16GB, 64GB or 128GB — Which iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 should you buy

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Color is not the only consideration when you are deciding which iPad to buy. One of the most important, but often overlooked factors is capacity. Many consumers look at the price tag and go with the cheapest device. This strategy is great until they hit their storage limit when trying to download a new app, or take a photo with the Camera. Here’s a guide to help you decide which storage capacity to choose.

About IOS 8.1 Beta

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Capacity and Pricing
There’s no getting around the fact that if you want additional storage, you have to pay more for that extra space. How much more does this extra capacity cost?

Irrespective of whether you buy an iPad mini or iPad Air, for each bump in storage, you’ll have to pay $100 more. With earlier iPads, each storage tier would be double the previous one, but with the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, the storage tier starts at 16GB, but then jumps to 64GB and then 128GB.

The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for the 16GB model, and then goes up to $599 for 64GB and $699 for the 128GB model, and the iPad mini 3 starts at $299 for 16GB, and then goes up to $399 for 64GB and $499 for 128GB. The Cellular iPad Air 3 variant starts at $629 for the 16GB model, and then goes up to $729 for 64GB and $829 for the 128GB model, and the iPad mini 3 starts at $529 for 16GB, and then goes up to $629 for 64GB and $729 for 128GB.

In most cases, it makes financial sense to spend that extra $100 to fourfold/double your capacity, as long as you need that space.

Are you a space sneaker ?
No, I’m not talking about those pigs. I’m talking those customers who can blow through a GB of storage without blinking an eye. Do you download a lot of music, watch a lot of movies, try out a lot of apps or take a lot of photos and videos? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you could use the extra capacity afforded in a 64GB or 128GB device.

Heed my advice and be realistic about how you will use your device. Don’t underestimate your usage when deciding whether to buy a 16, 64 or 128GB device. I know a lot of people who opt for the 16GB version to save money and then come to me in five months with questions about clearing space on their device because it is filled to its maximum capacity. Spend the money upfront now to get the storage that you think you will need. It will save you a lot of headache later on.

Who should buy the 16GB model?
The 16GB device is great for the casual user who doesn’t store a lot of data on their device. They either don’t download a lot of apps or rely on the cloud to store their music or photos. These customers use their iPad for a few key activities and are not interested in storing half their life in their pocket. The 16GB also is a great starter model for the person who is new to the iOS platform and doesn’t have a lot of music in iTunes or apps they “must have” on their device. Looking beyond the casual user is the cloud user, who has a lot of data but doesn’t store it on their device. Because most of their data is in the cloud, they may be able to squeeze only the critical files they need on a 16GB model and access the rest over the internet.

It would have been great if Apple made the base model 32GB, but for some strange reason the company only doubled the storage of higher capacity models.

Who should buy the 64GB model?
With this year’s lineup, Apple’s making the 64GB model available at the price of the earlier 32GB iPad, which is great. The 64GB version gives you plenty of space for photos, music and apps. You can use your device for months without deleting a file and still have room to spare. The model is also reasonably priced, it’s only a $100 more than the 16GB and gives your four times the storage. Well worth the cash to avoid the hassle of having to constantly delete music when you want to download a new album. If you are unsure what capacity to buy, then buy the 64GB model. You won’t regret it.

Who should buy the 128GB model?
In my opinion, the 128GB model is an option that only extreme users should consider. They may be a DJ or  a VJ and  have a large music library they need to carry around with them or they are reporters who take a lot of photos or videos in the field and need the space to store the clips until they get back to the office. These folks are dealing with a lot of large files and are not the average users. For most casual users, the 128GB option is overkill. They would be better off saving that $100 and using it to buy a good case or AppleCare+.

Many iOS users turn to iCloud or other cloud apps to store files remotely and not locally on their device. With iCloud, users can store iBooks, music, movies and photos in the cloud rather than on their device. These items can sit in iCloud and you can re-download them when needed. Apple also introduced iTunes Radio in iOS 7. This music streaming service may be an easy way to listen to music without loading up your iPad.

With iOS 8, Apple also revamped the way photos get synced to iCloud, letting you access more photos than you can physically store on your device. You can also store files with the new iCloud Drive, that you can then access in iOS apps. iCloud comes with 5GB of storage with the free tier, and here are the pricing tiers:

5GB (Free)
20GB ($0.99/month)
200GB ($3.99/month)
500GB ($9.99/month)
1TB ($19.99/month)

Besides iCloud, there a variety of other cloud services like Dropbox, Box.net or Google Drive, which will offload your photos and other files. For music, you can subscribe to a service like Spotify. For a small monthly fee, or even for free if you are OK with ads, you can stream your music to your iPad and not store a single music track on your iPad. Depending your usage style you should choose which iPad model you should buy.

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