What to do with your old iPad

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The original iPad

My iPad is 11 months old, give or take a week or two. I got it when the tablet first went on sale on April 3, 2010. If I take a deep whiff, I can still pick up the faint trace of that new iPad smell.

And yet, when the iPad 2 arrives this Friday, I’m dropping my beloved original iPad like a bad habit in favor of Apple’s shiny new gadget.

Still, while the iPad 2’s launch this week will consign my first iPad to the dustbin of history, that doesn’t mean I want to toss a still perfectly functional tablet into an actual dustbin. And I imagine other early iPad adopters unable to resist the siren call of the iPad 2—it sounds like Steve Jobs whistling—find themselves in the same boat.

Fortunately, we’ve got options. If your enthusiasm for upgrading to the latest iPad has been tempered by your uncertainty over what to do with the current model, here are a few ways to make sure your first tablet still gets put to good use somewhere.

Give it away

This is my wife’s favorite option when I upgrade. The iPod touch and Kindle 2 she currently enjoys began their stay in the Friedman household as my devices—when new models came along, she got the older-though-still-useful predecessors. And the original iPad could be the latest in the long line of techie hand-me-downs that I bequeath to her now that something new and shiny has come along. Perhaps your family has a similar arrangement.

But while charity may begin at home, it doesn’t have to end there. Organizations like Recycling for Charities and iOS developer Steve Glinberg’s iPhone/iPod touch Recycling Program will take your old iPad and find a new home for it. A representative for a third organization, Computers With Causes, told Macworld that iPads donated through that Website will be given to families or individuals in need. The HollyRod Foundation also accepts donated iPads, giving the tablets to special needs children and their families to help them communicate better. And Apple has updated its retail store Web page to note that you can donate your old iPad at an Apple Store to Teach For America; your iPad will find its way to a teacher in a low-income community.

With the iPad taking on a larger role in the classroom, many schools would certainly not turn up their noses at a donated iPad in good condition. A few national organizations—we’re thinking of PC Rebuilders & Recyclers’s Computers For Schools program—will take donated iPads to get them into schools. Your best bet, though, may be to see if there are any local organizations in your area that collect technology donations. Many state-based non-profit organizations that accept computer donations for schools will also accept iPads, but you may well be the first person to suggest the idea to them.

If you do donate your iPad, you’ll want to get a receipt. You or your tax preparer can determine whether you’ll be able to deduct the fair market value of your donated iPad from your 2011 taxes next year.

Sell, sell, sell

If your feelings about your old iPad are more capitalistic than altruistic, putting that old tablet up for sale is always an option. Be warned though that a lot like-minded iPad owners may also be flocking to eBay and Craigslist with offers of their own, which could affect the amount of cash you’re likely to get from would-be buyers. Further undercutting your plans to recoup some of the money you spent on that original iPad is no less a figure than Apple itself—the company is offering its own clearance prices on iPads to make room for the new models.

You could always bypass the consumer and go directly to the middleman. Resellers like Gazelle will buy your old iPad—the company’s Website quoted me $300 for my original 16GB Wi-Fi iPad, which isn’t too shabby. Other companies that offer a similar buyback service include BuyMyTronics.com, NextWorth, and YouRenew.com—all offered me at least $250. You’ll get more cash for your iPad if it’s in good physical condition (scratch-free), provide the original power cable, and have the original box.

Retailer Target is also interested in taking that older iPad off your hands. The company’s Electronics Trade-In Service lets shoppers bring in new or used iPads—as well as iPhones, cell phones, iPods, and video games—and turn them in for credit on other Target purchases. The retailer says you can get up to $200 in store credit depending on the condition of your item—that could go a long way toward paying down the cost of an iPad 2, which Target will offer. Currently available in 850 Target stores, the Electronics Trade-In Service will expand to 1450 stores by July.

Before you hand over that iPad…

Whether you give away your iPad or sell it, you’ll likely want to wipe it first to prevent others from accessing your personal data or Angry Birds high scores. To do so, launch the Settings app and tap on General. Then, choose Reset. Take a deep breath, and then tap Erase All Content and Settings. Your iPad will restart and start up as naked as the day you first multitouched it.

A new life for old iPads

Of course, just because you’re camping out in front of your favorite Apple Store so that you can be first in line to buy an iPad 2, you don’t need to part ways with your original iPad at all. With a minimal amount of effort, you can turn that iPad into a more singularly-focused technology device.

If you’re an avid reader, that old iPad could become a dedicated e-reading device once you get your hands on an iPad 2.

For instance, why turn to Amazon’s Kindle if you can convert that older iPad into a dedicated e-reader? Just equip that old iPad with the reading app of your choice—whether it’s the Kindle app, Apple’s iBooks, or any of the other iPad e-reading apps available for download—and clear out your e-mail settings, games, and any push notifications to make the reading environment as distraction-free as possible.

Other options include propping up your iPad with the lock screen’s built-in photo screensaver to make a fancy (if pricey) digital photo frame. Alternatively, use an app like iRule to turn your iPad into an oversized, hard-to-lose universal remote control. With an app like TouchPad, you can create a virtual Magic Trackpad of sorts. And you could even enlist your old iPad as an external monitor, using Air Display.

We’ll likely provide more detailed instructions on these and other original iPad-centric projects in the coming weeks. After all, we’re just getting used to the idea that a device that was Apple’s latest and greatest tablet a few days ago will soon have its place usurped by the iPad 2. The point is, that now-seemingly ancient original iPad still has plenty of life left in it—whether it’s performing a new task or serving as someone else’s tablet.

[Lex Friedman is a frequent contributor to Macworld.com who is about to become $500 poorer.]

Updated on March 11 to note that Apple Stores are accepting iPad donations for Teach For America.

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