Image: Shoppers and iPads
Damian Dovarganes  /  AP file
Shoppers check out iPads and cases at a Best Buy in Glendale, Calif.
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updated 5/18/2011 5:33:30 PM ET 2011-05-18T21:33:30

If you're like us, you probably find new technology almost irresistible. It's always nice to have the latest and greatest devices and gadgets, but justifying the purchase can be a bit tricky. This is especially true with similar devices, such as Apple'siOS line — the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Familiarity
If you have an iPhone or an iPod touch, you'll be very comfortable finding your way around on an iPad. It offers the same app store and the same ability to surf the Web, play music and videos, and do everything else you would expect from an iOS device.

Navigating the touch interface is the same, as well. Pinch the screen to zoom in, or swipe your finger across the display to flip to the next home screen or page.

Portability
One of the key things you'll need to consider before purchasing an iPad is just how mobile you plan on being. An iPhone or iPod Touch can easily slip into your pocket when you aren't using it. Due to its larger size, this obviously isn't possible with an iPad.

Another thing to keep in mind is that unless you are sitting down somewhere, the iPad takes 2 hands to use — one to hold the device, and one to actually use it. An iPod Touch or iPhone can easily be held and operated with one hand, using your thumb to swipe, tap, and text.

Screen size
One of the biggest differences between an iPad and any other iOS device is the screen size. There are thousands of iPad-specific video game, cookbook, art, and music apps (just to name a few) that far out-do anything their smaller-screened siblings are capable of.

Apps and activities that all iOS devices are capable of, such as surfing the Web or watching a video, also tend to be much more enjoyable on a larger screen. This is primarily because you don't have to squint to see details or zoom in and out just to read text.

Speed
The iPad definitely has a leg up in the speed department when compared to an iPhone or iPod touch. The latest version comes equipped with a dual-core 1GHz A5 processor, as well as drastically improved graphics performance. Once the new iPhone and iPod Touch models come out, it's probably safe to assume that they will get a nice speed bump as well — but for now, the iPad has them thoroughly beat.

Things to keep in mind
Here are a few things to keep in mind before making your final decision:

  • Phone calls: Remember that an iPad is much like an iPod Touch — while it is capable of making FaceTime calls, it is not able to make traditional phone calls.
  • Internet access: While all versions of the iPad are capable of connecting to a Wi-Fi network, there are other models that can also access either the AT&T or Verizon Wireless cellular networks. If you think you'll need access to the Web while on the go, you may want to pick up one of these models. Just remember, there will be a monthly charge from the carrier for this access. Head to an AT&T or Verizon store for details.
  • Other alternatives: If you only plan on using your iPad for surfing the Web, watching some videos, and listening to music, a laptop or netbook may be a better alternative. Most have larger screens and faster processors and can even cost roughly the same.

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