Back before the iPad 2 was released to consumers Robert Scoble recorded a CinchCast message that said no one should buy a 3G iPad because you can just use the WiFi hotspot capability on your smartphone. Brian Chen, from Wired, also recently posted an article on why you can skip 3G on the iPad 2. This idea sounds reasonable and I admit to being a part of that camp for a couple of years, but after using my Samsung Galaxy Tab with integrated 3G I realized that integrated 3G is actually the way to go for power users and I have five reasons you should consider a 3G iPad.
There are 18 variations of the Apple iPad; black or white, 16GB/32GB/64GB, Verizon 3G, and AT&T 3G. Thus, it isn't easy to make a choice, unless you end up like me and have no choices left. It has now been over a week and I love using my iPad 2 with integrated 3G service and am happy that is what I was led to purchase. I have been traveling a lot to Alaska for work and get 3G data even up in Ketchikan where I was able to watch March Madness live.
Here are five reasons why you should consider a 3G iPad:
- Battery life: Using the mobile hotspot on your phone is convenient, but 3G and 4G kill the battery on phones faster than just about anything while the iPad models can go 10 hours. If you actually ever want to use your phone to make and receive calls or text messages, you won't have much luck if you kill it through tethering. To support the devices you carry for WiFi hotspot functionality you will also have to carry a means to charge up your phone and maybe your iPad if you use them paired together extensively.
- Integrated saves time: Today's smartphone WiFi hotspot utilities are much better than the ones I started out using a couple years ago, but it still takes several steps to launch the hotspot and get connected with your iPad while integrated 3G is just always there and good to go. Also, it can cost you money or be a pain to find other WiFi hotspots at hotels, airports, and such while integrated 3G is always there with you and ready to go.
- iPad has large antenna system: The iPad 2 has a larger antenna than your smartphone and it is possible that you may see a stronger signal to let you connect in more places. I have only seen 4 or 5 bars on my iPad 2 and the experience has been terrific.
- iPad 3G has a GPS receiver: Unfortunately, Apple does not include a GPS receiver in the WiFi only models. GPS is slick with Google Maps, Navigon, and a number of other 3rd party clients that let you roll down the road with a large screen GPS navigation display.
- Integrated 3G could be cheaper: WiFi hotspot services on your smartphone can range from $15 for 5GB (T-Mobile), $20 for 2GB (AT&T and Verizon), up to $29.99 unlimited from Sprint. 2GB of data on AT&T is $25 for the iPad while Verizon has a 1GB option for $20, 3GB for $35, 5GB for $50 or 10GB for $80. The monthly data cost differences between the integrated or WiFi hotspot options are fairly close so monthly price should not be much of a factor in your decision.
I can understand if you have a group of people or a family with multiple iPads and you want to connect all of them at once with one smartphone then you can use that phone as a sacrificial phone and WiFi only iPads may be the way to go. However, after tasting integrated 3G on my Galaxy Tab and now on my iPad 2, I cannot go back to a two device tablet connectivity solution.
Can you think of any reasons to buy or not to buy a 3G iPad?