This is a great question and is the first most parents ask. My short answer is to buy the least expensive device.
- Kids tend to break things. I feel better about that if it’s less expensive versus more expensive.
- Apple does not make hardware that is upgradeable or expandable. This is a double edged sword. The biggest missing hardware feature on the iPads today is the lack of a camera. This is not a big deal for most users, but anyone using Proloquo2Go on an iPod Touch with a camera will tell you it makes it much easier to create new and more meaningful communication directly on the device and in the field then to have to wait and download pictures from another device.
Reason to buy something other than just the basic device
If you don’t have access to wifi high-speed internet or you would like your device to be as independent as possible, you should consider getting an iPad with a 3G contract. The 3G technology just means you will have a cell phone with a data only plan built into the iPad and the iPad can access the internet wherever there is 3G coverage, which is most everywhere. There are a couple of downsides to this:
- Cost: You now have an iPad and a cell phone with a data plan contract for a couple of years
- Speed: 3G is just not as fast as a wifi connection. 3G will go as a high as 1 Megabit per second, compared to Wifi, which can go as high as 54 Mega bites per second. In other words, wifi is 50 times faster. So downloading videos, music, apps, etc. is much faster on Wifi
If your child likes lots of video, consider a device with more memory. The more memory you have the less often you will have to download video or music to the iPad. The least expensive iPad has 16 GB; this may seem like a lot but I downloaded 1 season of Sesame Street and it almost filled it up. For me, I just play the swap game a lot.
If you child does not have fine motor or sight issues, you may consider an iPod Touch, or if they are old enough and have the need for a cell phone, consider an iPhone. These smaller devices can be easily carried in a pocket. For Proloquo2Go only users, the smaller format is much nicer and less obtrusive. Plus, both smaller devices have an on board camera and, as noted above, some Proloquo2Go users find the camera to be invaluable.
Missing Features from the iPad
As a side note these are the missing features I would like to see in every iPad and may cause me to upgrade ours later (if my child does not break it first).
It is unlikely that Apple will add an SD card slot or some other removable storage to the iPad. Apple locks their hardware down, which forces users to upgrade to new hardware.
Be looking for Apple to add a camera feature models of the iPad. The iPad upgrade path will likely follow one similar to that of the iPhone and iPod Touch. A camera is a very common way to interface with the world, and in addition to adding ease of use to applications like Proloquo2Go, a camera is a great tool for children to learn and experience the world around them.