'iPad 3' upgrade guide: Who should and who shouldn't

It's easy to spend $500 to $1,000 after one of Apple's euphoria-inducing announcements, but should you?

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In and of itself, 4G support is not a good reason to shell out for a new iPad. Over time, 4G will improve and increase in availability, but that reality is a good year or more away for most people. And remember that if you have fast 4G where you live, the carriers will encourage you to use video services that will quickly eat up your data plans and greatly increase your monthly costs. Even if you don't use more data, your costs will go up: Verizon and AT&T are charging essentially 50 percent more for 4G data than they do for 3G data on the earlier iPads -- and you can't get a 3G plan instead for the new iPad, only the pricier 4G plans.

What could justify buying a new iPad if you now own an iPad 2? Not much. The Retina display certainly is appealing, but unless you're doing high-res photo editing or artistic creation -- where new apps such as iPhoto and Sketchbook Ink take advantage of its resolution -- that appeal is more emotional than practical. Ditto with some of the high-res games coming to the new iPad. Such apps will be more of a driver to getting a new iPad than the onboard software is, such as the new voice dictation capability.

The Apple TV update also announced today with support for 1080p HD video streaming could justify a new iPad purchase, as it's highly unlikely the iPad 2's hardware would be able to support HD streaming.

If you have an original iPad, the case to get a new iPad is more compelling. Apple has significantly enhanced the iPad's hardware since the 2010 model, and several capabilities in iOS 5 don't run on the original iPad. That gap will grow with the new iPad. Many original iPad owners noticed slower performance with iOS 5, and some iPad apps run only on the iPad 2 (and of course new iPad), such as Adobe's Photoshop Touch image editor. If the iPad apps you primarily use are Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Music, Notes, iBooks, Video, YouTube, Maps, Messages, newsreaders, social networking, and Safari, you can stick with the original iPad for another year.

Of course, if you have no tablet, get a new iPad. You're going to get a tablet at some point anyhow -- if you have the funds, why deprive yourself of what these remarkable devices can do any longer?

This article, "'iPad 3' upgrade guide: Who should and who shouldn't," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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