My Big Question: iPad 3G or Verizon MiFi?


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 (s att), 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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Buy a Cradlepoint wifi/3g router and an older Verizon 3G USB Modem (refurbed, eBay, etc.) and activate it on a month-to-month contract.

Not quite as compact as the MiFi, but the Cradlepoint devices have their own nice features, and I like being able to detach the modem and directly connect it if desired (i.e. to my laptop.)


I just bought a 64gb WiFi Ipad today and will be going with the prepaid Virgin Mobile MiFi that just came out, for times when I travel etc.


I would Jailbreak your Iphone. Get MYWI which turns the iphone into a hotspot. Grab Jolt Reserve or duo (external Battery) and buy your ipad. WIFI wherever your iphone has signal. Easy fix. As to the Jailbreak morality, its perfectly legal, just dont STEAL any apps. (You’ll know if you are)


So here is my two cents… I was paying Att about 250 a month for unlimited everything for just me and my wife’s iPhones. Outrageous right? So I finally got fed up with paying those crazy prices, seeing as there were so many new services out there offering unlimited everything for far less than Att. I still had a couple of month left on each device so I knew I would be hit hard for the early termination fee’s, no matter I would make that up with the money saved in the first 6 months.
I went with Simple Mobile for both of us, a new company that uses T-mobile’s towers. Their service work’s great with the iPhone’s as they use GSM sim cards. My wife does not use that much data so I got her the 50 dollar plan that included 50mb of data and unlimited voice and text. I only got the voice and text for 40 because I had an idea in mind that would be great for the up coming mothers day.
I bought a wifi iPad for my wife and a wifi model for myself. So here is the deal, I went with the MyFi from Verizon after much consideration between them and Sprint. I am a heavy internet user but never for video streaming so I will never go over the 5gb cap. At home we are on the home wifi so the MiFi only gets used when I leave the house.
I just got back from disney and and my wife and I loved the MyFi. There was no wifi at the resort and it performed without a hitch. I solved the battery issue by just getting a backup battery or having it plugged to an outlet when stationary.
I think that if you are not a big video streamer, that you should be okay with the 5gb cap. If you want to save money and not use Att with your iphone service, Simple Mobile is a great alternative. If you have a couple iPads and they go with you but don’t want to pay multiple data plans then the MyFi will do the job beautifully. I know that some of you out there are saying, why didn’t I just go with the MyWi App? Frankly, I was just tired of giving Att so much money.

S land

I went for the miff device and the 64gb iPad w/o3G. Working great for sure. I compared it to the AT&T service and average 1.85 mps tops at 3.0mps on the wifi with no probs. The ATT connection was a joke, pulling in .50 mps if that. Kept dropping service too.


I just got my Ipad thanks to the info published in the review, however I was looking for internet service to connect on the road to and I wanted to go with Verizon sorry AT&T but Verizon has coverage everywhere, I found a great deal for Verizon and its even called Verizon49, I got my data card and service from Here is the kicker offered me the data service with no contract no credit checks, and on the Verizon Wireless Network for $49.99 that is lower than buying from Verizon itself, It’s one of the lowest price out in the market and now I am able to connect, Oh yeah….

John Wulfing

I have the iPad without 3G. I am wondering if I can use my g1 google 3g phone to tether my iPad to the Internet?


ipad 3G is also cheaper than paying for a Mifi or alternative devices considering the bandwidth amount you’re given. It’s suitable if you don’t have a family and need an internet connection on-the-go.

Based on per month plans:
$15 for 250mb, $30 for unlimited on iPad 3g.
$40 for 250mb (or 1 week of 250 mb for $30) and $60 for 5gb on verizon mifi.

And you also have to factor in the cost of the mifi device itself. Granted, you can tether devices to the Mifi, but it will severely limit the amount of content you can browse within that 5gb bandwidth limit if you have many users on your mifi (e.g., you browsing web, wife watching hd stream movie, daughter downloading mp3s will quickly reach that cap)

The only time I would consider a mifi is if I want all my mobile devices internet-on-the-go ready – this assuming I don’t already have a smartphone with data that I could tether to. It’s silly to get an iPad 3g if you already have some sort of AT&T wifi service or iPhone data package.


