Help! When's the best time to sell my old iPad?

The iPad 3 launch is just around the corner, which means if you're thinking of trading up, now's the time to sell your old iPad.

It's that time of year again when Apple releases a new iPad, so what should you do with your old one? And should you get the Wi-Fi only version or one with 3G/4G access?

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I help a reader who is jonesing for the upcoming iPad 3 figure out what to do with his iPad 2. I get some good advice from the CEO of the gadget trade-in site Gazelle. I also help another reader decide whether he should buy a Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad or if he should splurge on the one that has built-in wireless broadband connectivity.

iPad trade-ins

Dear Maggie,
I have a Wi-Fi only version of the iPad 2 16GB. I love having the latest and greatest gadget, but I'm on a budget so I have to be a little careful. Naturally I want the iPad 3, but I'm not sure it's worth the upgrade. I hear it will go on sale in early March. So my question is, should I sell my iPad 2 and get the iPad 3? Or should I stick with the iPad 2? And if I decide to sell, should I sell it now when I can probably get a better price or wait until the iPad 3 is announced to see if it's really different from the iPad 2? There are so many decisions to make!

Thanks,
Undecided in Boston

Dear Undecided in Boston,
This is a tough question, because it really depends on how tight your budget is. Obviously, the least expensive thing for you to do is to keep your current iPad 2 and continue to use it for as long as you can.

But if you're truly a gadget lover who wants the latest and greatest devices, then it might be worth it for you to stay on top of the upgrades. The lucky thing for you is that Apple products, particularly the iPad, hold their value much better than other gadgets.

So this means that when you upgrade, you'll have a much better chance of getting some money back when you resell your product. And if your product is only one generation behind, you'll get more money for it.

Apple

I recently met with Israel Ganot, CEO and co-founder of the gadget trade-in company Gazelle. And he told me that your device is most valuable right before a new generation of the product is released. As a result, Ganot recommends locking in a price for your iPad 2 now before the iPad 3 is announced in early March.

Ganot said many customers are already doing this. Since February 9 when rumors of the iPad 3 coming in early March were first reported, Gazelle has seen a 400 percent increase in trade-ins for previous generations of iPads. The company also saw a 50 percent increase in Android tablet trade-ins and a 25 percent increase in Amazon Kindle Fire tablet trade-ins.

"With the possibility of an iPad 2 price cut or an iPad 8-inch model, our iPad prices are at their highest point," Ganot told me. "They should stay steady heading into the launch but will start to downward spiral soon after the announcement."

In your case, you could get $240 for your 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad 2 now. This is almost half the cost of what you paid when you bought the iPad 2 new. And if the iPad 3 is also $500 when it comes out, then you are almost halfway to that price by selling your iPad 2. That's not a bad deal.

But that $240 price could go down after the iPad 3 is released, as Ganot points out. For example, the original iPad is now selling for $140 on Gazelle.

The main reason that it will quickly lose value is that in the past Apple has offered its older generation iPhone or iPad at a discounted price to customers once a new model is released. So it's likely that someone could get a new iPad 2 from Apple for $400 instead of $500. And that would devalue your used iPad 2.

Of course, there are sites other than Gazelle, where you can trade in your old devices. And some may offer you an even higher price. But be careful . There are some sites that may give you the bait-and-switch, quoting you one price to lure you in and then offering you a much reduced price once you send them your product.

If you really want top dollar for your gadget, you might want to consider selling it on eBay or Craigslist. But this is often more work and more hassle than many people want to put up with.

Gazelle offers a no-hassle way to sell your gadgets and get paid fast. Since Gazelle wants to make sure you come back to the company to sell your next gadget, it tries to make users feel comfortable and secure with its service. Ganot said Gazelle will even give you more than the quoted price if if finds that your device is worth more. For example, let's say you got a price quote for a 16GB iPad, but you sent in a 32GB iPad. Gazelle will give you the price for the 32GB model.

Also, the good thing about Gazelle is that it lets you lock in your price now for 30 days. So if the iPad 3 is supposed to be announced March 7 and go on sale the following week, Gazelle's 30-day price lock will allow you enough time to get the iPad 3 before you have to send your old iPad 2 for the trade-in.

So now to the next question. Should you upgrade? That's hard to say at this point since the product hasn't been announced, so I can't say for certain that it will be a huge improvement over the previous product. But some reports suggest that the iPad 3 , or what some people call the iPad 2S , will look very similar to the older iPad 2. It's expected to be the same size and width.

