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Quickview: Should Financial Advisors Buy the New iPad?

Three features of the new iPad make the device an important addition to an advisor's toolkit.

Bill Winterberg, 03/22/2012

Few will argue what a huge success the iPad has been for Apple. Even financial advisors have been quick to adopt the "post-PC" device, with 38% owning one or more tablet computers, of which 85% are iPads, according to the 2011 Financial Planning Magazine Technology Survey.

With the third-generation iPad released last Friday, financial advisors want to know if this is the tablet they should buy, and existing iPad owners are questioning whether or not they should upgrade. Here are three features of the new iPad that I feel make the device an important addition to an advisor's toolkit.

Retina Display
The new iPad showcases its screen with a 2048-by-1536-pixel Retina display, containing four times the number of pixels in the iPad 2 and over a million more than the average HDTV. Materials displayed on the new iPad appear sharp and crisp, particularly in apps that are updated specifically for the high-resolution screen.

Advisors can take advantage of the vivid display by loading high-quality copies of their marketing collateral on the device to review with clients and prospects. HD video is also impressive, so advisors may want to consider filming a 60-second overview of the benefits their firm provides to its target client for on-demand playback.

5-Megapixel iSight Camera
The iPad is a welcome addition for advisors operating a paperless office, as documents can be reviewed on the device as an alternative to printing hard copies on paper. But adding new documents to a paperless system using the iPad's camera is all but impossible due to the rear-facing camera's poor resolution.

The new iPad is outfitted with Apple's 5-megapixel iSight camera, significantly improving the quality of images captured by the device. Advisors can now use the iSight camera to take photos of documents while away from the office and add them to their document repository, all without touching a laptop or scanner.

Those using document management software from Laserfiche are eagerly awaiting the company's release of its iPad app, expected to be available in the iTunes app store in the next few months. Laserfiche provided a demo of the app at its annual Empower conference in January and posted a video on its website.

4G LTE Connectivity
Since its introduction in 2010, the iPad has proven to be a useful tool both in and out of the office. With a convenient form factor and connectivity over 3G cellular networks, advisors can get things done when away from their primary computer, perhaps while attending a conference or visiting distant clients. But 3G speeds often left advisors waiting for data buffering when attempting to view documents with large file sizes or stream online videos.

The new iPad supports 4G LTE cellular network connectivity with peak download speeds varying between 20 and 40 megabits per second (Mbps) depending on the carrier (i.e., Verizon or AT&T), though average download speeds are generally in the 10 Mbps range.

In addition, the new iPad can be used as a personal hotspot over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB connection, provided the function is supported by the data carrier. Verizon currently supports this feature under its 4G LTE data plans with no additional fee, while AT&T is reportedly "working with Apple" to provide hotspot functionality to its subscribers. The hotspot feature allows advisors to share the iPad data connectivity with other devices in use while away from the office, such as an ultra-compact laptop computer.

Time to Buy or Upgrade?
These are just three features among many in the new iPad, but should advisors who do not yet own one, or who own a previous generation model, purchase the new iPad?

Advisors who don't own an iPad must consider how the device will complement their current routine. The iPad is not a replacement for a laptop, so don't expect it to perform all of the tasks one completes on such devices. But the tablet, in my opinion, fills the gap between the office desktop and the home office computer and is a capable, portable device that satisfies the needs of most road-warrior advisors.

For those who own the first-generation iPad, I feel an upgrade is warranted. The features discussed above coupled with the faster processor and dual-facing cameras result in a device that is more responsive and versatile than the original. For owners of iPad 2, the choice is not as clear. If one doesn't use the iPad 2 camera to capture documents while working remotely and finds 3G connectivity sufficient for most tasks, then there's less urgency to upgrade to the new iPad.

Nevertheless, it's clear that the Apple iPad continues to be the tablet of choice over all other competitors in the post-PC era. The iPad continues to capture the majority of the tablet market through ongoing innovations and enhancements. As a result, advisors can leverage the features of the latest iPad to better engage clients and prospects, easily review and manage documents, and increase productivity while away from the office.

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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