Now that the Apple iPad Mini is here, I’m fielding one particular question from friends, family and readers: Which model should I buy?
This could be a potentially expensive decision. The iPad Mini starts at $330 for the 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi version and goes all the way to a high-altitude $670 for the 64-gigabyte version with 3G data.
So what do all the extra Benjamin Franklins get you? Not much, really. Each rung higher on the iPad Mini ladder will cost you $100 for a slight memory increase. It’s obvious that Apple is making hefty margins from these upgrades. The company charges $100 to go from 16 gigabytes to 32 gigabytes with the iPad Mini. Compare that to the same upgrade from a 16-gigabyte thumb drive to a 32-gigabyte thumb drive: the larger one is a whopping $10 more.
But fear not, dear iPad Mini owner-to-be. The cloud is here to help save you money.
As a technology reporter, I often jump between gadgets to test out the latest offering from the Apples and Googles of the world. Rather than download everything to each device, I’ve found that I can keep most of my life in the cloud and pluck out what I need when I need it. In doing this, I have also found, almost by accident, that I keep most of the memory free on my devices.
For music I use the online music services Rdio, at $15 a month, and Pandora, which has a free ad-supported version or a $36-a-year option. These services allow me to stream my favorite music from the Internet. Although albums don’t need to be stored on my device, Rdio has the option to sync specific songs to your phone or tablet to listen to offline. I do the same thing with books, mostly buying them from Amazon and retrieving with the free Kindle software. When I’m done with a book, I catapult it back into the Kindle cloud.
I rent movies and TV shows from Apple for offline use, then delete them when I’m done. I stream others from Netflix, YouTube or Hulu. My photos are all stored in the cloud, too, either on Facebook, Flickr, Google Picasa or Apple iCloud. All of these photo services have free options.
Personal files can be stored in DropBox, Box or Apple iCloud, which all have free options, too. Since the cloud can go down — ahem, Amazon — I back up all of my important files on one of those inexpensive 16-gigabyte thumb drives that cost $10.
When you know you’re entering the real cloud, on an airplane, just be sure to download the things you need for the trip before departing. I’ve personally made this part of my packing routine: socks, underwear, download a movie, toothpaste, T-shirts, sync my digital books.
Keep in mind, you’re not necessarily paying for the memory on the iPad Mini. You’re paying for your time. Here’s how I’ve learned to balance the two.
It takes a little time and effort to move to the cloud, and there isn’t a moving service that helps you do it in one swoop, yet. But as I’ve found, it’s worth the effort, and if it means you can buy a new iPad Mini for $330, not $670, it will pay for itself in no time at all.