That said, the specs on the new iPad are expected to be improved. For example, the screen has been described as "truly amazing" by a leak-happy Apple employee in a recent New York Times article. This could mean that it has the much-talked about retina display that many expect to have a resolution of 2,048-by-1,536 pixels. This would be four times the number of pixels as the iPad 2's current 1,024-by-768-pixel display.

The device is also expected to have a faster processor, though we haven't heard any specifics on this yet. And it's expected to have a bigger battery with longer life.

I think that if you have some money to spend and want to make sure you have the newest product, you should trade in the iPad 2 and get the iPad 3. But as I've noted, make sure to lock in your price now before the iPad 3 is announced.

Owning the latest generation product guarantees that any new software and new features or apps that are introduced will work on your device. If you have a device that's a couple of generations old, you may miss out on some of the newer features.

Of course, this advice isn't for everyone. If you don't need the latest and greatest gadget or access to the hottest new apps and features or you don't want to keep spending money each year to upgrade, then just keep your iPad 2. It won't be worth as much next year as it is today, but you'll likely still be able to get some money for it if you ever want to sell it and upgrade to a newer model.

I hope this advice was helpful. Good luck!

Wi-Fi only iPad vs. 3G (and possibly 4G) iPad?

Dear Maggie,
I am interested in buying a new iPad 3 when it comes out. I plan to use my new tablet on the train or bus when I commute into the city for work. Would I be OK with a Wi-Fi only device or should I buy one that can access the cellular network? And if I buy one with 3G access, which carrier do I get, AT&T or Verizon Wireless?

Thanks,
Sanjiv

Dear Sanjiv,
Wi-Fi only devices are great if you plan to use them mostly at home or in a place where you can get Wi-Fi access easily. They are also good if you have a phone with wireless hot spot capability or a Mi-Fi device that provides wireless access via Wi-Fi using a cellular network.

The iPad 2 is available on both the Verizon and AT&T networks. James Martin/CNET

But if you want to access the Internet when you don't have access to Wi-Fi, a tablet with a built-in cellular radio is a good choice. Since you say you want to use your iPad while you're commuting, I'd recommend an iPad with a cellular radio. Without cellular access, you'll be limited in how you can use your device. Even though, without an Internet connection, you'll be able to store and access books, music, videos, and forms of content you've purchased on your tablet, you won't be able to buy new content, stream audio or video, or access Web sites while on the go. And that may frustrate you on your commute.

If you are a cable TV subscriber, you may get Wi-Fi access on certain commuter buses or trains. So you should check that out before you buy an iPad. But if you don't subscribe to a cable operator that offers this, or if the Wi-Fi is offered only at each station and not on the bus or train, then you're probably better off with a device that has a cellular radio.

What's more, if the rumors are correct, the new iPad 3 could support 4G LTE in addition to 3G cellular service. This means you'll have faster network access.

The obvious downside to buying an iPad with 3G or even 4G access built-in is that it costs more. The Wi-Fi only version of the 16GB iPad 2 is $499. With AT&T or Verizon service built-in, it's $629. So you pay a premium of $130 just for the additional radio. And then you also have to pay the monthly cost of the service.

Plans on AT&T start as low as $15 a month, but that gives you only 250MB of data each month, which may not be enough if you do a lot of Web surfing and streaming on your commute. A 3GB plan on AT&T costs $30 a month. Verizon Wireless's plans start at $30 a month for 3GB of data.

So which provider should you choose? First, you have to figure out which carrier offers the best service. If AT&T has spotty service where you live and along your commuting route, then it doesn't make much sense to subscribe to that service.

Another thing to consider is 4G LTE coverage. The new iPad 3 might support 4G LTE, so if you want to take advantage of the speedier network, then you should check out which provider offers 4G LTE coverage along your commuting route. Verizon is at least a year ahead of AT&T in terms of building its network, so it has a leg up in this department. But if all things are equal in terms of the service, you should consider AT&T over Verizon for two main reasons. For one, you get 1GB more data per month for the same price as what you get with Verizon. So AT&T offers a better value. And if you use your iPad to stream a lot of video or audio when you're commuting, you may need that extra 1GB of data. And according to the gadget trade-in site Gazelle, the AT&T iPads retain about 10 percent more of their value than Verizon iPads.

Why? Here's what the folks at Gazelle told me:

"Increased demand in secondary markets worldwide. A Verizon iPad is tied down to Verizon and can only be used in the U.S. on Verizon. An AT&T iPad, which runs on GSM technology, can be used across the globe. The fact that Apple does not lock the iPad also makes the product that much more desirable across global secondary markets."

I hope this advice was helpful. Good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET, offering readers a double dosage of my advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

 

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