Well, tomorrow is the big day. By now, you probably know whether you are buying the new iPad Air or not. From past experience, we know that there is only a small window for getting Apple’s new tablet before shipping times slip to two, three, or even four weeks.
We have had three-and-a-half years and five models worth of experience at buying an iPad and have a few recommendations for how to have an enjoyable experience purchasing your tablet tomorrow.
When the first iPad launched in 2010, I preordered online and received it the day it launched. That was back when people were calling it an oversized iPhone and said it was nothing more than a toy.
In 2011, I stood in line for the iPad 2 for three hours, only to be told that the model I wanted was already sold out. Considering I had waited for three hours, I decided to spend more money than I had budgeted. I wasn’t walking out of that store empty handed.
In 2012, I decided to skip the frenzy of the Apple store and went to my local target to purchase the third-generation iPad. After freezing outside for two hours, I was the third in a line of about a dozen people. The crowd was significantly smaller, but Target only had nine tablets available for sale.
As you can tell, buying an iPad can really be a trying experience. In order to ease the stress, here are a few tips.
Pick your model
Buying and iPad is like a piranha feeding frenzy. Everything happens so fast and, before you know it, you are holding onto an Apple tablet while a bunch of guys in blue shirts are clapping for you. What just happened?
In order to ensure a smooth transition, plan ahead for which model you want to buy. If you plan on using your iPad for checking email, posting on Facebook, and surfing the Web, you will be fine with a 16GB model. If you are a heavy gamer and hope to load your tablet with high-quality graphics games, invest in something bigger, like the 32 or 64 GB model. If your new iPad Air will be your workhorse companion, or you plan to edit photographs and videos, go with the largest model you can afford, preferably the 64 or 128GB device.
If you don’t see yourself toting your Apple tablet to every outing you go on, or know that the iPad Air will more likely spend all of its time in a Wi-Fi zone, save a few bucks and skip the cellular option. If you plan to take your device on the road, to the beach, and on your weekend trips to the city, spring for the cellular model.
If you are going to purchase an iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, you’ll need to know ahead of time which carrier you plan to go with. Check out AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile to find out which carrier is right for you.
Use the Apple Store app
This year, Apple will be making the iPad Air available to purchase online with free shipping or for in-store pick up through the Apple Store app. Set your alarm or stay up late and order yours at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 1 (midnight tonight). If you purchase an iPad Air to be shipped to you, you will receive it within a few days. If you really want your tablet tomorrow, order it for in-store pick-up. Supplies will be limited. Be sure you know what you want so you can buy it right away. If you purchase an iPad Air for in-store pick-up, you will be able to walk into an Apple retail store at any time to pick it up. You won’t have to wait in line.
Waiting in line
If, for some reason, you can’t order your iPad Air using the Apple Store app, you can still get one on launch day, but it will be a little harder. First of all, you will need to get there early. I’m not talking a half hour, or even an hour early. Depending on the city you live in, you may need to arrive as much as three hours early. If you recall my story above, I arrived at my Apple retail store two hours before launch and it took another hour to get through the line to my spot. When I got to the front, I was told that there may not be anymore iPads available. As it was, I had to settle for a different model than I originally wanted.
Speaking of which, plan for a second choice. There is a chance that your preferred model will be sold out by the time you get into the store. Have a second option, like the white/silver model instead of the black/space gray model, or have an extra $100 in your budget to upgrade if the size you want is sold out entirely.
Be prepared to wait for up to three hours. If you arrive two hours before doors open, there is a chance that it will take another hour to get through the line. Bring some form of entertainment, like your old iPad with your favorite magazine, or your iPhone with a fun game. Bring a jacket and a bottle of water. If possible, have a line-sitting companion so that you can use the restroom or buy coffee and not lose your place. You should also be prepared to have great conversations with other Apple fans like you. From my experience of line sitting for iPhones and iPads, I’ve met some wonderful people who enjoy Apple products as much as I do. Strike up a conversation with your neighbor and find out how obsessed they are, too.
Think about accessories to buy
Because the iPad Air is so much different than its predecessor, you should think about the extras you will need. For example, you may need a Lightning adapter. In fact, if you don’t already own an Apple product with a Lightning cable, you should buy the adapter. You won’t regret it.
You may also want to invest in one of Apple’s Smart Covers. Personally, I’d hold out for a third-party case or cover. Hundreds of accessory makers will be coming out with their own line of protective ware for your Apple tablet over the next few months. No need to limit your options.
Should you or shouldn’t you. Mostly, it depends on your lifestyle. The iPad comes with a 90-day telephone tech support and one-year basic warranty. If you are the kind of person who buys a new iPad every year, AppleCare is pointless. AppleCare extends the telephone support and warranty coverage for three full years. It is available for $99 for iPads.
If you don’t live anywhere near an Apple Store, the telephone tech support alone may be worth the investment if you are not the type of person who looks online for solutions to problems.
From my personal experience with more than a dozen Apple products over the past decade, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices usually expose their flaws within the first year. If something is wrong with your mobile device after the second or third year, it is usually because technology has surpassed the hardware and software that is compatible with your device.
However, AppleCare offers accidental damage coverage for $49. If you drop your iPad or leave it out in the rain, you can spend an additional $49, each time, to have it repaired or replaced. You can only use accidental damage twice over the duration of the AppleCare warranty. However, if you have slippery fingers or a child in the house, the additional cost may be worth it.
Remember, buying a new iPad on launch day can be a very stressful experience, but only if you let it. Don’t be mad if the guy in front of you decides to let his two buddies cut in line. Don’t be irritated with the singing teenage girls behind. Don’t get frustrated with how long it takes to get the line moving once the doors open. It is all part of the experience and is something to treasure, not spoil. Enjoy spending a few hours with your fellow Apple fans. It only happens once (or twice) a year.