I guess I am not alone. I just got a MiFi (No contract – purchased out right from BestBuy – I got them to match an online price, plus a $50 instant rebate + some BestBuy Reward zone points – Out the door for less than $200). They way I figure it, the MiFi is slightly more expensive ($70) than the iPad 3G, but I can link more devices to it (5 devices as opposed to just the iPad – MacBook, iPhone – for skirting around 3G restrictions, etc…), and I am covered by Verizon’s 3G network when my iPhone doesn’t have 3G access. The data plan is more expensive, but I don’t have a contract so I can activate and deactivate the MiFi at will and switch between the lower bandwidth and higher bandwidth plans. The way I see it, It’s kinda like a best of both worlds thing.


I have an ATT USB Modem for my MacBook and am planning on getting an iPad. I’m weighing the WiFi versus the 3G version and thought about the MiFi as well. Since I’m half way through my contract for my USB modem, I’m looking at $110 or so to cancel to get a MiFi from Verizon or Sprint. The other option I’m thinking about is getting an unlocked GSM MiFi or CradlePoint to avoid the cancellation fee. Anybody have any experience with these options?


I have an iPhone 3Gs, not jail-broken and a Verizon MiFi that i use with my work laptop. The Mifi works great but one thing to consider is it is another device that will need power. I normally get 2 to 3 hours use out of mine before i have to plug it in to the car adapter as i am always on the road. If you read the stats on the MifI they say approximately 4 hours but that is under ideal conditions. The farther away from a cell site the Mifi is going to kick up its power output which equals more drain on the internal battery. Heres the deal, your at home on wifi and then you decided your going out and want to continue to use the iPad. If it has 3G then you flip over to it once you leave your WiFi. If no 3G you have to grab the MiFi and dont forget you will have your iPhone and did you charge the Mifi up before you left. Grant it 3 to 4 hours use may not be the norm for you but at some point you will have forgot to charge the MiFi, or walked out with out it. For me i am going with the 16 Gig 3G version and activate it.

Mark Crump

Yeah, that’s kinda my thinking. I agree on the power issue, or worse, just forgetting the darn mifi.

I do expect before my next road trip I’ll get the Virgin USB dongle just in case I need to get my lappy online.


Why not just jailbreak your iPhone (takes about 5-10 minutes), then enable tethering with one of the easy hacks available on the net (takes about 3 minutes) and not buy either one of those?

Just to clarify, since everyone seems so afraid of jailbreaking. Jailbreaking is NOT the same as unlocking, which is what caused early iPhones to be “bricked”. Jailbreaking is easy, quick, and 100% reversible. When I had to take my iPhone into the Apple store, I undid the jailbreaking, then redid it in about 5 minutes afterward.

If you want to jailbreak, just Google blackrain.

Mark Crump

I’ve been thinking of that, actually, I have an Edge iPhone and don’t know how the data speeds will be jailbroken.

Also unknown is if I can tether the iPad off an iPhone.


I remember reading about a jailbreak program that could turn your iPhone into a wifi hotspot, similar to the pocket wifi device, I think it’s called a mofi or something.

Anyway, do some Googling and I’m sure you’ll find it. That would allow you to “tether” any wifi device.


I have an iPhone 3G, 3.1.2, jailbroken with blackra1n. Using MyWi (available via Rock Your Phone). It has an unrestricted trial period of ten days, then $9.99 if you decide to purchase. It turns your iPhone in a wifi hotspot, and also enables the bluetooth and usb tethering. I’ve connected both a MacBook Pro via wifi and a desktop Windows machine via usb just fine. It will occasionally require a phone restart after connecting, disconnecting (to use the phone for something else), and then reconnecting. I don’t regret the purchase at all.


Just got the MiFi in anticipation of getting an iPad. In the last month I spent $90 at expensive hotels (the only ones that seem to charge for wifi) to get my Mac connected. So I think the MiFi will pay for itself anyway and being able to get the less expensive iPad if a bonus. I’d still consider the 3G version in a later iteration because I think the GPS will be more and more valuable.


