Can an iPad save you money?

Picture of the new iPadSo here we are, the new iPad has been out for a fortnight and the big question for many has to be whether it's actually worth the money.

I have one, it's very shiny and I'm growing increasingly fond of it. But boys-with-toys psychology aside, is it actually possible to save money using something with such a high ticket price?
There are two broad categories of ways of making the most of this new widget. One is to spend nothing more on it; the second is to add things that cost. I'll treat these separately.

Free stuff


First let's have a look at what you can add - and you'll really have to add some stuff - free of charge. Like a Skype account - which enables you to make calls to other Skype users without paying for them. Video calls too - like the iPad 2, the new model has a camera on the front. If you want to make calls outside the Skype network that's fine but you have to add money to your account.
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You can also make calls to other people with compatible Apple products and accounts, through the Facetime app and also send free texts through the Messaging app. This last one only works to other compatible Apple devices so if you don't know what phone/tablet the recipient is using it's a non-starter. But it's free for people with the right devices.

Speaking of "free" there are whole swatches of gadgets you needn't buy if you're going for the iPad, particularly this model. Tired of those nice, convenient digital cameras you can slip into your pocket? Hold an iPad up to your face and take a pic with that instead! It now has the same camera as the iPhone 4S. When I heard this I assumed nobody would bother holding a tablet up and taking a picture but having been in Central London recently I have to swallow that - people are indeed using them as cameras.

Somewhat simpler is the elimination of any need to buy an Amazon Kindle or a Kobo e-reader; you can download apps to emulate both of them, and of course the iPad has its own e-reader as well. This saves money only if you were going to go for one of these costly devices in the first place, but could offer a saving of around £100.

Then depending on your needs you might find you no longer need a laptop computer. The absence of an easy-to-use file system makes this a tricky one for some; I'd struggle to download a picture and then re-upload it to this blog, for example (I just tried and the 'upload' button on the content management system doesn't work) but for most other purposes it would be fine. Remember Google Docs works fine with an iPad and is free - or you can opt for other online things or software apps like Apple's own iWork.

Entertainment is of course legendary on the iPad as well as other tablets. BBC iPlayer and other catch-up services could eliminate the need for a TV if you like really small pictures. But that's a stretch.

Money money money


Of course you can stretch the iPad further if you spend a little money. Mophie's Powerstand is a neat widget that holds the gadget up and charges it while you use it for recipes in the kitchen, watch TV on it or whatever you want to do. Amazon is selling them for £129 but they're genuinely very nice. Will it do instead of a kitchen or bedroom TV? That's up to you.

Protecting your iPad is naturally vital. Stylish cases are coming out from Proporta in its partnership with Ted Baker; Case-Mate's new Tuxedo range works as a smart cover (which switches the device into sleep mode when you close it, saving on batteries) and looks rather good too. Gear4 is releasing some Angry Birds-specific cases if you're inclined; I'm tempted but they won't look good in business meetings!

If you're going down the laptop substitute route then do have a look at Logitech's tablet keyboard, which comes with its own foldable case and is £49.99; the same company's keyboard case for iPad 2 also fits the new model and acts as a protective case as well as a keyboard, so is a neat solution. Another productivity boost is the £5.99 USB 2 in 1 camera connection kit, available from Pixmania.

Finally entertainment junkies will want speakers and headphones; many are available, but Jabra's new sports headphones are wireless, discreet and carry a surprising amount of oomph in the base department for something so lightweight. They're designed for exercise but will work fine in other situations - I can confirm listening to an audiobook whilst painting a ceiling last week was not a problem.

Caution


A lot has been made in the US about this new device being compatible with super-fast 4G broadband. We don't have that in the UK yet and in Australia the system has been found to be incompatible. If you're going to buy a new iPad, whatever you do get it for what it can do now rather than what it ought probably hopefully to do later in the year.

Guy Clapperton is the author of "This Is Social Media"

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