iPad 2: To 3G or not to 3G

The decision to shell out another $130 for the 3G connection is not so clear as it was a year ago. Now that the iPhone has a tethering and WiFi hotspot plan ($20 a month with AT&T), you may want to skip the 3G antenna and instead use your phone to get the iPad online. Doing so has its plusses and minuses:

  • It lets you save $130 on the purchase price;
  • It lets you save the extra monthly charge for iPad data (when active);
  • It saves you some battery life;
  • The GPS antenna is only on the 3G iPad so you’ll be without it on a WiFi-only iPad;
  • It requires you to always have your iPhone or other MiFi type device with you, charged, and turned on to get the iPad online. If you are using it a lot, it may challenge your iPhone battery life;
  • Going this way assumes you will always have that hotspot data connection for the life of the iPad.

I think at the end of the day it comes down to saved money versus convenience.

If you do go with a 3G iPad 2, give some thought to your carrier. Since you can now elect to get a Verizon or AT&T iPad, I recommend you get the opposite of your phone carrier. That way if you can’t get a signal on the phone, you may have a chance on the iPad.

41 Comments iPad 2: To 3G or not to 3G

  1. Editor@InklingBooks.com

    I can't understand why Apple doesn't ship all iPads with GPS. Given that many driving and location-based apps now include the data with the app, you don't need a cellular connection anymore. And with location information, an iPad would make a marvelous tour guide.

    Reply
  2. Editor@InklingBooks.com

    I can't understand why Apple doesn't ship all iPads with GPS. Given that many driving and location-based apps now include the data with the app, you don't need a cellular connection anymore. And with location information, an iPad would make a marvelous tour guide.

    Reply
  3. Editor@InklingBooks.com

    I can't understand why Apple doesn't ship all iPads with GPS. Given that many driving and location-based apps now include the data with the app, you don't need a cellular connection anymore. And with location information, an iPad would make a marvelous tour guide.

    Reply
  4. Editor@InklingBooks.com

    I can't understand why Apple doesn't ship all iPads with GPS. Given that many driving and location-based apps now include the data with the app, you don't need a cellular connection anymore. And with location information, an iPad would make a marvelous tour guide.

    Reply
  5. Editor@InklingBooks.com

    I can't understand why Apple doesn't ship all iPads with GPS. Given that many driving and location-based apps now include the data with the app, you don't need a cellular connection anymore. And with location information, an iPad would make a marvelous tour guide.

    Reply
  6. teresa.hummel@me.com

    I have an ipod touch that I've been using with a Verizon mifi for about 2 years now. So far it's worked well for me and when my contract comes up in May I will be getting the new iphone and will be able to go to one device. In the past this has been an iffy deal (many things in one device) but we'll see. If I get an ipad2 as opposed to a Mac Air I will likely use it the same way I used the ipod touch.

    I will say if all that is available is free wifi to get online – it's a security risk. Anyone can snoop the connection on the same wifi hot spot. This may be something for people to consider when they purchase. With your own hot spot or your own 3G you are not on the open network. If you do any kind of sensitive browsing this is a huge consideration. (or get a VPN hot spot and connect the ipad to that through free wifi). Ah it's all so complicated.

    Reply
  7. teresa.hummel@me.com

    I have an ipod touch that I've been using with a Verizon mifi for about 2 years now. So far it's worked well for me and when my contract comes up in May I will be getting the new iphone and will be able to go to one device. In the past this has been an iffy deal (many things in one device) but we'll see. If I get an ipad2 as opposed to a Mac Air I will likely use it the same way I used the ipod touch.

    I will say if all that is available is free wifi to get online – it's a security risk. Anyone can snoop the connection on the same wifi hot spot. This may be something for people to consider when they purchase. With your own hot spot or your own 3G you are not on the open network. If you do any kind of sensitive browsing this is a huge consideration. (or get a VPN hot spot and connect the ipad to that through free wifi). Ah it's all so complicated.

    Reply
  8. teresa.hummel@me.com

    I have an ipod touch that I've been using with a Verizon mifi for about 2 years now. So far it's worked well for me and when my contract comes up in May I will be getting the new iphone and will be able to go to one device. In the past this has been an iffy deal (many things in one device) but we'll see. If I get an ipad2 as opposed to a Mac Air I will likely use it the same way I used the ipod touch.

    I will say if all that is available is free wifi to get online – it's a security risk. Anyone can snoop the connection on the same wifi hot spot. This may be something for people to consider when they purchase. With your own hot spot or your own 3G you are not on the open network. If you do any kind of sensitive browsing this is a huge consideration. (or get a VPN hot spot and connect the ipad to that through free wifi). Ah it's all so complicated.

