What Device Should I Buy?
Which device should I buy?" is a frequent question I'm asked by SLPs, clients, and facilities looking to invest in mobile touch-screen technology. I'll take you through the options for platform, model, version, storage, connectivity, and price to help you decide which device best meets your needs.
Platform: Apple devices are the top pick for SLPs due to the sheer number of apps available for speech pathology on iOS devices. Android devices, which include Kindle Fire, Nook, and Samsung Galaxy Tab, are the next most popular choice due to lower cost, though the number of speech-specific apps pales in comparison. You'll find a list of SLP apps available for Android on a blog called Speech Therapists Don't Get Apples. BlackBerry and Windows also make touch-screen tablets and phones, but the dearth of SLP apps available for these platforms makes these devices impractical. Assuming you choose to go with an Apple device to make use of all the great apps Jeremy and I discuss here every week, then you have made one decision, but have several more ahead of you.
Model: Apple has 4 touch-screen devices: iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, and iPod touch. The 9.7" iPad is the best choice if you work with older clients, people with poor manual dexterity or vision, or groups. However, if you're considering the device for AAC or strictly personal use, you may want to use a 7.9" iPad mini so it can truly go everywhere. The 4" iPhone and iPod touch are not as practical for therapy, but are well-suited for AAC devices and home practice; the former also working as a phone, adding a monthly bill with the added functionality. Please note that some apps are designed for iPad only and will not run on an iPhone or iPod touch; all apps will work on an iPad or iPad mini, though they may need to be enlarged to fill the screen.
Version: If you plan to have the device awhile, I recommend getting the newest model you can afford. Each new version offers new features (e.g. camera, Retina display, voice recognition) and should guarantee compatibility with new operating systems for longer. New releases often bring price-drops in the last model, so it's worth researching rumors online if you're looking for a bargain or want to ensure buying the latest version.
Storage: Since you can't add memory to an iOS device, buying one with a hard drive big enough for all your apps, music, files, movies, and photos is an important consideration - what sounds big now may not be so useful in a few years. Sizes range from 16 GB to 128 GB, and some popular speech apps are over 1 GB each. If you want to identify the "space hogs" on your device, you can go into Settings -> General -> Usage to see a list of apps sorted from biggest to smallest. If you plan to use your device for therapy or to trial AAC programs, then "bigger is better" is the rule to follow. If you're recommending a device for a client who only needs a small number of apps, then the basic models are likely okay.
Connectivity: All the devices use Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, but you can pay extra for wireless data capabilities (3G/cellular) on the iPad and iPad mini, both when purchasing the device and when using the service. It's important to know where you'll be using the device, the availability of Wi-Fi, and if there's a budget for monthly data bills after the initial purchase when considering this feature.
Price: The cheapest new iOS devices are currently the 4th generation iPod touch and a contract-bound iPhone5 at $199. The iPad mini starts at $329, the iPad2 is still available for $399, and the latest iPad starts at $499, going as high as $929 for 128 GB and cellular. Refurbished and used devices are available through Apple and other sites for reduced prices. Apple offers a quick comparison of iPad or iPhone features and prices on their website. Don't forget to budget for a good case, apps, and the optional warranty when making your purchase.
Based on how you plan to use the device, your budget, and your data needs, this information should help you understand the choices to make your decision. Now all you have left to choose is color!