Best time to buy an expiring-generation iPad?
August 17, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I'd like an iPad. What's the optimal time to try to get one of last generation's iPads, new or refurbished? How long will retailers carry them after the product line is refreshed?

I quite like the Retina display, which requires a certain recent vintage. (The only next-gen iPad variable that's really of interest to me is that its pen sensitivity might approach that of a Wacom drawing tablet, but I'm not sure if that will be part of an OS update or a hardware update.) There have been a lot of good deals recently on expiring-gen iPads, but I'm in no hurry to get one, so I'm willing to wait until the "perfect" time.
posted by blueshammer to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Past history suggests Apple generally tapers off supply on models that are set to be discontinued, and rarely offers closeout pricing or fire-sales, so occasional deals at a retailer or from a refurb are probably the best you're going to get, outside of buying second-hand from someone wanting to upgrade. Having discontinued the iPad 2 in March and replaced it with the 4th-generation model, a drop in the entry-level price is also fairly unlikely.

The third-generation model (first retina display) had some performance issues from the outset, and may only get a subset of iOS 8's new features. You don't want one of those.

Are you looking to pay the least amount of money for a new iPad, or for the best possible deal on a more expensive model?
posted by holgate at 7:52 AM on August 17, 2014

9to5mac says they are on sale right now at Staples. iPads don't ever seem to go on sale for long so I would probably jump at the chance if I were you. (I'm typing this on my iPad Air and I love it.)
posted by jeffmilner at 7:54 AM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is no definitive answer to this question, since it will change depending upon Apple's unpublished strategies. I would suggest refurbished iPads at the Apple store page.
posted by blob at 7:55 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a 3rd gen iPad, and it is unfair to say it had performance problems. The new ones are faster for some things, sure, but if you're using it for Netflix and Twitter you'd be hard pressed to even tell the difference. For very heavy web browsing and games, you might want a newer one. If be surprised if any iPad wasn't available as a refurb for at least a year after they stop selling new ones. The 3rd gen was "obsolete" over 18 months ago, but it's still available. Refurb is usually the way to go, as they look practically brand new and the savings from buying a used iPad is usually not significant. The only real downside is that inventory fluctuates, so you might have to wait for the specific color/storage/Wi-Fi you want.
posted by wnissen at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first retina iPad is pretty slow to the degree I'd suggest that you avoid it unless you're really strapped for cash. It is very likely that a new version will be released this fall, so if you can hold out a little longer you can try for a discount on the current generation at a better price or a slight reduction on older models on the used market. If you wait until the holiday/post-holiday sale season, there will almost certainly be better deals then than now.
posted by Candleman at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2014

One thing to consider is that some retailers will offer ways to save money without putting the iPad on sale.

Target for example, will sometimes give you a gift card for buying a particular device. A couple of years ago they were giving $100 cards for buying an ipod. If it's a retailer you typically shop at anyway, it's actually a very good deal.
posted by oddman at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2014

I've owned every iPad. The fourth-generation one is the one you want. It has the retina screen, and the modern Lightning connector for data/charging. You don't want the third generation iPad because it takes much longer to charge, and it is heavier. The iPad Air (what Apple calls the fifth-generation iPad) is the current model as of this writing. It is the lightest and very fast, but IMO the sweet-spot for performance, portability, ease in case selection, software support, and most importantly price is the fourth-gen iPad.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have ipad4 and iPad Air. I picked up ipad4 in apples refurbished section of
The ipad4 is quite nice (albeit heavy compared to the air).

I would get the ipad4from apples refurb stock .
posted by prk60091 at 6:19 PM on August 17, 2014

Thanks for everyone's input. For the record, I ended up with an iPad Mini with Retina. The model is on sale for $300 right now for those with .edu accounts.
posted by blueshammer at 1:23 PM on September 1, 2014

Update: The iPad Air 2 was released last fall. It's much better than its predecessor, the Air, in every way. Still, if you're on a budget, the fourth-gen iPad is a great choice. If you can afford the Air 2, though, go with that one.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2015

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