iPad buying guide: December 2012

With the iPad 4 and iPad Mini hitting South Africa, there are now four different iPads to choose between when shopping this holiday season.

Although the iPad 4 is set to replace the iPad 3, there are bound to be a few units of the older model that still need to be sold.

Apple has indicated that the older iPad 2 would still be sticking around for a far lower price than its more fully featured siblings, though it is slightly more expensive than the iPad Mini.

For all intents and purposes the iPad Mini is an iPad 2 with a smaller screen, better cameras, and Apple’s new “Lightning” connector.

The iPad Mini Wi-Fi + Cellular models also support Long Term Evolution (LTE), which may one day work on Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C’s new LTE networks (though it is unlikely to at launch).

Specifications iPad 4 iPad 3 iPad Mini iPad 2
Display 9.7″ Retina (2048×1536) IPS 9.7″ Retina (2048×1536) IPS 7.9-inch XGA (1024×768) IPS 9.7″ XGA (1024×768) IPS
Rear camera 5MP 5MP 5MP 0.7MP (960×720)
Front camera 1.2MP VGA (0.3MP) 1.2MP VGA (0.3MP)
Storage, internal 16/32/64GB 16/32/64GB 16/32/64GB 16GB
Storage, expandable None None None None
RAM 1GB* 1GB* Uncertain 512MB*
Dimensions 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm
Weight 652g (Wi-Fi) / 662g (Cellular) 652g (Wi-Fi) / 662g (Cellular) 308g (Wi-Fi) / 312g (Cellular) 601g (Wi-Fi) / 613g (3G)
Chipset Apple A6X Apple A5X Apple A5 Apple A5
Processor 1.4GHz dual-core 1GHz dual-core* 1GHz dual-core* 1GHz dual-core*
Graphics PowerVR SGX554MP4* PowerVR SGX543MP4* PowerVR SGX543MP2* PowerVR SGX543MP2*
Battery 11,560mAh* (42.5Wh) 11,560mAh* (42.5Wh) 4,440mAh* (16.3Wh / 16.5Wh?*) 6,930mAh* (25Wh)
Mobile data (when supported) 42Mbps HSPA+ and LTE (700 / 850 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100) 42Mbps HSPA+ and LTE (700MHz / AWS) 42Mbps HSPA+ and LTE (700 / 850 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100) 14.4Mbps HSPA
SIM type Micro SIM Micro SIM Nano SIM Micro SIM
Specs marked with a * are from iFixit’s teardown of the devices, not official spec sheets

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the iPad Mini tablets with cellular data support take nano SIMs, which are even smaller than the micro SIMs Apple products used previously.

This means you’ll either have to risk trimming your existing micro SIM, or get a new SIM card from your mobile network operator.

Considering that the equivalent iPad Mini model is between R700 and R800 cheaper than the iPad 2, it is difficult to recommend the larger tablet PC. Unless you really want the larger screen and can’t afford the more expensive iPad 4, the iPad Mini is just better bang-for-buck.

iPad Mini and iPad 4
iPad Mini and iPad 4

If you can find an iPad 3, it may be an option to get an iPad with a larger screen that offers a significant improvement technology-wise over the iPad Mini.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the LTE capabilities of the iPad 3 are unlikely to ever work in South Africa due to the frequencies supported by the device.

Should cellular data connectivity not be a concern, then a Wi-Fi-only iPad 3 could be a great way to get an “iPad with Retina display” for a lower price than the slightly better specced iPad 4.

The table below summarises the prices at which the various iPad models are being offered in South Africa.

iPad model iPad 4 iPad 3 current iPad Mini iPad 2
16GB Wi-Fi R5,199 R4,599 R3,399 R4,199
32GB Wi-Fi R6,399 R5,899 R4,499 N/A
64GB Wi-Fi R7,399 R6,899 R5,499 N/A
16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular R6,499 R5,899 R4,799 R5,499
32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular R7,499 R6,899 R5,899 N/A
64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular R8,599 R7,799 R6,999 N/A

Another way to buy an iPad is on contract, or through your bank.

Some stores that sell iPads also offer them on MTN or Vodacom contracts, while Absa is advertising a 0% interest deal when buying an iPad on your credit card’s budget facility.

Be warned, however, that the fine print of this deal states that the interest will revert to normal on Freedom Day next year (27 April 2013).

First National Bank, Standard Bank, and Absa also all now have deals that let some of their customers buy iPads and other smart devices at lower prices.

These typically require you to enter into some kind of contract with the bank, so be sure to read the fine print carefully before selecting a deal.

iPad 4 prices in South Africa compared

iPad 4 and iPad Mini prices for SA

iPad Mini review

iPad 4 and iPad Mini LTE support in SA

iPad 3 price cut in South Africa

iPad 2 price cuts in SA

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iPad buying guide: December 2012