How My $499 iPad Purchase Became a $1,170 Credit Card Bill

Consumer Reports

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I went shopping for my very own iPad at 8:30 AM March 12, the moment it first went on sale. Having had a chance to try out the iPad at the January 27 launch, I had wanted one for weeks. What follows is how what started out as a $499 purchase ended up with my putting $1,170.58 on my credit card.

When I entered the Apple Store, I scrolled through the prices for the various models. Although the most affordable model, a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad, cost only $499 (excluding sales tax), after some soul-searching, I decided on a 64GB 3G model, even though it cost $829 and wouldn't ship until late April.

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Here's why: I've had a 32GB iPod Touch for a couple of years. I love it, but I was always frustrated by having to hunt for an unprotected Wi-Fi connection wherever I went.

Confession: I have repeatedly downloaded e-mail by freeloading on unprotected connections in various places in and around NYC. For example, when eating at a diner I frequent on New York's Upper West Side, I used to mooch a connection from what appeared to be an unsecured router in some apartment above the diner. One week, without warning, someone secured that connection and I was left to eat without being able to read e-mail or browse the Web.

Eventually, I tired of the Wi-Fi hunt and began using my Touch less and less. When the Motorola Droid smartphone came out last fall, and it was compatible with my existing carrier (Verizon), I scooped one up and signed up for Verizon's data plan. Although not as elegant as the iPhone, the Droid is good enough for my purposes-and no more having to mooch bandwidth!

After my Touch experience, I no longer wanted to be limited by a Wi-Fi only device (laptops excluded). That's why I opted to spend $130 more for a 3G iPad.

As for stepping up to the 64GB iPad, my philosophy is that you can never have too much memory. I have no doubt that I will fill much of that 64GB within the next year or two. Speaking only for myself, the breathing space was worth the extra couple of hundred dollars.

So, how did I go from an $829 iPad to a $1,170 tab? In a word: Accessories.

Knowing I'll want to do some serious typing on the iPad, I sprung for the $69 keyboard dock (ka-ching!). To protect my iPad (and prop it up on any flat surface), I went for the $39 case (ka-ching!). I added the $29 USB power adaptor because I will want to charge my iPad in multiple locations, and the $29 VGA adapter so that I can view it on any display I own (double ka-ching!).

Oh, and I took the $99 AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends the 90 days of tech support and 1 year warranty (including the battery) to two years. (Big ka-ching!) Shipping was free, but sales tax added another $76.58 to the tab (ka-ching! to the State of New Jersey).

So there you have it. I admit that I willingly slipped down a slippery slope that wasn't so apparent when Steve Jobs first seduced me with that $499 price tag. (Full disclosure: My birthday is coming up soon, so at least I have a flimsy rationalization to offer my wife.)

If you buy an iPad, but have other priorities (like the groceries or kids), by all means don't spend as much as I did. But be aware how easy it is to spend more than you originally intend-especially since Apple now offers more iPad accessories than it did when I made my purchase, including a $29 USB adapter to connect your digital camera card reader.

-Jeff Fox

Copyright © 2006-2010 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

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