Is now the wrong time to buy an iPad?

With rumors that an iPad 2 is not that far off, should you buy the iPad this holiday season or wait?

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    Mr. Carnoy:

Some months back I read with interest your amusing series of articles about buying an iPad. I myself have held off but have been recently considering picking one up as a Xmas gift for myself. However, I just read about how the iPad 2 might be shipping in February . Also, I saw that Apple lowered the price for refurbished iPads , which got me wondering, all things considered, whether it was a bad idea to buy one now. Know you're busy, but can you give me any advice?"

Charles, St. Louis

Ah, Charles, I just went by an Apple Store today and wondered whether people had any reservations about buying an iPad. Didn't seem that way. It's one of the few stores in America where you'll see people standing in line to buy full-price items this holiday season. At least that's what it's like at Apple stores here in Manhattan. Maybe there's a lot of Europeans taking advantage of the exchange rate. I don't know. But it's remarkable. Lines. Long ones. No discounts. But I digress. The iPad? Do you get it now or wait?

Here's how I see it. For starters, I don't believe Apple's actually releasing a new iPad 2 in February. You could argue that despite Steve Jobs insisting that the company has no plans to ship a smaller iPad , it might put one out. You know, the so-called iPad Mini. We're talking something with a 7-inch screen. Fat chance that'll happen but it's just as unlikely Apple will put out a new version of its current 9.7-inch model.

Parts and chips might have to be ready by February, but Apple has been pretty disciplined about releasing new products on a yearly basis and I just don't think it would go ahead and announce a new iPad in February just two months after so many people received them as gifts in December. Cue the serious bitching and moaning.

But let's say we're looking at an April launch for the iPad 2. As I and others have said before, chances are the new iPad will be a little thinner, have a faster processor, offer slightly better battery life, a better screen, and maybe have a front-facing camera for using FaceTime. As Steve Jobs likes to say, it will be awesome. Prices will be similar. As for the models with a cellular data connection option, you'd hope Apple would move to some flavor of 4G, but personally I think you're better off sticking with the Wi-Fi-only version iPad and bringing your own MiFi-type solution, which offers better bang for the buck because you can use it with other devices.

Anyway, that's my guess as to what you'll be looking at five months from now. And in case you didn't notice, the key number there is five. That's less than six, which in my book is the cutoff for when to buy a new product if you're on the fence about it. Anything less than six, you wait. (Macrumors has a buying guide that recommends whether to buy products based on their product cycle but for some bizarre reason the iPad is the only product not in the buying guide).

Of course, that's not what a lot of the folks are thinking who are standing in line at an Apple Store waiting for a salesperson to drop that nice iPad box into that white Apple plastic bag with those nice drawstrings after the credit card gets swiped. They've got some kid, parent, or significant other who wants an iPad. It's on the list. Decision made. Grandpa gets the iPad. We're shutting little Joey up--he gets one, too. Five months is an eternity to an 8-year-old. Heck, it's almost half a lifetime.

I exaggerate, of course. But when it comes to the holiday season, there are gift-giving pressures and the iPad alleviates them. Done and done. Campers happy. I know where you're coming from, shoppers. But for the cheapskates, the disciplined, and those who just like to test their will power, here's my holiday iPad cheat sheet.

  1. Should I buy the iPad for myself now?
    No, don't do it, dude. If anything, get a refurb.
  2. Should I buy it for someone else now?
    No, buy an Apple Gift Card and pass the decision buck. If your kid or mom or whoever wants to buy an iPad with his or her $500 or $600 card, that's their call. Or they could pick up a MacBook Air, which just got updated. Either way, nothing pinned on you when the new iPad comes out next year.

  3. Should I accept the iPad as a gift?
    Accept, thank profusely, but don't open. Return that puppy for a gift card and wait.

Aside from forget Apple and buy Android, anybody got any better advice?

More:
How I almost bought an iPad
Will the iPad replace the Air?
Blinded by the iPad

 

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