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Because I hail from Massachusetts, where our politicians are famous for being against something before they are for it, I’ll just state this: I was dead set against another data plan for wireless Internet before I was for it. I pay $70 a month for my […]

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Because I hail from Massachusetts, where our politicians are famous for being against something before they are for it, I’ll just state this: I was dead set against another data plan for wireless Internet before I was for it. I pay $70 a month for my Edge iPhone contract. Adding in any sort of additional data plan would jump my “out of house” Internet access costs to over $100/month.

However, as I look to use an iPad to supplement my iPhone usage — or have a device that does sit between an iPhone and my MacBook Pro — I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought. I’m not a heavy traveller. Most of my “travel” time is spent on the commuter rail, and the MBTA has at least one or two Wi-Fi-equipped coaches per train. The service isn’t great — Edge access on my iPhone is faster — but it’s handy if I need to get my laptop online. Due to security reasons, I can’t get a device on the wireless network at work, so I would have to hope that if I needed to get a file onto the iPad, the rumored mounting solution would work.

So, assuming I always have my iPhone with me, the odds are very good I’ll not be without Internet access. The problem, though, is the more I check my e-mail, read blogs, Twitter, watch a video, etc. on the iPhone, I’m running the battery down and can’t use it as a phone. This is problematic for emergency uses, and a hassle when you get home and your wife asks, “Did you get my voice mail about picking something up for me?” As a result, I have a support line of charging cables (one by the bed, one in my home office, one in my work office, two in my bag, one in my truck) because the iPhone battery life is so abysmal.

Which gets me to thinking: if the iPad can handle that and the battery dies down, I’m not crap out of luck. I can wait until I get home, to the office etc. to charge it. Plus, there’s enough times during the year I want a device larger than an iPhone to get online with: My dad and I take road trips, and I’d like to leave my MacBook at home and not worry about getting online if the hotel doesn’t have free Wi-Fi. A month’s worth of iPad data usage is roughly 2-3 nights of paid Wi-Fi in a hotel. So, I came around to the idea that additional “always on” Internet isn’t a bad thing. Once  I had that paradigm shift, I started debating the idea of a Verizon MiFi vs. the iPad 3G.

The MiFi is an interesting device. It’s about the same size as a credit card and can get up to five devices online, Without a two-year contract it’s $269 and then $60 a month. With a two-year contact, it’s $99 and $60/month. The iPad 3G is $130 more, and no-contract plans range from $15 (for an almost useless amount of data) to $30 for what they claim is unlimited.

On the surface, the 3G seems like a better economic model. If financial hardships befall me, I can cancel the 3G plan and suffer like the rest of the great unwashed masses, or, if I don’t use it much, I can just activate it when I need to. It’s very flexible.

Where the MiFi starts to shine is connecting more than one device , and each of those devices thinks it’s on a Wi-Fi network. This is very key when you think of the restrictions Apple has placed on the iTunes store. Want do download an album that’s over 20MB? You can’t. Also, apps that simply don’t work on 3G (like placing Skype Calls) now do. The extra frosting is it’s not on AT&T, so I’m doubly covered for data access.

In the end, I’m going to just get the 3G iPad. It’s cheaper with no contract, and if I really have to, I can use it as a bridge to getting data to and from my MacBook — I can’t tether, but if needed I can exchange Word files via sync. It’s also an all-in-one device; I won’t have to worry about extra charging cables or another battery life. Were I a more heavy traveller, carrying all three devices with me, I would be giving the MiFi serious thought. As an aside, for the rare times I need to get my MacBook online, I might look at the Virgin Broadband2go. It’s only $100, and pay-as-you-go prices range from $10-50.

How about you? Are you getting the iPad 3G, or looking into a device like the MiFi?

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  1. Thank You. I’m surprised this has not been talked about a lot. There is no tie in with AT&T for the iPad. If I was a carrier I would be coming out with a device with 1 or 2 wifi connections and market it directly to iPad customers. It would be easy to compete with what has been announced so far from AT&T.

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  2. Get a MiFi device without a contract?

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  3. I say go with the mifi. You can get it for $0.01 with a 2 year contract from amazon: http://bit.ly/9prL7u. Also as you said, you can connect multiple devices and I’ve done speed tests of iphone on mifi connnection vs. iphone just on at&t 3g and the mifi is consistently 2-3 times faster. If I get an iPad, it won’t be a 3g, it’ll be just wi-fi because I have the mifi. The only drawback with the mifi is the battery life. 3-4 of consistent use (not terrible) but no iPad battery life. The good news is that you can connect it via usb to your laptop and I’m sure you can get a car charger for it (I think the connector is standard as I can use the same wire to charge the kindle as the mifi).

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    1. Damn, that’s tempting.

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    2. how much per month?

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  4. I’m just getting the entry level model. After much consideration and knowing I’d be giving up GPS, I’d opted for spending less money right now. I know next year they will come with a better and cheaper version, and I know I will want that one as well, so I’m not shelling out a ton of cash now.

    I understand this is true for most technology, that is, a newer, better model is always lurking just around the corner, but in the case of the iPad, unless there are more unannounced features that we’ll find out once it’s available, I rather go with an entry level model for now, which will do most of what I think I want it for.

    As for data access when WiFi is not available, I can always use my iPhone. Someone mentioned the possibility of tethering the iPad to the iPhone via Bluetooth. Not sure if it works, but it would be a big bonus for people with existing data contracts (at least here in Canada where tethering is allowed).

