When the original iPad was introduced in 2010, shoppers had to decide if they wanted to buy the $499 WiFi model or pay an extra $130 for the 3G chip that would allow them to sign up for wireless carrier data plans and nab connectivity when they weren’t near a WiFi hotspot.
They then had to decide if they wanted to pay $100 or $200 more for models with more storage capacity.
Last year’s rollout of the appropriately named iPad 2 introduced a third question: Do you want the outer body of the tablet to be black or white?
This time around, potential buyers have a fourth question to ponder: Do you want the new iPad or would you rather save $100 by getting an iPad 2?
Which iPad is Best for You?
Let’s go over the pros and cons of each model so you know exactly what you want to buy when you head to the Apple circus on Friday.
1. The iPad 2
Pros: Just as Apple is now keeping older iPhone models around to sell them at lower price points, the iPad 2 will continue to be available. If you were jealous that your friend or neighbor got an iPad 2 over the holidays, here’s your golden opportunity to get the last laugh by buying the same model for $100 less. If you’ve read through the new features of Apple’s third generation of tablets and find that they’re not worth the extra $100, there’s nothing wrong with settling for the iPad 2. It was good enough for 15.4 million buyers this past quarter — at higher prices to boot. The cheaper iPad 2 is also available right now.
Cons: Only the entry-level 16 GB model of the iPad 2 will stick around. It will be offered in WiFi at $399 and WiFi with 3G at $529. The 32-gig and 64-gig models are being retired. There are also some pretty nifty features on the new iPad.
2. The new WiFi iPad
Pros: The new iPad is sticking to the same exact prices and storage capacities as last year’s iPad 2, but with several upgrades. The Retina Display fills the screen with 3.1 million indiscernible pixels — more than even an HD television. A quad-core chip delivers a hearty boost in processing speeds. The dual cameras have also been upgraded. It even offers voice dictation, transcribing your spoken words into text for emails, documents, and text messages.
Cons: Paying $130 less for the non-4G model means that you are limited to WiFi online connections. For someone buying a tablet just to go through email, surf Facebook, play apps, or stream regular-quality video clips, the cheaper iPad 2 may fit the bill.
3. The new 4G iPad
Pros: Apple is finally going where even no iPhone has gone before: This its first 4G LTE device. Yes, it’s considerably faster than 3G. The new iPad also doubles as a 4G hotspot, giving users the ability to have up to five different approved devices go online through WiFi or USB at the same time.
Cons: 4G LTE isn’t available everywhere. Buyers are also limited to ATT (T) and Verizon (VZ) as their carriers. There are no long contracts to sign, though each iPad is specific to its 4G LTE carrier. In other words, you can’t go from ATT one month to Verizon Wireless a few months later.
Honestly, There’s No Bad Choice
Apple is making a statement. Fans should expect beefed-up iPads every year without having to pay more for them. It’s the same philosophy that has worked quite well for the iPhone.
However, the annual updates also make waiting a compelling option. After all, when the fourth iPad rolls out early next year, won’t the third generation be marked down by $100? Waiting can be a hard game, though. Given the growing number of apps and features, it’s getting harder to resist an iPad if you have the means to afford one.
Apple may be giving you more choices, but the world’s most valuable tech company really wants you to know that there is no such thing as a wrong choice.
NEXT: Want an older model? Check out a comparison of the iPad 2 and iPad 1:
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.