With yesterday's unveiling of the new iPad models, Apple presents us with an embarrassment of tablet riches - you now have eight different models to choose from.
Which iPad is right for you? I'll try and help you decide.
For the tablet neophyte
As with anything electronic, what choice you make depends entirely on what you want to do with it. What one or two of its distinct functions primarily attracts you?
If your iPad needs are, shall we say, pedantic - email, Web surfing, GPS mapping, Twitter/Facebook, pastime game playing - Angry Birds, Words With Friends, Draw Something Free rather than a complex first-person shooter, then the new iPad may be killing a fly with a nuclear bomb.
If you've never owned a tablet and your tablet jones is stoked more by curiosity than actual need, I'd bypass the new models and go with a discounted iPad 2 to get your feet wet. In addition to a new $399 iPad 2, Apple is selling refurbished models for as low as $349.
How much memory do I need?
If you're dead-set on the new iPad 3, your first conundrum is memory.
Bear in mind iPad has no SD memory card slot to expand its memory. You're better off over-estimating your memory needs - as in all things, better to have and not need than need and not have.
So, what will you store on your Apple tablet?
I have no music on my iPad - to me, it's simply too big to be used as an MP3 player.
Apps don't take up much room, either, and neither do imported photos. When you sync and import photos, iTunes automatically shrinks them down for viewing on the smaller iPad screen.
The memory-hogging items on an iPad are full-resolution photos and 1080p video shot with the iPad, and movies and TV shows you buy. Figure about 1 GB of memory space for every hour of video.
iCloud and iTunes, however, make it possible not to keep any multimedia - music, movies, photos - stored on an iPad connected to the Internet. All your iTunes purchases – including movies – are stored in iCloud, and with Apple's iCloud's Photo Stream turned on, any stills or video you shoot are magically transported to the cloud. Once in iCloud, you can delete your photos and video from iPad's memory if you're running out of room.
But if you store all your memory-hogging material in the cloud and not on your tablet, you'll need an Internet connection to access it.
Which leads us to...
Wi-Fi-only vs. 4G
Consider two factors when determining your connectivity needs - how much Wi-Fi you have access to, and whether you want to pay more now or more month-to-month.
If you have home Wi-Fi and live in a metro area with lots of Wi-Fi hotspots, or have a MiFi or a 4G smart phone with hotspot capabilities, save yourself the monthly 4G LTE connection fee.
Plus, 3G connectivity is inadequate to satisfy iPad's now HD multimedia needs. 4G, with 10 times 3G's speed and growing, is a different story.
If your home lacks Wi-Fi and you're in a Wi-Fi deficient locale, opting for 4G seems like a wise investment to me.
AT&T vs. Verizon
Don't worry who your cell or smart phone carrier is when making an iPad 4G decision. You won't get a home-carrier discount, so feel free to pick cellular connectivity for one smart device from column AT&T and one from column Verizon.
Also bear in mind you won't have to sign a long-term contract with either carrier. You can sign up for a month or two to see how it goes then change your plan. But you won't be able to change carriers midstream. AT&T and Verizon use different frequencies for their 4G LTE service, so you have to choose one iPad carrier version or the other.
4G LTE pricing
Here's a comparison:
250 MB/month: AT&T - $14.99, Verizon - no option
2 GB/month: AT&T - $30, Verizon - $30
5 GB/month: AT&T - $50, Verizon - $50
10 GB/month: AT&T - no option, Verizon - $80
As you can see, AT&T can better accommodate occasional Internet users, while Verizon caters to heavy data drawers. They're equal in the middle. Check your smart phone usage to gauge how much data you're currently pulling.
Remember: you'll only need 4G LTE if you're not at home using Wi-Fi. Your 4G LTE usage will only be needed on the road.
You can get away with a 16 GB iPad 3 (too bad they don't have an 8 GB version) if you opt for a 4G LTE model. You won't need on-board memory because you'll almost always have a fast Internet connection to retrieve your memory-busting multimedia goodies from the cloud.
If you'd rather not pay a monthly fee to access your photos, music, movies, et al, this means you'll be happier a higher-capacity iPad 3.
As to a white or a black iPad - are you putting it in a case? If you are, who cares. If you aren't putting in a case - just how long does anything white you own stay white? Especially if you have kids.