Funny thing about computer memory — like time, there never seems to be enough of it.
This problem is more acute on the iPad since there is no way to add more memory. You buy a 16 GB iPad, and you've got 16 GB. That's it. No slipping in an SD card, no connecting an external flash drive.
This means buying an iPad with the right amount of memory is critical, and managing your limited memory once you've begun to pile up the videos, music, games, photos and e-books is equally critical to your continued iPad enjoyment.
Here are some tips for maximizing your iPad memory.
Trimming the fat
When you connect your iPad to your PC and open up iTunes, tap on your iPad under "Devices" in the left sidebar, and you'll see a number of content categories (Apps, Music, Movies, etc.) listed along the top. Tap on each one of these and you'll see you have a choice to sync all the content in that category or only selected content. Check "Selected" in each category to limit the number of memory-hogging items you sync to your iPad.
For instance, in Music, click "Selected playlists, artists, albums and genres" rather than "Entire Music Library." The trick here is to create either an iPad playlist with only those songs you like (for instance, eliminating "Revolution 9" from The Beatles' White Album) or — and this is a bit time-consuming — go through your iTunes music library and rate those songs you really like with 4 or 5 stars. Then, back on the iPad Music sync page, you can click "4 Star" and/or "5 Star" and only those high-rated tracks will sync.
You can perform similar selective syncing tasks on each one of the iPad memory-clogging content categories. For instance, if you've seen a movie, save some space and unclick it. Under "Photos" click "Selected Folders" and check only those photo folders you really need to carry around with you. In case you didn't know, Apple shrinks (or "optimizes") the size of all photos imported into the iPad. You don't need a giant file to view a photo on iPad's 9.7-inch screen.
This fat trimming is nice, but will save only so much space. A better way to maximize iPad's memory is not to sync any of your music, videos or photos to iPad at all and just stream it over Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, this memory-maximizing method requires an Internet connection. But if you are confident of nearly always having one, you can opt for the least expensive 16 GB iPad.
Apple provides a nice tool for accessing your iTunes music library called "Sharing." Go to iTunes, to the iTunes pull down menu (the first one on the left), then Preferences, and Sharing, the third option from the left.
Once you click the appropriate content options (Music, Movies, et al) you want to share, you enter your Sharing user name and password in the iPod settings page on your iPad — you'll now be able to access all your PC-bound content on your iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch via your iPad Internet connection.
Open up the iPad iPod app, tap the name of your iPad, then tap your named music library under "Shared Libraries." For Movies, open the iPad "Video" app and tap on "Shared" to see all your movies, TV shows, podcasts, music videos and iTunes U.
You now have access and can manipulate all your media files as if you were sitting in front of your PC, as long as you maintain your iPad Internet connection and leave your computer running.
A cloud, sort of
Apple does let you share your photos, mail, contact list and calendar, but you have to subscribe to the company's MobileMe service for $99 a year. But there are rampant rumors the company will make MobileMe free sometime this fall as part of a whole cloud initiative, which also could include streaming your music collection directly from Apple's cloud rather than from your own PC.
You could access your photos for free via an online photo storage site such as Flickr, Picasa or Shutterfly, but these sites aren't designed for seamless iPad access, and they are obviously limited to photos and maybe small videos.
More appropriate is an app called Libox, which streams ALL your multimedia content, such as movies, music, photos and even documents, to your iPad, all within the app.
But Libox isn't exactly a "cloud" service. Instead of you uploading all your data to someone else's computer servers, Libox works more like Apple's Sharing, creating a so-called peer-to-peer network, grabbing the stuff off your PC, then acting as a conduit to transfer that content to your iPad.
Libox's organization is a bit, well, disorganized, but the app is free. As in no cost, nada, zippo, primarily because Libox doesn't actually store your stuff on a vast server farm. This also means the content gets to your iPad faster.
Judiciously using Apple's Sharing and Libox, you can more wisely allocate your iPad's precious memory.
How to keep connected
As noted, maintaining an Internet connection is key to saving space on your iPad. If you opted for a Wi-Fi-only iPad, look into getting a 4G MiFi from Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. A MiFi sucks the 4G signal out of the air and transforms it into a speedy Wi-Fi signal — around 10 times faster than AT&T's 3G iPad connection — turning you into a walking Wi-Fi hot spot.