An alternative to Verizon MiFi is the Sprint 4G OverDrive WiFi palm-size box — especially if Sprint has 4G support where you live. The monthly cost is twice of what AT&T charges for the iPad 3G support but my tests showed the download speed to be three times faster than AT&T’s 3G (5Mb/s vs 1.5Mb/s). Then again, some sources claim AT&T plans to bump up their 3G network to 7Mbit/s this year, a download speed fully supported by the iPad and iPhone.


My husband & I are factory reps, traveling TX. Last fall we replaced our dial-up with Verizon’s WIFI.. Instead of the iPhone, I chose the iPod Touch… We run 2 desktop computers at home and 2 laptops on the road.. the $59 per month for 5012 mb has worked for us. We have come close only once, when updating software… if you do happen to go over the limit… I think Verizon charges 5 cents per MB.


If the question is 3G or no 3G on an iPad, it is clear that one would prefer to have connectivity if needed. However I believe the question of whether to have a mifi relates to connectivity for everything else, in addition to the iPad. I use my mifi in the car for my macbook pro and have been watching slingplayer for all this time on my iPhone, prior to ATT allowing 3G access. The iPhone app thought it was wifi, so had no problem watching my tv shows over the Verizon 3G connection.

Bottom line, without iPad or iPhone tethering, the mifi is the only way you will pay for one 3g data connection for use on all of your devices.


I have been thinking a lot about this too. I’m planning on getting an iPad. In Australia the base model is probably going to cost something like $660 inc. tax which means that the base iPad+3G will be about $830.

I currently pay $20/mth (US$18) for iPhone tethering, which gives me 1GB of data to use with tetherable devices (of which the iPad is not confirmed to be one at this point).

You can get MiFi on a contract here but we also have an equivalent from Virgin which does pretty much the same thing but no contract. It costs $200 to buy and then you can buy prepaid amounts of data (e.g. 10GB for $150 which lasts for up to a year).

I’ve decided to go with that and no 3G on the iPad because it costs only $30 more up-front than 3G on iPad, the data is $5 cheaper a month than tethering and I can use it with multiple WiFi devices. In real world use I have also found that the data speeds on the Virgin modem are a good 3 times faster than I could achieve on the iPhone.


I just went with the Virgin Mobile broadband2go USB 3G modem. Virgin just had a web coupon code for $20, bringing down the hardware cost to $80. I don’t need 3G internet access except when traveling out of my home city, so a pay as you go plan is ideal for me. The flexibility of using the Virgin device on either my MacBook or Windows 7 netbook is great for me also. I personally can’t justify the two year contract cost right now for a MiFi. I will wait a while on the iPad as I suspect cost and features will improve significantly for my needs after a year or so. I have my 1st gen iPhone, now off contract, for phone and messaging.


The Verizon MiFi solution just isn’t cost effective compared to the 3G iPad. Living in Massachusetts, I haven’t found AT&T to be much of a problem. Even in one of the towns that I travel to frequently that is about 40 miles west of Boston (Leominster) now has 3G. Just a few months ago it didn’t.

I will also disagree that the low cost plan has too little data included. For your uses commuting every day that might be true but I don’t use that much data away from WiFi myself. I suspect that the 250 MB plan will be fine for my occasional use away from WiFi.

I also suspect that if you wanted to be frugal, you could use the WiFi on the commuter rail most of the time and switch to 3G if you needed faster speed. The last time I tested the commuter rail WiFi performance I got around 220 Kbps download which is slow but not slower than EDGE. That was on the Acton-Fitchburgh line during the morning commute to Boston in July but the WiFi is probably about the same on all of the lines.

Mark Crump

I checked my usage. I average about 270mb on my iPhone. I’m expecting my iPad usage to be smaller, since it won’t be in my pocket.


I have thought about this as well. The wifi + 3G is my solution. Wifi for home office and 3g for my around town excursions. I plan on using the iPad for real estate and the 3G solution will work well for me as a navigation device for showing property. 3G also allows me to access the web for many applications including access to the internet on the fly.


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.


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.


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…

David B

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


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.

Mark Crump

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

iPad Guy (to be)

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

Mark Crump

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.


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 (1200 mAh capacity).

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


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.

Indu Das

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 :) ).



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.


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.

Gennady Borukhovich

I say go with the mifi. You can get it for $0.01 with a 2 year contract from amazon: 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).


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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