iPad, they'll have several options to choose from. In addition to multiple storage capacities, iPad buyers will have to make an even more critical decision: Wi-Fi or 3G? Although Wi-Fi hotspots are in many places these days, from airports to coffee shops and sometimes even blanketing a city's downtown, anyone with an iPod Touch will tell you that they're far from being everywhere. That problem certainly limits some of the functionality of the iPad apps, especially those relying on real-time updates for breaking news, data downloads or other Internet-only content.Considering that the contract-free iPad 3G plan starts at $15 per month, one would think that, given these potential issues, the 3G version would be the top choice among consumers. However, AT&T's CEO thinks otherwise. He predicts the iPad will primarily be a Wi-Fi only device. Is he right? When consumers rush out to purchase Apple's new handheld device, the slate-like computer called the
Too Many Subscriptions
According to a Reuters report, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says he doesn't expect the iPad's launch to lead to very many new AT&T service subscriptions. "My expectation is that there's not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription," he was quoted as saying.
He may be right. As consumers, we're starting to hit a saturation point with how many times we have to pay - again and again - for access to the same Internet. We have our broadband bill for at home, a mobile broadband bill for our laptop's "air card" and a third bill for our phone's data plan. Layer on top of that the numerous subscription services for Internet-accessible content, like Xbox LIVE, Netflix (via their "Watch Instantly" service) and premium music streaming sites like Pandora, Spotify or Last.fm, and it's clear that we've become overloaded. Will anyone out there be able to afford yet another wireless data plan? Apparently, AT&T isn't counting on it.
Will You be Missing Out?
If you plan to use the iPad mainly as an eBook reader and portable media device for streaming iTunes-purchased content, then you won't miss out too much when you go offline, which - let's face it - when you leave the house, that will be most of the time. The majority of iPhone games, all of which will work on the iPad out-of-the-box, won't be affected either. But what about when you want to read the newspaper or a magazine via the iPad? Without an Internet connection to download the latest, you'll be stuck with yesterday's news or last month's edition of Wired. And if you wanted to quickly share something you read on Facebook or Twitter, you would be out of luck, here, too.
However, many people may be willing to live with these limitations. Just as we've learned to sync our iPods and iPhones before we leave the house, we may soon need to remember to update our online newspaper and magazine apps, too. For this minor inconvenience, there's a major payoff: the monthly savings, of course, but also hundreds of dollars off the retail price of the iPad.
In any event, we wonder if AT&T's CEO has any insight into this situation or if he will be surprised by how popular the 3G iPad ends up being. Do you agree with his prediction? Lets find out! Take our poll (linked below) to tell us what iPad you'll buy. (If you're not buying an iPad, then just skip it!)
NY Times readers, click here to access the poll.