    It’s a big question on perspective iPad buyers right now and it’s an important one: what model to get? In a way I think Apple is giving people too many options right now, which makes picking one a bit difficult.

    If I knew I wouldn’t be getting another model next year I would go with the top of the line model and be done with it, but being things the way they are I’m sticking to the entry level one for now.

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  5. I have a MiFi contract with Verizon but when traveling internationally, the service costs a whole lot more, on top of the normal contract price. The iPad 3G is a breakthrough because you can get a sim that will allow you to access the internet anywhere you want and you will not have to pay AT&T or Verizon the excessive data plan when you are traveling abroad. It is pay as you need service and that is the best mobile plan I can imagine.

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    1. Yep, i wouldn’t go to Verizon or Sprint for the same reason; they are so in for just the domestic US market.

      plus they can expand mifi to connect to zillion devices but unless there is a unlimited data plan available, it doesn’t’ really sound very useful to me. I am better off with my iphone with tethering (dont’ ask me how :) ).

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    2. Hun,

      I recommend getting the right info and all the facts before posting. Ok here is the scoop. ATT charges for internet on PDA’s per MB for international travel; vs. Verizon cost internationally $69.99 for PDA internet access. Depends what MB usage package you pick with ATT it is crazy expensive. The same price model is for international Broadband (MB usage plan) service but there is no price plan model out for the international travel on the iPad yet, but my guess it goes with MB like the iPhone. You can look it up on then ATT website.

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  6. iPad or MiFi? Skip them both and take a nice vacation with the savings!

    Just get a bigger battery for your iPhone.

    Mophie Juice Pack or Juice Pack Air for ~$70 on amazon.com (1200 mAh capacity).

    Imax Power IMP500 for $50 on amazon.com can fully charge your iPhone from dead 4X (5500 mAh capacity).

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  7. If you’re getting 3G on your iPad, why not ditch the iPhone and get a regular cell for $40 or $50 per month?

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    1. because the iPad isn’t as portable.

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    2. Yea, I made a mock up using the apple specs, and it’s not going to fit in any pocket that I have, and even my netbook bag is too small.

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    3. Yeah, what they said. I still expect my iPhone to very much be my “always with me” portable device.

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    4. iPad Guy (to be) Monday, March 1, 2010

      Well I already have a second generation iPhone in addition to my original now deactivated one, so ditching it is not really a realistic option. Though it would be nice if they extended the new cheaper month to month rate to the iPhone when contract renewal rolls around.

      But if I was starting fresh I would go with the 3G iPad plus the cheapest cell phone plan I could find. After all you can configure what is for now a free Google Voice plus Skype to handle the bulk of incoming and outgoing phone messaging, with a Bluetooth headset and maybe some web cam set up you could have portable video conferencing, even as you had some cheap flip phone in your pocket for casual calls.

      I simply don’t get the argument that the iPad is going to be too big to travel with. The device is just under 10 X 8 or smaller than a standard sheet of paper, is there really a netbook case that can’t handle that? Criminey the thing will fit in a manila envelope or in a small artist’s portfolio, I would think that 102 lb models carry around a bundle of 8 x 10 glossies half an inch thick. Of course it is a whopping 1 and a half pounds.

      I like to compare it to the standard clip board carried by a bazillion supervisors and inspectors world wide, somehow they manage. Christ back in the day people carried day-planners that when open would exceed the dimensions and weight of an iPad. I mostly walk everywhere I go and carry a briefcase, the iPad will fit in its exterior flap, I won’t even have to open it up.

      Every school kid and every college student is the world is likely to be carrying a back back big enough to stick a device the size of a piece of notebook paper and 1/2″ think. And it will take designers about ten seconds to produce handled cases to lug your iPad around in. And the standard case now allows it to be set up on a table either in portrait and landscape scale allowing hands-free (though maybe not finger-free) operation. I expect my iPhone to be the “always with me” portable device, but only because I am not going to get a 3G iPad. I expect my WiFi iPad will be in my briefcase or in some sort of small shoulder bag ready for use anywhere I can get a signal. Which increasingly looks to be everywhere

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    5. It won’t fit in my front pants pocket. My iPhone is always with me. My iPad may only be with me 70% of the time.

      I’m not going to carry the iPad around 100% of the time. It won’t be going in the store with me. I won’t be checking e-mail with it at stop lights. I won’t be checking e-mail with it when I’m out an about.

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  8. I’m in the same thought-process dilemma. I work on an ambulance, where I am always mobile. I use my MacBook frequently while my partner is driving. Our posts are always near a WiFi spot, but I’m often working on something that requires continual coverage. Currently, I have MyFi on my jailbroken iPhone to connect my MacBook, and that seems to work decently. But imagine if I could get my work done on the iPad! I think I’d dig having a non-jailbroken iPhone, if I had a MiFi to connect both my MacBook and the iPad to. Best of both worlds, right? I guess it all comes down to cost…

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  9. I’ve used the myfi on my iphone and macbook pro for quite some time now. I have extra chargers and a charger for the car. I will not be getting the iPad 3g for this reason. One device will connect all my devices.

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  10. Why can’t the US carrier a multi-SIM option to have 2 SIM cards running on 2 devices? The 2 devices will be eating the total bandwidth limit of your account, but it’s way cheaper than the revolutionary price of AT&T 3G on the iPad.

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