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Yes, I Ordered a New iPad 2

May 2011

So what? So what if I just ordered a new iPad 2, even though it's been less than a year since I bought the original iPad 3G? I'm a technology junkie. I've got to have the latest and greatest.

Fortunately, iPhone Life magazine helps subsidize my habit. They like having an addict on staff. So there.

This new baby is faster, slimmer, lighter. Apple sold an estimated 1 million iPad 2 models the first day alone, and probably could have sold more if there hadn't been shortages.

The market for tablet computers was about zero before Apple introduced the iPad in April of last year. By the end of the year, worldwide spending on tablet computers was $9.6 billion. That market is expected to grow to $30 billion this year.

A poll of people who are planning to buy a tablet computer found that 82% are planning to get the iPad. Analysts expect Apple to continue to dominate the market in the next two years. iPad competitors are vying for around 15% of the market, yet even that 15% is enough of a market that an anticipated 80 different tablets are expected to arrive this year.

As this is being written at the beginning of April, there are still only two choices in the 10-inch range: the iPad 2 and the Motorola Xoom. The latter is the first to run the new honeycomb software, version 3.0 of the Android software that runs on 10-inch tablets.

Android has been a huge success, with more people now buying Android smartphones than iPhones. But as of this writing, there are only a few dozen apps available for honeycomb, compared to around 65,000 for the iPad. However, you can expect the number of honeycomb apps to explode.

If you have a hankering for a tablet, what are your choices? The leading contenders seem to be:

• Original iPad — As soon as the new iPad 2 came out, Apple began selling refurbished original iPads for as low as $350. They have a 9.7-inch screen, but no cameras.

• iPad 2 — This baby starts at $499 for the WiFi-only model. It has a 9.7-inch, 1024x768 display and comes with a front-facing camera for video conferencing and a rear-facing camera for shooting high-definition video. It's a third slimmer than the original, about twice as fast, and two-tenths of a pound lighter (which is actually quite noticeable).

The 3G model also gives you Internet access via the cell phone network, meaning that you can access the Internet wherever there's a cell phone signal, not just where there's a wireless hotspot. The price for this one starts at $629. You buy service by the month (no contract). AT&T starts at $15 per month for 200MB of data. Verizon starts at $20 per month for 1GB of data.

• Motorola Xoom — The base model is $599 for WiFi only, and $799 for the model that accesses the Verizon data network. The Xoom will be compatible with Verizon's speedy new 4G network when it becomes available, but you'll have to send in your Xoom for the free upgrade. This tablet has a 10.1-inch, 1280x800 display and comes with the Android honeycomb software. It has a front-facing camera and a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera.

• Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 — This was the first iPad competitor last year, but the initial model only had a 7-inch screen and could only run the same Android software that runs on smartphones. The new Galaxy Tab has a 10.1-inch, 1280x800 display, runs honeycomb, and is expected to be available June 8 starting at $499. It has a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and 8-megapixel rear camera. An 8.9-inch model will be available later at a starting price of $469.

• HP TouchPad — This will run HP's webOS software rather than Android, and the question is whether developers will be inclined to create apps, given the smaller market. It will have a 9.7-inch, 1024×768 screen, and will be available in June. As of early April there were unconfirmed reports that pricing would start at $499. It will have a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, but no rear camera for shooting photos and movies.

• RIM Playbook — By the makers of the popular Blackberry, this 7-inch tablet was expected to be out April 19 (price unknown as of this writing). The big news here is that RIM announced that the Playbook would also be able to run recompiled iPhone/iPad apps as well as running Android apps. It will have 3- and 5-megapixel front and rear cameras.

Time to start thinking about a new tablet in your life.

This month’s hot tips:

The new Amazon Cloud Drive gives you 5GB of storage for free. Free mystery games at www.mysterynet.com.

© 2011 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen