These tips are purely from my own experience of having an iPad for my 3 yo special needs son, which is also used by my NT children. I don’t get a chance to use it much *sigh*
1. 16gb, 32gb or 64gb?
Each step up adds €100 ($142) to the cost of the device so this aspect needs to be considered carefully.
Our iPad is 16 gb. It has 167 apps on it, plus some music and photos and there is still 40% of the storage left. If your child is the only person who will use the iPad then the 16gb should be enough. If you think you will load up a lot of video onto the device then go with a 32gb to be on the safe side. If multiple family members will use it and have varied interests then go with 32gb or 64gb, depending on how much video will be loaded onto the iPad. But for one child with little or no video 16gb should be enough.
If you do run out of space then don’t worry, there is a new product on the market that can help: Kingston Wi Drive There isn’t a release date mentioned yet, so I have no idea when this will make it to Europe but it is a good way to extend the storage on your device if you need to………cheaper than buying a new iPad! There are 2 or 3 others available, Seagate do one also.
2. 3g & Wi-fi or Wi-fi only?
Getting a device with 3g will add another €120 ($171) to the cost of the device. Wifi will connect you to your home wifi network. If you envisage your child needing internet access outside of home then you have to consider your 3g options.
In my opinion 3g is not worth that extra cost because you can buy a wi-fi hotspot (such as a Hotshot – available from most mobile broadband suppliers) starting at €50 ($71) for bill pay up to €80 ($114) for prepay. (Prices vary according to company so shop around). The prepay data bundles cost the same as if you put a micro sim into your iPad and with the hotspot you can use up to 5 devices. Also, if you have a weak signal you cannot hold the iPad up high to try increase signal strength while your child is using it. You can with the hotspot. You may laugh now, but trust me, if your child is in the middle of their favourite elevator or film credits Youtube clip you WILL do this!
In short, the mobile hotspot is cheaper than buying inbuilt 3g and more useful as you can use it with other mobile devices.
3. Which case?
Get a GOOD strong case, the younger your child is the more important this bit is. Devices fall, or maybe even get thrown across the room in frustration! iPads are stronger than you might expect, but do you really want to take the chance?
We use an Otterbox Defender. It looks like something a rescue team would use to bring an iPad up the side of a mountain, if they needed an iPad up the side of a mountain! Having said that, our iPad is now 10 months old and still in one piece. Search Amazon for current prices. The price of the Defender for the iPad1 has dropped. The price for an iPad2 case may seem quite steep, but it is considerably cheaper than replacing/repairing your iPad as damage from drops and bangs is not covered under your Apple one year warranty.
A sturdy case like this will add a fair bit of weight to the iPad but this is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have a young child with poor motor skills then the extra weight will give them a better ‘feel’ of/for the device.
4. iPad1 or iPad2?
Ours is an iPad1. It is thicker and heavier than the iPad2. After that the main difference is that the iPad2 has a camera front and back to facilitate video calls. There are differences in processors and memory, but these won’t really matter to your child.
You can buy refurbished iPad1 in the Apple store and save yourself between €50 to €70 depending on the spec you are buying. There is nothing at all wrong with a refurb, often they will be returns of unwanted items and not necessarily a ‘faulty’ item that got repaired. The refurbs also come with the standard one year warranty. Stock in the shop changes daily so if you have a particular spec in mind check every day until the one you want becomes available. The iPad2 is out a few months now so iPad1’s will become more scarce as time goes by.
If you are planning to buy a device in the not too distant future download iTunes NOW. Then when I, or others, post about apps going free for a few days you can download and have them for when you get your device. (I link apps on the Irish Autism Action Facebook page)
The price of an app can change depending on sales, promotions and events or just the age of the app. Often there will be a ‘free’ or ‘lite’ version to allow you try out a small section of the app before you commit to buying the full app. Where this option is available use it.
There are about 100k apps available in the app store, some are rubbish and some are excellent. There are a lot of apps available now for special needs children. Sometimes the only way to tell if your child will like an app is for them to try it out. Expect that you will have disappointments and that some of them will have cost you money.
If you see a ‘paid’ app that you like the look of you can add it to your wish-list in iTunes so that you don’t forget the name of it. Then you can go back and investigate futher before you buy it.
It appears that iTunes will not let you buy an app (even ‘buy’ a free app) without adding your credit card details. There is a workaround for this:
FIRST: After you download iTunes find ANY free app and click to download it. It will ask for your apple id to continue with the purchase. Only THEN do you set up your apple id and you will be able to do so without adding a credit card. You can then download free apps to your hearts content. If you try to set up the apple id first, before trying to download a free app, it will not let you proceed without adding credit card details. Just cancel the setup and start again, clicking to download a free app first.
If you have anything to add that others might find helpful please feel free to leave a comment and I will add it in.