the iphoneA reader presented us the following dilemma: He is retiring soon and will need a phone and a computer, or maybe just a tablet. What should he get?

We suggested he get all three, which if bought at current discounted prices, cost no more than just getting an iPad. Buying older versions of each of these, the total cost could come in as low as $400 and $530 at the maximum. Getting a new iPad by itself would cost $500.

Here’s how it works:

The iPhone

Most people say that the iPhone is easier to use than an Android phone. We have to agree. We got an Android phone because we wanted to be able to test Android apps for our readers. But we have since stopped at the phone store a couple of times to ask for help solving dumb problems. We’ve forgotten what they were, but we’ll be stopping by again soon to ask, “How come Yahoo news blares across the home screen, with items at least two weeks old, when we never asked for a Yahoo app?”

Rumor has it that the next iPhone will be much cheaper than the current offerings, so hold fire for a while and get a good deal. A guy we know out in Silicon Valley says they could offer one as low as $50. (NOTE: Rumors run rampant in SIlicon Valley; most are false.) Meanwhile, beware of discounted iPhones for sale at Amazon; some are apparently scams. Read the comments to find out.

 Why an iPad plus a PC

We find, and so do many others, that it’s difficult to create anything on a tablet. A tablet is for consuming, not producing. We use ours to read articles, watch movies, and play games. Users who want to create PowerPoint presentations, edit movies, write articles and stories, should get a laptop or desktop.

Which Tablet?

We use our iPad to read blogs and books, watch YouTube, listen to the radio, draw pictures and play Scrabble. We bought it the first day it came out, and it’s still great. We’ve tried several rival Android tablets but they don’t quite measure up. (We haven’t tried the new seven-inch Nexus 7, however, which is just $230 and getting ace reviews.) The key to owning an iPad for cheap is to skip the latest version. You can get the original iPad on Amazon for $160. The main reasons for getting the latest iPad is that it has a camera (but so do cell phones), and some apps won’t work on the older model. The original iPad doesn’t have the latest operating system, iOS 6, and won’t be getting updates. None of that matters to us. If it matters to you, and cost is a concern, consider the iPad Mini, $289 at discounters.

Which Computer?

Windows XP laptops go for under $100 now. Amazing! That used to be the price of a Texas Instruments handheld calculator. You can get a nice Windows 7 desktop for around $200 (monitor and keyboard not included). And we saw a Windows 7 laptop from Asus for around $333 new; it’s $275 used at Amazon.

Some readers have asked if they should get a Mac instead of a Windows computer, even though they’ve had years of experience with Windows. We’ve found it intensely annoying to learn a new operating system, and we’ve used Windows machines since the first ones came on the scene in the early 1980s. When we got a Macbook Air last year, it annoyed us from the get-go and still does. We bought it to try out software for our readers but we hardly ever use it otherwise.

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