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Should You Buy the Apple iPad or Wait?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

With Apple’s April 3 launch date for the iPad just around the corner, and preorders quickly piling up, consumers who have been eying Steve Jobs’ latest wonder device since February are quickly needing to choose: Should I buy now, or wait to see how it pans out?

The vast majority of you will wait, a large number will buy, and a significant percentage of buyers will be sorry they did. For those on the fence, I’ve got some thoughts.

Those Who Clearly Shouldn’t Wait

There are a few of us, and I include myself, that get a big kick out of having something no one else has. I’m one of the few that has the large Kindle, and people regularly ask me if it is an iPad, and then want to know more about the Kindle. The attention is kind of fun, and I’m perfectly happy to chat with strangers on technology.

If you really love to have something that no one else has, then you are likely on the short list of folks that should preorder an iPad, or anything else that is hot in the technology segment.

Those Who Should Wait A Bit

If it really upsets you to pay too much for something, then you likely should wait, because Apple is likely to reduce the price of the iPad (we won’t know for a few weeks after launch). Realize that you can actually get a 46-inch, brand new LCD TV for the price of one of these. I just got a Scepter myself from Wal-Mart and, for me that was a better value. If a lot of folks come to the same conclusion, much like they did with the initial iPhone, Apple will have to lower the price a lot, and you’ll be glad you waited.

Typically, first-generation products suffer from initial problems. Other than price, the iPhone had issues with AT&T to turning on the service for the first generation, battery issues with the second, and some initial (I think livable) issues with the third generation. If you don’t like dealing with long wait times for service and generally need to make service calls, you’ll want to wait until after the first wave. On high-demand products like this, any problems can overwhelm service organizations, and it may take a couple of weeks for them to get ahead of the problem.

Those Who Should Wait Until the Fourth Quarter

By the end of September, not only will the applications and media selection for the iPad be deeper, there will be competing offerings, mostly based on Android, that will have a number of unique differences to the iPad. These differences may be advantages for you. For instance, the iPad isn’t outdoor viewable in its initial version, and that is a deal breaker for me because I want to use it on vacation, and sitting outside in the sun. I’m also struggling with yet one more data plan, but I know I won’t want to mess with Wi-Fi logins and settings.

If you are planning to use a lot of applications, might prefer having most of this capability in a larger phone, are currently wedded to the Android platform, or want to make sure you don’t get the wrong device, you should wait at least until the fourth quarter.

Personally, there are better products coming that better fit how I’ll use this device. I’m actually leaning towards either the third-generation Amazon Kindle, or the Dell Streak. I’m a big Kindle user, and the Streak will replace my HTC phone (so no extra data plan), but I’m even looking at the Notion Ink Adam. Until I try the final versions of each, I’m not buying anything. And for folks like me, waiting until the choices are there to try may be the best path.

Waiting until the Second Generation

Most of you will likely wait until after version three, but version two should come out about a year after version one, unless problems force Apple to move the product up. Since moving it up too much would likely kill fourth-quarter sales, Apple should release the next version around May of 2011. It will likely embrace 4G, with faster data, and maybe a lower data charge, have a better screen for outdoor viewing, improved battery life, a lower price than the initial iPad price, not to mention access to what will then be a fully stocked store of applications and media.

While I was very glad I got the first-generation Kindle, the second generation was so much better, I had no problem retiring that first product. It comes down to whether you are light or heavy user, and whether any of these features are critical to your enjoyment. For me, they are, but as I mentioned above, I’ll have alternatives at the end of this year, and I’m not tied to iTunes today. You may be, and heavy iTunes use will likely lock you into an Apple product. So if you need the next-generation features and are locked into iTunes, the generation-two iPad is likely for you.

Waiting until the Third Generation

If this follows normal Apple trends, more people will buy version three than version one and two combined. That is partially because a lot of users of the early versions will be upgrading. Two years appears to be the average upgrade cycle. Having said that, let’s see what is in version two. I’m lucky if I can get one year out right, two years out is beyond my crystal ball’s reach.

By this time, we should know if this category is real, or someone’s pipe dream. Waiting this long is more for those folks who want to wait until it is very clear the category is a success, and not a door stop.

Wrapping Up

Personally, I love this stuff. But I’m kind of a tech nut, and have rooms filled with stuff I thought was cool for a day or so and then stopped using. I’ll bet a lot of you have similar, though likely smaller, collections. With the iPad, I’m having a lot of trouble with the lack of Flash support, because a lot of the sites I use seem to require it. At $200, buying one of these things would be a no-brainer. At $600 to $1,000 with accessories and services, especially given the economy, this purchase deserves some thought. If you are preordering one, let me know what one thing pushed you over the edge to make the buy. If you aren’t, what one thing is keeping your wallet in your pocket?

Editors' Recommendations

Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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