Few gadgets have> engendered as much attention around their release as the iPad. Apple s touchscreen tablet, which goes on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday at Apple Stores and most Best Buy stores, has won early praise from publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the New York Times. It s also found its way into the jokes of late-night comedians and the posts of snarky bloggers. For the most part, that drum-beating has added to the device s cool factor. Now, the question you might have this weekend is: Should I stand in line to buy one?
Keep in mind that early adopters rarely get a great deal. Some observers say the iPad, which was available to pre-order in March, isn t likely to be an exception though there will probably be no shortage of shoppers wanting to go first.
Apple charges $499 for 16GB version of the tablet with Wi-Fi; 32GB and 64GB go for $599 and $699, respectively. (Later this month, the company plans to offer iPad models with both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity for $629, $729 and $829.)
If the prices don t spook you, and you're still determined to own, also be aware of what the iPad it can and can t do. The magazine-sized device is meant to be used for portable media consumption in various forms the web, music, magazines, newspapers, books and videogames.
What you can t do is make phone calls or take pictures. Also, the Safari browser on the iPad doesn't support videos using Adobe flash, so as of yet you can t watch videos on Hulu.
Not completely sold on the need for instant iPad gratification? Hold off. Some of the difficulties with early adoption are likely to disappear within a few months. Consider these five reasons to wait:
Putting off your purchase a few months could cut your bill substantially. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, it slashed the 8GB version s $599 price tag to $399 just 10 weeks later. (Outraged early adopters received a $100 credit.) That swift of a drop on the iPad is unlikely, but the price could come down in as few as six months, says Michael Carnell, the founder of Charleston, S.C., information technology firm Palmettobug Digital. The run-of-the-mill consumer can wait that long, he says. In particular, consumers could see prices drop on the Wi-Fi/3G version.
This is version one there s a lot that has to be worked out, says Aaron Ray-Crichton, an independent technology consultant and the founder of ARC Systems Consulting in Brooklyn, N.Y. Apple originally anticipated an iPad release in late March, and analyst reports have pointed to possible production problems.
According to Apple s web site, the iPad works with nearly all of the 150,000 apps currently available in its iTunes store. The company just started adding iPad-specific apps to iTunes and plenty of tech blogs have already culled their favorites (Netflix, Pandora and Scrabble to name a few).
If you already have apps for your iPhone or iPod touch, you can sync them to iPad from your computer. They run in their original size or you can expand them to fill the iPad screen. Some apps might look fine, but others could appear distorted.
A Wi-Fi-only device is fine if you plan to use it at home or other areas with Wi-Fi hotspots. But 3G connectivity available in iPad models set for release in late April is basic for consumers who want their iPad to work while traveling in the car or in other locations where Wi-Fi is scarce. Otherwise, you re going to have limited access to that rich Internet content, Ray-Crichton says. 3G subscription costs will set you back an extra $180 to $360 a year. Given that cost, an iPhone may be a more cost-effective choice for some users, he says.
It s still unclear exactly what the iPad will do best. Competing devices slated for release may be better choices, depending on what you would use the iPad for. Shoppers looking for an e-reader may want to wait for Amazon s expected Kindle 3, while Dell s Streak tablet offers more computing power, he says.
-- Lisa Scherzer contributed to this article.>
-- This article was adapted from a piece originally published March 11, 2010.>