The Apple iPad was announced this week and will begin shipping within a matter of weeks. The iPad which aims to fill a gap in the marketplace between smartphones and laptops will sell with a range of memory size options and the option of a WI-FI only model or with additional 3G functionality to allow full mobile broadband on the go.

Functionality:

The only main difference announced in functionality is the addition of 3G mobile broadband. The other hardware and functions are likely to remain the same. Due to the mobile nature of 3G there are rumours that the iPad  3G may also include GPS which would be a very useful function for mapping, navigation and so on.

Appearance:

At first glance it may not be obvious to see a difference between the standard iPad and the iPad 3G. Viewed from the front both models look the same but once flipped over to the back the iPad 3G version reveals a small black plastic section of backing near the top. This is to provide better performance from the built in 3G mobile broadband antenna. The aluminum casing would otherwise block or interfere with the signal resulting in a reduction in performance.

Apple iPad 3G

Cost:

International pricing for the 3G iPad is yet to be announced but the US versions are $130 more expensive than their WI-FI only equivalents. While the pricing overall for the iPad is highly competitive there are some industry experts including hardware guru Aaron Vronko saying the $130 price difference is crazy and that buyers of the 3G model will in effect be subsidising the standard model. Due to the popularity of mobile broadband dongles the 3G chips required to add the functionality now wholesale for under $10US. While some premium would be expected for the functionality a premium of approximately $50US would have seemed fairer.

Obviously these are launch prices only and may have been fuelled by Apples’ desire to grab headlines with a $499 entry point for the product. The iPad has certainly been one of the most hyped products in a long while but it will have to be seen whether it will take off or not in the same way products such as the iPod and iPhone have done in recent years.