    Reply
  9. teresa.hummel@me.com

    I have an ipod touch that I've been using with a Verizon mifi for about 2 years now. So far it's worked well for me and when my contract comes up in May I will be getting the new iphone and will be able to go to one device. In the past this has been an iffy deal (many things in one device) but we'll see. If I get an ipad2 as opposed to a Mac Air I will likely use it the same way I used the ipod touch.

    I will say if all that is available is free wifi to get online – it's a security risk. Anyone can snoop the connection on the same wifi hot spot. This may be something for people to consider when they purchase. With your own hot spot or your own 3G you are not on the open network. If you do any kind of sensitive browsing this is a huge consideration. (or get a VPN hot spot and connect the ipad to that through free wifi). Ah it's all so complicated.

    Reply
  10. teresa.hummel@me.com

    I have an ipod touch that I've been using with a Verizon mifi for about 2 years now. So far it's worked well for me and when my contract comes up in May I will be getting the new iphone and will be able to go to one device. In the past this has been an iffy deal (many things in one device) but we'll see. If I get an ipad2 as opposed to a Mac Air I will likely use it the same way I used the ipod touch.

    I will say if all that is available is free wifi to get online – it's a security risk. Anyone can snoop the connection on the same wifi hot spot. This may be something for people to consider when they purchase. With your own hot spot or your own 3G you are not on the open network. If you do any kind of sensitive browsing this is a huge consideration. (or get a VPN hot spot and connect the ipad to that through free wifi). Ah it's all so complicated.

    Reply
  11. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @Mike – Agreed. Perhaps there is a technical reason but it smells dodgy.

    @Teresa – Great point.

    Reply
  12. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @Mike – Agreed. Perhaps there is a technical reason but it smells dodgy.

    @Teresa – Great point.

    Reply
  13. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @Mike – Agreed. Perhaps there is a technical reason but it smells dodgy.

    @Teresa – Great point.

    Reply
  14. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @Mike – Agreed. Perhaps there is a technical reason but it smells dodgy.

    @Teresa – Great point.

    Reply
  15. davidwsparks@mac.com

    @Mike – Agreed. Perhaps there is a technical reason but it smells dodgy.

    @Teresa – Great point.

    Reply
  16. michael.Fessler@gmail.com

    Regarding GPS: the problem is that all of Apples GPS devices use a technology called "assisted GPS." Normal satellite-only GPS can take a looong time to figure out where they are – up to several minutes to reliably get enough signal from several different satellites to triangulate. Assisted GPS uses the cell-phone tower locations to narrow down the init's location to a ballpark location – within a few hundred feet. That makes the GPS calculation much faster, as it needs fewer satellite
    signals for a shorter time to supplement the cell info – it's starting from an almost right answer, not from total ignorance of its place on the globe.

    I bet that Apple doesn't want to support unassisted GPS – poor user experience and major battery drain. It really doesn't work as a technology except for something like a car gps, which can count on a constant power supply and — even more crucially — on being turned on where it was shut off, so it can save its previous known location — the parking spot –as the starting point for the next session. Neither of these hold true for an iPhone or iPad.

    Reply
  17. michael.Fessler@gmail.com

    Regarding GPS: the problem is that all of Apples GPS devices use a technology called "assisted GPS." Normal satellite-only GPS can take a looong time to figure out where they are – up to several minutes to reliably get enough signal from several different satellites to triangulate. Assisted GPS uses the cell-phone tower locations to narrow down the init's location to a ballpark location – within a few hundred feet. That makes the GPS calculation much faster, as it needs fewer satellite
    signals for a shorter time to supplement the cell info – it's starting from an almost right answer, not from total ignorance of its place on the globe.

    I bet that Apple doesn't want to support unassisted GPS – poor user experience and major battery drain. It really doesn't work as a technology except for something like a car gps, which can count on a constant power supply and — even more crucially — on being turned on where it was shut off, so it can save its previous known location — the parking spot –as the starting point for the next session. Neither of these hold true for an iPhone or iPad.

    Reply
  18. michael.Fessler@gmail.com

    Regarding GPS: the problem is that all of Apples GPS devices use a technology called "assisted GPS." Normal satellite-only GPS can take a looong time to figure out where they are – up to several minutes to reliably get enough signal from several different satellites to triangulate. Assisted GPS uses the cell-phone tower locations to narrow down the init's location to a ballpark location – within a few hundred feet. That makes the GPS calculation much faster, as it needs fewer satellite
    signals for a shorter time to supplement the cell info – it's starting from an almost right answer, not from total ignorance of its place on the globe.

    I bet that Apple doesn't want to support unassisted GPS – poor user experience and major battery drain. It really doesn't work as a technology except for something like a car gps, which can count on a constant power supply and — even more crucially — on being turned on where it was shut off, so it can save its previous known location — the parking spot –as the starting point for the next session. Neither of these hold true for an iPhone or iPad.

