Over the weekend, Apple announced the pricing it was going to charge for the long-awaited iPad. Telstra also announced its data pricing for iPad plans.
First of all, it's worth noting that Apple positions the iPad as a premium device, and charges accordingly. Whether you think the iPad is good "value" compared to a notebook, netbook or competing tablet platform is another argument entirely. I'm just crunching numbers for those actually interested in the iPad.
What the iPad will cost you
The WiFi only iPad will cost you $629 (16GB), $759 (32GB) or $879 (64GB), while the 3G and GPS equipped version costs $799 (16GB), $928 (32GB) or $1,049 (64GB). Essentially speaking, adding 3G and GPS compatibility to an iPad will cost you an additional $170, unless you're talking the 32GB model, where for some reason Apple cuts you a break and only charges $169 difference. Be sure to go extra wild and crazy with that spare dollar, won't you?
US and Australian pricing compared
At first glance - and there was a lot of analysis decrying the difference - it would seem like Australians might be getting a raw deal. The US prices for the iPad come in at $499, $599 and $699 for WiFi and $629, $729 and $829 for the 3G. At straight conversion with today's rates, those would come out at roughly $555, $666 and $778 for the WiFi and $700, $811 and $922 for the 3G models.
The thing to bear in mind there is sales tax, which Apple doesn't list for its US products because it varies state to state. The Australian equivalent is of course GST. Add in the 10% GST to those prices. and you get $610, $732 and $855 for the WiFi and $770, $892 and $1014 respectively. Given we've just done rough currency conversions without commission or shipping, and we'd be surprised to see too many imported iPads actually matching US prices.
Which iPad is the best value?
This still leaves the question: If you're keen on the iPad, which model is represents the best value? You can read our first look at the WiFi iPad here to help you with your purchasing decision, but from a pure money perspective, I'd say that two models stand out.
If you live in a WiFi cloud most of the time and just want to get your feet wet, the 16GB $629 model should work well. You won't have much space for music, but then the iPad's not a great portable music player in any case. Where you're more likely to feel the data pinch is with movies, as the iPad makes a nice comfortable movie player, especially given the good battery life.
The 32GB model sits in an uncomfortable middle space in the pricing equation. It's $130 more than the 16GB, but only $120 less than the 64GB. That also suggests the 64GB 3G model as the best of the 3G crowd. If you're after a model with truly mobile data, you'll want as much storage space as possible. The 64GB 3G model does break the psychological $1000 price point barrier, however.
Telstra's iPad pricing
Speaking of mobile data, Telstra surprisingly became the first carrier out of the gate releasing iPad data pricing plans on the weekend as well - you can read a breakdown on the prices over at itnews.
It's surprising given quite how slow the carrier was to release plan details for the original iPhone, but even moreso when you realise how fiercely competitive the pricing actually is. It's still mobile data, so not "cheap" up against ADSL. Still, Telstra positions NextG as "premium broadband" so offering up $20 for 1GB of data with a 30 day expiry period it is very good value.
Having the ability to purchase data ad-hoc is a nice win for iPad consumers, and honestly not what I'd expected out of any carrier, let alone Telstra. The 30 day expiry period, no matter how much data you pre-purchase is a downer, though. If the $100/12GB plan offered a six or twelve month expiry period, Telstra would have $100 of my money so fast it'd make their heads spin.
A minor catch with Telstra plans
The other minor catch with Telstra's offering is that it's offering recharges through bPay or via recharge vouchers in a similar way that mobile recharges work. Given the iPad's computing power, would it be so hard to write an iPad app that sold recharges securely via the Micro SIM that would already be in the system? Data usage would be fractional, and it would be money straight into Telstra (or any other carrier's) coffers.
What about Optus, Vodafone and Three?
Optus has yet to officially announce pricing to market, but have a page set up for Micro SIM sales, which states that plans will cost $20 a month for 2GB data. On the surface, that might seem to be much better value than Telstra's offering... but there's a catch there as well.
The iPad's 3G chip works on UMTS/HSDPA at 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz frequencies. In major metropolitan areas, Optus' network runs at 2100MHz, so no problem there. Step outside those areas - or hit a bit of dodgy reception, which isn't unknown on any network - and you're stuck on a 900MHz connection, which is GSM only and much slower. Obviously that will depend on how particularly mobile you are with an iPad.
Vodafone Hutchinson's Vodafone and Three brands have yet to announce any pricing details at all, although Apple's local web site lists all carriers as offering iPad data plans. Given the competition is offering BYO deals only, and not selling iPads outright or on subsidised plans, it would be surprising if they offered much different from Optus or Telstra.
As such, unless your data needs were very high - that is to say you had no particular WiFi to fall back on - the superior coverage and competitive pricing of Telstra's $20 1GB bundle represents the current sweet spot in iPad data provision.
As always, plans can and will change, and the beauty of a pay as you go solution is that you could easily keep a number of Micro SIMs (or cut down your own existing SIMs) to suit.