Which iPad I’m Ordering and Why

It’s a little after 6 a.m. Eastern on Friday, March 12 as I write this post. Some two hours from now, the Apple Store will officially take orders for all iPad models, apparently with the ability to specify pickup at a local store. The store is currently down, though it wasn’t the last time I checked about an hour ago. (Trust me, I’m not awake in anticipation of buying an iPad; my work has me on an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule.)
Like I have with most watershed Apple (s aapl) products of the last decade or more, I’ll order an iPad on the day they become available. For me, this has included, but is probably not limited to, the original iMac, iBook, Airport (gray UFO!) and 5GB clickwheel iPod, and more recently the MacBook Pro, Time Capsule, MacBook Air, and of course, gen 1, 2, and 3 iPhones. Yes, yes, I’m a fanboy, but this is also part of what I do for a living.
You know by now that there are six models of the iPad, three with Wi-Fi only, three with Wi-Fi and 3G data access with the same 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB storage capacities in each model. For the sake of discussion, I’ll call them the iPad Wi-Fi and the iPad 3G, even though the 3G model also has Wi-Fi. The iPad Wi-Fi will ship on April 3, with the 3G model due some 1-2 months later. The iPad 3G carries a $130 premium over the iPad Wi-Fi across the lineup to account for costs related to the 3G access, such as a modem and antenna. Other than providing an additional type of Internet access, there don’t appear to be any differences between the iPad Wi-fi and the iPad 3G.
I’ll be ordering the top-of-the-line 64GB iPad 3G, the most expensive of the six models, but the one with the most storage capacity and both ways to connect. Why get the most expensive model when a cheaper one could suffice? Here are my key reasons:

  • Storage Capacity: I’m really looking forward to iWork on the iPad, and these files will eat up precious space on the device. I use all three apps in the suite — Pages, Keynote and Numbers — on a daily basis, and I can’t wait to try them out on the iPad. Phil’s demo looked great. I’m also doing a lot of work in Internet video these days. Having video files on the hard drive that haven’t yet or won’t be encoded for Internet delivery will be very useful.
  • 3G: My second favorite feature of the iPad (behind the keyboard dock) is the 3G data plans. At only $30 for an all-you-can-eat buffet of Internet bandwidth, the AT&T (s t) plan is a great deal (note that I haven’t had 3G call, connection and speed issues like many have reported). But the fact that you pay as you go and turn on and off the service from the device is killer. Say you don’t have it turned on but find yourself in a location without Wi-Fi; simply turn it on for a month, then turn it off when you’re done. Sure you pay a hefty price for a day or even a week of usage, but if you don’t use it again for a few months, you don’t pay for it. No-contract unlimited 3G Internet is a killer feature.

I expect to use my iPad extensively for client presentations. I use my MacBook Air today, and while effective for presenting to two to three people, I can imaging the iPad as an easel position will be much more elegant and effective. I also plan to use it for note-taking when I conduct usability tests. Using Numbers, I’ll be able to create input screens ahead of time based on the test plan, and quickly and easily capture data about each test and participant. The data will already be compiled, collated and ready for analysis as soon as test sessions are completed.
These are just a few of the uses for the iPad I have in mind, but the possibilities are limitless. I’d rather have the most capable model so I’m prepared for whatever opportunity arises.