    Reply
  19. michael.Fessler@gmail.com

    Regarding GPS: the problem is that all of Apples GPS devices use a technology called "assisted GPS." Normal satellite-only GPS can take a looong time to figure out where they are – up to several minutes to reliably get enough signal from several different satellites to triangulate. Assisted GPS uses the cell-phone tower locations to narrow down the init's location to a ballpark location – within a few hundred feet. That makes the GPS calculation much faster, as it needs fewer satellite
    signals for a shorter time to supplement the cell info – it's starting from an almost right answer, not from total ignorance of its place on the globe.

    I bet that Apple doesn't want to support unassisted GPS – poor user experience and major battery drain. It really doesn't work as a technology except for something like a car gps, which can count on a constant power supply and — even more crucially — on being turned on where it was shut off, so it can save its previous known location — the parking spot –as the starting point for the next session. Neither of these hold true for an iPhone or iPad.

    Reply
  20. michael.Fessler@gmail.com

    Regarding GPS: the problem is that all of Apples GPS devices use a technology called "assisted GPS." Normal satellite-only GPS can take a looong time to figure out where they are – up to several minutes to reliably get enough signal from several different satellites to triangulate. Assisted GPS uses the cell-phone tower locations to narrow down the init's location to a ballpark location – within a few hundred feet. That makes the GPS calculation much faster, as it needs fewer satellite
    signals for a shorter time to supplement the cell info – it's starting from an almost right answer, not from total ignorance of its place on the globe.

    I bet that Apple doesn't want to support unassisted GPS – poor user experience and major battery drain. It really doesn't work as a technology except for something like a car gps, which can count on a constant power supply and — even more crucially — on being turned on where it was shut off, so it can save its previous known location — the parking spot –as the starting point for the next session. Neither of these hold true for an iPhone or iPad.

    Reply
  21. jollyjap58@gmail.com

    In Australia (with an unlocked iPhone) I use prepay and the cost of data is greater on the iphone than the iPad. Such that over a year I could re-coup the extra cost of the 3G iPad, plus the convenience of not requiring my iPhone on to use my iPad, hence the decision is easier

    Reply
  22. jollyjap58@gmail.com

    In Australia (with an unlocked iPhone) I use prepay and the cost of data is greater on the iphone than the iPad. Such that over a year I could re-coup the extra cost of the 3G iPad, plus the convenience of not requiring my iPhone on to use my iPad, hence the decision is easier

    Reply
  23. jollyjap58@gmail.com

    In Australia (with an unlocked iPhone) I use prepay and the cost of data is greater on the iphone than the iPad. Such that over a year I could re-coup the extra cost of the 3G iPad, plus the convenience of not requiring my iPhone on to use my iPad, hence the decision is easier

    Reply
  24. jollyjap58@gmail.com

    In Australia (with an unlocked iPhone) I use prepay and the cost of data is greater on the iphone than the iPad. Such that over a year I could re-coup the extra cost of the 3G iPad, plus the convenience of not requiring my iPhone on to use my iPad, hence the decision is easier

    Reply
  25. jollyjap58@gmail.com

    In Australia (with an unlocked iPhone) I use prepay and the cost of data is greater on the iphone than the iPad. Such that over a year I could re-coup the extra cost of the 3G iPad, plus the convenience of not requiring my iPhone on to use my iPad, hence the decision is easier

    Reply
  26. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    A view from the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada)

    My present set up is that I have an iPhone 4 with 6 Gig data ($40 per month for data) and a 3G iPad with a a 5 Gig plan ($35 per month). If you have a plan with more than 1 Gig in Canada you get Hotspot w/o incurring additional fees.

    Will cancel the month-to-month 5 Gig iPad plan to move to 250 mb plan ($15 per month) and use the the iPhone Hotspot. If I find that I do not need the iPad plan (will keep it for a couple of months), will cancel that plan as well. If all goes well, I will be saving $35 per month).

    Reply
  27. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    A view from the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada)

    My present set up is that I have an iPhone 4 with 6 Gig data ($40 per month for data) and a 3G iPad with a a 5 Gig plan ($35 per month). If you have a plan with more than 1 Gig in Canada you get Hotspot w/o incurring additional fees.

    Will cancel the month-to-month 5 Gig iPad plan to move to 250 mb plan ($15 per month) and use the the iPhone Hotspot. If I find that I do not need the iPad plan (will keep it for a couple of months), will cancel that plan as well. If all goes well, I will be saving $35 per month).

    Reply
  28. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    A view from the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada)

    My present set up is that I have an iPhone 4 with 6 Gig data ($40 per month for data) and a 3G iPad with a a 5 Gig plan ($35 per month). If you have a plan with more than 1 Gig in Canada you get Hotspot w/o incurring additional fees.

