What Size iPad Do You Need?

This evening, I was communicating with my music education technology colleague Brandt Schneider about Notion, the new music annotation app for iPad that is $0.99 through 12/21.  
 
His main concern about Notion is its size…which factors in at over 1GB due to the high quality of sampled sounds that come with the app. He was concerned that such a large app would impede his abilities to have other apps on his iPads (they have a set for his program), and he’s right. If you have a 16GB iPad, that >1GB Notion app forces you to make some decisions.  
 
This is the first time, in my two years of iPad ownership, that the real question of “what size iPad should I buy” has actually come up. I know people fret about the choice, but you can load plenty of apps with wise management of movies and music on a 16GB iPad. In the case of devices, I usually buy the largest amount of storage possible for the actual size of the device that I want, as a small overall additional cost ($200 for 4 times the memory on an iPad) potentially solves a lot of future frustration. For example, when I buy my 11-inch MacBook Air, I will buy it with the largest SSD drive available, with the largest amount of RAM. You can replace an SSD drive, but the RAM is currently soldered to the MacBook Air.  
 
I have a suspicion that we’ll see a 128GB iPad this year–and although I chose not to update my iPhone 4 to the 4S (I’m going to wait for the iPhone 5), I will update my iPad as it is such an integral part of my career. It is literally on every minute of my teaching day at school.  
 
Now, in the case of Notion, there might need to be some different solutions. Perhaps Notion should simplify the app so that the core app has less sounds (e.g. string section & brass section instead of individual instruments). I don’t know if I want to know how many additional gigabytes the $30 in-app purchase of additional sounds brings to the app!  
 
But…I’d still buy Notion for $0.99, even if I didn’t have the space right now. I could always upload it at a later time.  
 
At this point, I’ve downloaded nearly 1,000 apps. Most of them are not on my iPad or my iPhone. I don’t clear out the apps I don’t use because I might want them again, and some of those were banned from the App Store after I bought them (such as the iPhone game Tris, which was a good version of Tetris that was kicked out of the App Store). Even so, there are a number of apps on my iPad that I won’t use (many of them are sheet music readers that I’ve kept around for comparison purposes, although with excellent options like forScore, unrealBook, and now Deep Dish GigBook, I don’t know why I do so).  
 
So, let me cut to the chase: what size iPad should you buy?  
 
If you are buying iPads as an institution for students, 16GB should suffice. In that case, you’re providing the apps, and if students put on additional materials (music, movies, or apps), they should be prepared to lose them–they don’t own the device.  
 
If you are a student buying an iPad, if you can swing the extra $100 for the 32GB model, I’d do it. An extra $200 might be too far out of your price range.  
 
If you are a teacher–nothing less than the 32GB model will do. You’ll need the space.  
 
And in all cases, look for ways to save money. Apple offers refurbished models at a reduced rate (some 15% off right now). Don’t be afraid of a refurbished unit–it comes with the same original warranty and you can also add AppleCare for a second year for the same price as a new unit. If you know someone that works at a Target store, they could potentially buy one for you and save you as much as 15% off the price.  
 
Finally, people are asking me if they should buy now or wait until the iPad 3. Consumer fear is not helped at all as major news outlets now pick up the news of leaked iPad parts and other information from blogs with questionable history (one blog mentioned that 80% of all Apple “leaks” are false). The iPad 3 might be introduced in March and on shelves (if you can get one) in April. Then again, it might not.  
 
Should you wait? Well, do you want an iPad now? Would you use it now? If so, buy it–especially if you can get one at a lower price. That iPad 2 will still be functional with iOS 7 in two years. And let’s be honest…if you buy one now, you’ll probably end up buying an iPad 3 when it comes out and “regifting” the iPad 2 to a spouse, parent, or child in your life.  
 
If you don’t feel like you need one now and that you wouldn’t use it…then don’t buy the iPad 2…but then again, you might not need the iPad 3, either.  
 
The real risk is educational institutions which hesitate to do anything because the next product is always around the corner. If you wait, you’ll always wait and never get anywhere. At least with the iPad you know that you have relevancy for an extended amount of time…as stated by Fraser Speirs on Twitter:  
 

 

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Posted on December 18, 2011, in General Musings. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on What Size iPad Do You Need?.

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