing, although I also have a glass of milk with it, and maybe a V-8. Mostly, I drink the Diet Coke while I’m waiting on the coffee to brew. In other words, I’ll drink about anything except water. It’s part of building my conspicuous consumption, free-wheeling, recession-be-damned, I’m not stooping to drinking anything free, image.

  27. Apparently my area (Twin Cities outer suburbs) is behind the curve with free wifi– I often find myself places I’d like to be online, but wifi is unavailable. Before they announced the ipad, I was considering an iphone, but an ipad fits my needs better for less $ (I don’t like to be on my phone when I’m out of the house and do a lot of communication via email, so a cheapo prepaid cell plan is enough) According to my calculations, the first year cost of ownership of an iphone+ monthly contract and a 3G ipad+monthly contract are almost identical, the ipad contract is much more flexible, and after the first year owning an ipad will be MUCH cheaper.

    Even if free wifi becomes ubiquitous indoors, I spend a fair amount of time waiting for my kids outdoors at parks, etc… and the ipad would help me use that time more productively. (Yes, I play with my kids sometimes, but not when they’re in practice or playing with their friends.)

    I haven’t ordered one yet (I am waiting for the reviews and/or Mother’s Day), but I think I’d go for the 3G 16GB model. Can’t see shelling out for more memory if 16GB will be functional.

  28. If I were you I’d look into dieting, your breakfast does not sound healthy at all and could cause problems later in life.
    Also congrats on the ePod thingo.

  29. Funny post, Andy.

    Anyway, I mulled and mulled and finally decided to go for the 32GB wi-fi iPad. Like others, I figured I’d take the low-cost entry route and upgrade to the 2nd-gen model with all it’s mysterious and earth shattering features and after I see exactly how I use it and how I’d LIKE to use it. Or heck, maybe i’ll dump it for a 3G model in June when I can just walk into my local Apple Store and snag one without the painful wait. Craigslist is a great thing for we chronic upgraders! Sell the old to subsidize the new!

    Since I’ve had an iPod touch for a year, I got used to the wi-fi hunt. In NYC, Starbucks is on every other corner for a cappuccino, some wifi and a whizzz. But primarily, I see myself using it at home to get AWAY from my MacBook Pro and have no great desire to lug it around elsewhere, since my MBP usually goes with me anyway along with the touch and an maxxed-out 80GB iPod for music.

    I’m actually itching to get iWork and OmniFocus running on the thing!

    I’m actually shocked that not only am I opting for a 1st generation device, but an entirely NEW one at that! I ALWAYS tell people to buy the LAST version of something and wait for Rev.B or C of the new. WHAT am I DOING?!?!?!?!

  30. I had it all figured out, twice, and now fresh doubts.
    My Macbook Pro logic board died (out of Warranty :-) before Xmas. So, the plan was, new Macbook Pro 13″. Easy: I’d have already bought it… except that there was a good chance of i3 based MBPs coming out this quarter, so I held off.
    Then the iPad announcement, and the sudden realisation that for my use case – mostly at my desk, with a little web browsing on the couch – an entry-level iMac and an entry level iPad was a) cheaper and b) better. Like so many people, I use a laptop as a compromise, it’s good enough to use as a desktop and can be mobile when I need it. But with the iPad pricing, the compromise becomes unnecessary.
    Then our Dell D630’s at work began dropping like flies. Dell fixed them all regardless of warranty status, explaining that some questionable design choices made by nVidia meant that the GPUs were melting after a few years. “It’s not just us; even Apple are affected.”
    Light-bulb goes off; pop round to my local Apple Repair Centre, they take a look, apologise profusely for my trouble, and replace the logic board for precisely no money at all.
    My Mac is back, and in a perverse way I’m thinking “I saved so much cash, I should treat myself to an iPad.” After all, it’s only a matter of time before I accidentally walk into an Apple store, play with one for 5 minutes, and start begging them to take all my money. Happened with the iPod Touch; gonna be the same again.
    Now, I certainly don’t need 3G data. Everywhere I’d use an iPad to access the internet from already has plentiful WiFi, and my iPhone is still there if I urgently need to look up a train timetable or such.
    But GPS… I can’t help wondering what a GPS in my car with a 9″ screen and a web connection would look like…

  31. Boags is a very nice drop Andy. I’ll toast your health and prosperity tonight with a 2009 Stella Bella (Margaret River) ,Sauv Blanc.

  32. I’ve just stumbled upon your site while searching for a tutorial on an related subject. Glad I did too. There’s a lot I like. Anyway, you’ve been bookmarked and I’ll be back soon. :)

  33. I am a DIY addict. I mean I am really a DIY addict. Really, really. If there is a book telling me how to warp-charge my diesel powered weed-whacker to cut down anything in it’s path, I will buy it. I will pour over it, throw it away from me in frustration and DIY my own damn light saber/weed-whacker/death ray. The number one thing that excites me about the iPad is DIY e-books. Just think of the possibilities! I hope you’re thinking of the possibilities,too, Andy. I hope while you’re writing your iPad book, Andy, you’re saying to yourself “Holy Crap! This could be an iPad book iPad book.” But… hmmm. What will your publisher be thinking? Oh, shoot. Well, good luck with that.

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