    Will cancel the month-to-month 5 Gig iPad plan to move to 250 mb plan ($15 per month) and use the the iPhone Hotspot. If I find that I do not need the iPad plan (will keep it for a couple of months), will cancel that plan as well. If all goes well, I will be saving $35 per month).

    Reply
  29. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    A view from the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada)

    My present set up is that I have an iPhone 4 with 6 Gig data ($40 per month for data) and a 3G iPad with a a 5 Gig plan ($35 per month). If you have a plan with more than 1 Gig in Canada you get Hotspot w/o incurring additional fees.

    Will cancel the month-to-month 5 Gig iPad plan to move to 250 mb plan ($15 per month) and use the the iPhone Hotspot. If I find that I do not need the iPad plan (will keep it for a couple of months), will cancel that plan as well. If all goes well, I will be saving $35 per month).

    Reply
  30. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    A view from the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada)

    My present set up is that I have an iPhone 4 with 6 Gig data ($40 per month for data) and a 3G iPad with a a 5 Gig plan ($35 per month). If you have a plan with more than 1 Gig in Canada you get Hotspot w/o incurring additional fees.

    Will cancel the month-to-month 5 Gig iPad plan to move to 250 mb plan ($15 per month) and use the the iPhone Hotspot. If I find that I do not need the iPad plan (will keep it for a couple of months), will cancel that plan as well. If all goes well, I will be saving $35 per month).

    Reply
  31. hunter@lastonepicked.com

    I believe one reason is that GPS functionality is actually part of the cell radio chipset.

    It's not it's own chip.

    Reply
  32. hunter@lastonepicked.com

    I believe one reason is that GPS functionality is actually part of the cell radio chipset.

    It's not it's own chip.

    Reply
  33. hunter@lastonepicked.com

    I believe one reason is that GPS functionality is actually part of the cell radio chipset.

    It's not it's own chip.

    Reply
  34. hunter@lastonepicked.com

    I believe one reason is that GPS functionality is actually part of the cell radio chipset.

    It's not it's own chip.

    Reply
  35. hunter@lastonepicked.com

    I believe one reason is that GPS functionality is actually part of the cell radio chipset.

    It's not it's own chip.

    Reply
  36. tauhid@me.com

    Here in Australia, I tried the personal hotspot for the first time and it works like charm. In my phone cap plan I already have 2GB of data included which I hardly used. But the new hotspot function changed the game. No additional cost to carry a Mifi to get internet connection to my Wifi Only iPad. I couldn't be happier. It's a shame that in US you have to pay extra to have personal hotspot working.

    Reply
  37. tauhid@me.com

    Here in Australia, I tried the personal hotspot for the first time and it works like charm. In my phone cap plan I already have 2GB of data included which I hardly used. But the new hotspot function changed the game. No additional cost to carry a Mifi to get internet connection to my Wifi Only iPad. I couldn't be happier. It's a shame that in US you have to pay extra to have personal hotspot working.

    Reply
  38. tauhid@me.com

    Here in Australia, I tried the personal hotspot for the first time and it works like charm. In my phone cap plan I already have 2GB of data included which I hardly used. But the new hotspot function changed the game. No additional cost to carry a Mifi to get internet connection to my Wifi Only iPad. I couldn't be happier. It's a shame that in US you have to pay extra to have personal hotspot working.

    Reply
  39. tauhid@me.com

    Here in Australia, I tried the personal hotspot for the first time and it works like charm. In my phone cap plan I already have 2GB of data included which I hardly used. But the new hotspot function changed the game. No additional cost to carry a Mifi to get internet connection to my Wifi Only iPad. I couldn't be happier. It's a shame that in US you have to pay extra to have personal hotspot working.

    Reply
  40. tauhid@me.com

    Here in Australia, I tried the personal hotspot for the first time and it works like charm. In my phone cap plan I already have 2GB of data included which I hardly used. But the new hotspot function changed the game. No additional cost to carry a Mifi to get internet connection to my Wifi Only iPad. I couldn't be happier. It's a shame that in US you have to pay extra to have personal hotspot working.

    Reply
  41. Jon B

    With O2 in the UK the data cost for iPad data is £10/month for 1GB whereas tethering with the iPhone seems to cost an extra £15/month for 500MB (unless they are intending to launch a new personal hotspot tariff).

    On that basis if you assume a 3G / Wifi differential of £100 over here then after about 18 months the price difference will have been pretty much wiped out by the data cost.

    That is if you can limit yourself to the 500Mb of course with the tethering plan. If you want to use the full 1GB a month it will cost even more.

    The "always on" factor of having 3G built into the iPad is worth something too… not sure what happens if you want to make a phone call on the iPhone for example and whether the personal hotspot can continue to be active?

    Reply

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