Lesson 2: Buying an iPad

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So you want an iPad

Apple's iPad has become a widely popular device since its launch in 2010. Before you purchase an iPad, however, you should familiarize yourself with the different options you have to choose from. This includes choosing between the Wi-Fi and cellular model, as well as where you'll purchase your iPad: either online, from Apple, or from another retailer.

Understanding your options

There are several iPad models to choose from, depending on your budget and individual needs:

  • iPad Air 2: This version has a 9.7-inch Retina Display, which offers a very high resolution. There are two versions of the iPad Air 2: one with 32GB of storage and one with 128GB of storage. Both versions can connect to the Internet when they are near a Wi-Fi hotspot, but they can also include cellular (4G/LTE) connectivity if you need an Internet connection wherever you go. A 4G/LTE connection also requires you to buy a monthly data plan, just like with an iPhone.
  • iPad Mini 4: This version has a smaller 7.9-inch Retina Display. It offers the same features as the iPad Air 2 in a smaller, lighter device, although it's also a bit less powerful. The storage and Internet options are the same as the iPad Air 2, although the iPad Mini 4 is less expensive.
  • iPad Pro: This version comes in two sizes: a 12.9-inch and a 9.7-inch display. It's primarily designed for people who use a tablet in the workplace. It also supports new attachments, like a keyboard and a stylus, which makes it a suitable replacement for a laptop computer. However, it's also heavier and more expensive than other iPad models. The smaller version may seem pretty similar to the iPad Air 2, but it's faster overall, has better cameras and speakers, and supports various accessories unlike its predecessor.
  • Older versions: If you don't need all of the latest features, you can still buy older versions of the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2. These are less expensive than the newest versions, and they have many of the same features. They have slower processors, but this may not be noticeable for many tasks. However, keep in mind that the older devices will become out of date more quickly, so they may become more sluggish after a year or two.
Image of the iPad Air and iPad Mini

Visit Apple.com to compare iPad models and see different versions side by side.

Which model is right for you?

If you're still not sure which model you want, take some time to think about the features that are most important to you and how they fit into your budget. Things to consider before you buy include Internet access (do you want a cellular data plan or just Wi-Fi?) and data storage (do you need a lot or just a little?).

Internet access

All iPad models have two connectivity options: the standard Wi-Fi model and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model:

  • Wi-Fi models cost less, but you'll only be able to access the Internet when connected to a Wi-Fi network in places like your home, work, or a local coffeeshop.
  • Wi-Fi + Cellular models give you Internet access almost anywhere, but you'll also be required to purchase a mobile data plan from a wireless provider (such as AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless), which usually costs at least $20 per month.

Data storage

There are several ways to approach storing data on your iPad. Here are some things to think about before you make a decision:

  • At 32GB (32 gigabytes of space), the smallest model has enough data storage for most users. However, if you anticipate storing a lot of music, movies, and TV shows on your device, you may want to purchase the 128GB or 256GB model instead.
  • If you truly need a lot of storage, look into Apple's iCloud service before you purchase one of the more expensive models. iCloud gives you free, unlimited cloud storage for media you've purchased from the iTunes Store, including music, movies, and TV shows. iTunes Match also allows you to store music you've purchased elsewhere on iCloud for $24.99 per year. We'll take a closer look at iCloud in our lesson on Syncing Your iPad.

For more help making a decision, you can always ask an associate at your local Apple Store for advice. You can also call 1-800-MY-APPLE for more information.

When you're ready to buy

You can purchase an iPad a few different ways:

While the price may vary slightly among retailers, you won't find a new iPad for much less than you'd pay at the Apple Store. Beware of any sales, promotions, or contest giveaways that sound too good to be true. Because the iPad is in high demand, there will always be scammers and other disreputable sellers—especially online—who will try to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. When in doubt, purchase your device from a well-known retailer.

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