iPads: The Basics
Everyone wants an iPad, but which one? They come in different sizes, with or without cellular, in a range of storage options, and a variety of specs. Here the basics to help you sort out the iPad model that’s right for you.
Current Generation iPads
The iPad Pro comes with an 11” display (currently in its 2nd generation) starting at $799 new from Apple, or with a 12.9” display (currently 4th generation) starting at $999 new from Apple. Storage options range from 128GB to 1TB. It’s available with WiFi, or WiFi + Cellular connectivity. It features a liquid Retina display, 10MP ultra wide camera, 12MP wide camera, and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner to optimize augmented reality apps.
New iPad Air models (currently in their 3rd generation) start at $400 new from Apple. They have a 10.5” Retina display and are available with 64GB and 256GB storage options, and with WiFi or WiFi + Cellular connectivity. It also features up to 10 hours of battery life, WiFi speeds up to 866 Mbps, and 4-core graphics.
Current iPad models (7th generation) have a 10.2” Retina display and start at $329 new from Apple. They come with either 32GB or 128GB of storage, and with WiFi or WiFi + Cellular connectivity. It supports the full-size Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil (sold separately). It can even pair an Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth, PlayStation DualShock 4 controller, or MFi game controller.
The 5th generation 7.9” Retina display iPad mini starts at $399 new from Apple. It has 64GB or 256GB storage options, and WiFi or WiFi + Cellular connectivity. It supports the Apple Pencil and boasts the A12 Bionic chip, which is up to three times faster than the iPad mini 4.
Buying refurbished is a great way to save money on iPads. You can find deals on current and older generation models that are quite functional. DealNews frequently lists refurbished iPad deals from reputable third-party eBay sellers, as well as from other retailers, and even from Apple directly. Be sure to check for warranty information when buying a refurb. Refurbished iPads direct from Apple typically include a 1-year AppleCare warranty, for example.
One thing to keep in mind when buying refurbished iPads is serviceability. Operating systems in older iPad models cannot be updated. Specifically, upgrades are not available past iOS 9.3.5 for the iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad mini. Updates are not supported for the iPad 4 beyond iOS 10.3. On the other hand, several previous iPad versions can still be updated and still function beautifully. Be sure to check whether Apple is still servicing the specific model when you’re shopping for older iPad versions.
The 1st generation Apple Pencil costs $99 new from Apple and is compatible with the 3rd generation iPad Air, 5th generation iPad mini, 6th and 7th generation iPad, 1st and 2nd generation iPad Pro 12.9”, and iPad Pro 10.5” and 9.7” models. It pairs and charges with a Lightning connector.
The 2nd generation Apple Pencil, which pairs and charges wirelessly, is compatible with the 3rd and 4th generation iPad Pro 12.9”, as well as 1st and 2nd generation iPad Pro 11” models. It attaches magnetically and allows you to double tap to change tools. Apple will even engrave it for free.
We’ve seen new, refurbished, and open-box versions of both Apple Pencil generations from Amazon, Google Shopping, and Apple.
iPad Pro models are compatible with Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. Apple’s Smart Keyboard is the choice for the 3rd generation iPad Air, 7th generation iPad, and iPad Pro 10.5”. They’re available directly from Apple and other retailers like Best Buy.
After-market iPad keyboard cases are typically a much less expensive option than Apple’s offerings. Search Amazon for brands like Proslife and IVSO, and be sure to check for compatibility with your specific iPad model.
AirPods & AirPods Pro
AirPods (currently in their 2nd generation) go for $159 new from Apple, but we’ve seen open-box models for as low as $90.
The AirPods Pro, which are noise cancelling as well as sweat and water resistant, retail for $249 new at Apple. We’ve seen them new for as low as $220 from Rakuten and Verizon Wireless.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between the A12 and A12Z Bionic chips?
If processor speed is your main concern when choosing an iPad, you may want to choose a model with the A12Z Bionic chip. It’s available in the current iPad Pro models. The A12Z boasts eight cores in contrast to the A12 (found in the current iPad Air) chip’s six cores. You’ll notice the increased speed over the iPad’s A10 dual-core chip.
Should I get a WiFi version, or a WiFi + Cellular iPad?
The WiFi-only iPad is sufficient if you’ll be using your iPad exclusively at home or in office environments where WiFi is accessible. If you’ll be out and about where WiFi isn’t always available, and if you’ll be making phone calls with your iPad, you’ll want to consider the WiFi + Cellular option.
Which cellular providers have plans for iPads?
All major cellular networks offer plans for iPads in the U.S.
Verizon starts at $15/month for 1GB of data.
T-Mobile starts at $60/month for unlimited data.
Sprint has unlimited data for $15/month, but there’s a $50 monthly charge for standalone tablets without an existing phone line.
AT&T starts at $50/month for 10GB of data
What are the best places to shop for iPads?
Apple’s own site is a good place to start, especially if you want to research the features and specs of the various models. Then, check DealNews’ iPads category for the best current deals and sales. Best Buy and Amazon frequently have deals on new iPad models, while eBay frequently lists discounted refurbished and open-box models. Also, shop DealNews’ iPad Accessories category for deals on keyboards, Apple Pencils, cases, and more.