3G iPad Proves Popular
iPad mania shows no sign of abating if the size of the crowds waiting to get their pre-ordered tablets -- with 3G and WiFi connectivity -- in Chicago and NYC is any evidence. People were doubled up in a line down the block as the NYC store opened for business at 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday. There was a similar scene in Chicago where it looked as though there were about 100 people in line at the Michigan Avenue Apple store.
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Why did folks wait for the more expensive 3G version rather than pouncing on the WiFi-only iPad? "One of the biggest things, for me, was being able to sit in the middle of a park and surf the Web," said Aaron Cooker, an NYU classical music student, who was waiting outside the 14th Street store to pick up his 'Pad.
Cooker was getting the mid-range 32GB 3G model for $729. The 3G versions are more expensive than the WiFi-only editions, starting at $629 for the 16GB version, with the 64GB version coming in at $829. The WiFi-only versions were $130 less, starting at $499.
Despite the extra expense, there seems to be a market for the version that offers both local- and wide-area connectivity. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which is charging $29.99 for unlimited data downloads over its 3G network, may even be surprised by the numbers turning out to buy the 3G version. The carrier's CEO, Randall Stephenson, had previously been quoted in Wired as saying that he expects the device to be primarily "WiFi-driven." (See The iPad Has WiFi Teething Troubles.)
AT&T has already upped its network spending for 2010, in part, to address user complaints about poor iPhone service in major cities like NYC and San Francisco. The iPad isn't an iPhone, however, and early guess-work suggests it will consume much more data on the network, more like a netbook computer than a smartphone. (See Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?, AT&T to Spend $2B More on Wireless in 2010, iPhone Troubles Might Go Beyond Signaling, and AT&T Mobile Boss: NYC & San Fran Are 'Underperforming'.)
Apple has sold more than 500,000 of the WiFi tablets so far. It said recently that it will delay the international launch of the iPad because of large numbers of pre-orders for the new model in the US. (See Apple Delays International iPad.)
LR Mobile will try and talk to AT&T this week to see whether the demand for the 3G iPad changes its thinking at all about how people will use these devices.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor (New York), and Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter (Chicago), Light Reading Mobile