ipad_sftimes_web.jpgSEATTLE (AP) — For $499 consumers can buy Apple's iPad, a power adapter, a cable for connecting to a computer and not much else — other than an overwhelming urge to spend at least $200 more.

The advertised price for the least expensive iPad might help entice more than just the well-to-do geek elite, but the cost of owning one usually turns out to be higher. Apple postponed the U.S. launch of the product from March to April 3 and delayed plans for the international launch until late in April.
To protect this sparkling gem of a gadget, one might pick out a $39 neoprene cover. Using the iPad more like a laptop, and to type on keys rather than a touch screen, a person will need a $69 keyboard dock.

The iPad comes with basic applications, including a Web browser, e-mail program, YouTube video player and a mapping program, but consumers are likely to want other apps that cost a few bucks each, plus songs, videos and e-books.

Consumers inclined to investing that much might spend $99 more to double the length of the iPad's warranty to two years.

For most products, it's not worth buying the extended warranty. But it could be wise on the iPad because no one yet knows how long the battery or other parts will last with everyday use. Replacing a dying battery after the warranty expires, which Apple Inc. prohibits iPad owners from doing themselves, would cost about $106.

Jolie Monea accidentally broke the screen on her iPhone, so she was sure to get the neoprene cover that zips around her $499 iPad for storage or travel. But removing the iPad from the cover to play with it made her nervous, so she returned to an Apple store to buy one that doesn't hide the device's screen but still can protect the iPad when it's in use.

She also got the $99 AppleCare extended warranty and was considering the keyboard dock. That adds up to more than $800 — before Washington state's 9.5 percent sales tax, and before spending on downloadable apps.

Monea says she looks for fresh iPhone apps about twice a week, and spends $5 to $10 on new ones every week. In a year, if her habit is the same for the iPad, that's another $250 to $500, bringing her total to well over $1,000.

Josie Liming, a photographer, wasn't sure she'd need a cover for her iPad, but decided after a few days that the answer was yes.

“It's so small, I can fit it in my bag that I carry every day with me,” she said. “I'm just scared to death it's going to get scratched up with keys.”

Buying an Apple gadget is never the end of the story, said Kenji Obata, who runs a technology startup called Spoon. He knew when he bought the $599 version of the iPad, which has twice as much data storage space as the $499 model, that he'd want more accessories.

“With Apple, you know it's coming,” he said. The University Village Apple store in Seattle is having a hard time keeping the Apple-brand protective covers in stock. The slim black covers, which double as prop-up stands, have sold out at least twice since the iPad went on sale April 3, employees said.

NLU Products LLC makes scratch-resistant films that people can buy for $19.95 and apply to their iPad screens. The company said sales have been 20 percent to 30 percent higher since the iPad's launch. A crafts site, Etsy.com, sells more than 200 handmade iPad bags and covers from $10 to more than $50.

Or iPad owners can try an alternate type of protection, the $20 iBallz. It's a set of four rubbery balls that fit over the corners of the iPad and let it bounce, not shatter, if dropped accidentally.

Not everyone who buys an iPad is ready to swallow all these extra costs, of course.

Joseph Holmes, a fine-art photographer, turned down the extended warranty because his credit card company already doubles the warranty protection for consumer electronics. He also isn't sure about paying $5 or $10 for iPad apps, which seem more expensive than iPhone apps so far.

But there's something pristine about the iPad he wants to protect, even if he has to pay.

“I just don't want to lay the iPad down,” Holmes said, “and scratch the beautiful onyx Apple logo on the back.”