Why I ordered a Wi-Fi-only iPad

Why I ordered a Wi-Fi-only iPad

Summary: While the 4G radio in the new iPad sounds appealing, I ordered the Wi-Fi-only version this go-around. Here's why.


Why I ordered the Wi-Fi iPad

I finally completed my order for "the new" iPad at around 6:45pm ET today after several (hundred?) attempts and -- for the first time -- I ordered the Wi-Fi only configuration.

[More on Apple's online store fail in a later post.]

After dutifully ordering the Wi-Fi + 3G version for both the original iPad and the iPad 2, and for every subsequent iPad that I've purchased for family members -- I'm giving up on paying the extra $130 for the built-in cellular data radio in my third-generation iPad.

Here's why.

Never used it For starters, I never used the 3G radio in my iPad 2. Never. In almost a full year of using it I never had a need to activate the 3G radio. Why would I pay $130 for something that I never use? Granted, this is the most subjective reason, but in my current situation I'm not traveling a lot, and when I do I use a 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (my review) from Verizon Wireless and Samsung or the hotspot feature on an Android device. The other 99.9 percent of the time I'm on Wi-Fi.

A MiFi is more flexible As I alluded to above, I get more utility from an external cellular hotspot like the Samsung SCH-11. This is especially apparent if you're using and iPad 1, iPad 2 or iPhone because they don't have 4G. (Obviously the new iPad's LTE radio negates that benefit.) Regardless, the MiFi is still more flexible because I can use it with my iPhone, my MacBook and so can my friends. Granted, Phil Schiller touted the new iPad's personal hotspot feature, he qualified it by adding "if your carrier supports it." That's a big if. Who knows what AT&T and Verizon will do. I'm not going to wait to find out.

Resale value I previously justified the extra $130 for the 3G radio in the iPad by thinking that it will command more money at resale when it comes time to flip. This is not the case. In fact, if you study the iPad 2 completed auctions on eBay you'll notice that Wi-Fi-only iPads hold their value better (on a percentage basis) than 3G iPads do. Mainstreet.com detailed the price decline of the original iPad after the iPad 2 was announced and found that the Wi-Fi model dropped around 22 percent while the 3G model dropped around 26 percent. People who buy used iPads after a new model comes out are value customers that are looking for lowest price point possible.

Obviously, everyone's situation is different and if you travel all the time and/or don't already own a MiFi-type device (or Android phone with a hotspot) then the 4G iPad might be a good fit for you. But this go around I ordered the Wi-Fi-only model.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • Well, duh!

    [i]"For starters, I never used the 3G radio in my iPad 2."[/i] That's like saying, "I never fly commercial" when you have a private plane! For the true Post-PC person, an LTE iPad makes a ton of sense, even, or perhaps especially, if they have an iPhone as well. In fact, if your MiFi service has caps and/or throttles, you are now far more likely to bump up against them since [b]all[/b] your devices are on the same [i]meter[/i], so to speak. How many HD Netflix movies does it take to hit a 4G data cap?
    • How much money do you have?

      For a mere $50 a month, you can have 5 gigabytes download capacity from AT&T and a possible 73 megabits per second download speed to get your movie from Netflix on the iPad plan. So in about 10 minutes you might have downloaded half your 1080p movie and used your monthly allowance.
      It's not clear whether you can sign up for another $50 allowance and get to watch the rest of your movie, but if you are going to use your high speed connection to download Netflix movies it really doesn't matter whether you use the Apple plan or share some other plan. You are going to rack up some horrendous bills.
      • A MERE $50 a month?

        That sounds a lot to me. Mind you, I've just checked and it costs more in New Zealand. Vodafone's charges for 3G for iPhone are (per month) $80 for 250MB, $130 for 500, and $130 for 1GB--and those are NZ dollars, not US! Additional costs per MB are 10c, 10c and 3c respectively. I'm not sure what Telescum charge; I keep well away from them. So I'm guessing, if I bought an iPad one of two things will happen before 3G becomes affordable--the iPad will be so out-of-date it needs replacing, or I'll be dead.
        So thanks for the advice, Jason. If I manage to save enough for an iPad I'll go for Wi-Fi only
        Laraine Anne Barker
        • Why I Ordered a WiFi only iPad! P.s. Do Get an external radio, though..

          Laraine, Planning on taking Jason's advice? When you can, you too will buy a Wi-Fi only iPad in the future. The cost of paying for monthly 4G service in New Zealand is probably your real reason you will buy a WiFi only iPad. Why you say? With due respect to Jason's opinion and his column, his article read more like an infomercial about the MiFi than just saving money. If you notice, he never expresses concern for the cost of using 3G service because he never uses it, I know. However, just because he is not getting 3 or 4G built into his new iPad doesn't mean he will never need that service. That's why he recommends the MiFi vs the 3G radio! The only savings Jason mentioned is the $130 'extra' you pay for adding 3G to an iPad. If you are worried about the cost of 3G service, you can skip a month or two, turn it back on the next month & repeat this cycle over again. Unlike a cellphone contract, a data only service is strictly by the month. You have to tell your data carrier not to renew next month, so you have to resuscribe to start your service again. If you don't intend on ever being away from home's wifi service, wifi is the way to go. But even Jason, with his focus on using the MiFi vs built in 3G tells his readers that, to be truly mobile on the fly with an iPad, WiFi & 3G (or MiFi, which will cost about $130) is a must have! Otherwise, your iPad will be as useful as a phone without a signal. Still, the iPad without Internet service can entertain you with local only games, books, etc. The last sentences are mine, not part of this article. Good luck on buying an iPad in the future! DJL
  • What about the GPS?

    Last year I got an iPad 2 3G. Never ever put a SIM card in there, but got it because of the integrated GPS. It's great navigation device, much better than a phone or handheld GPS navigator -- simply because of the larger screen.

    The new iPad, with it's huge resolution display will make GPS navigation even more impressive.
    • No GPS in iPad

      Check the specs on apple.com. There is no GPS hardware on wifi only iPad. There is ' assisted ' GPS on the LTE version. Location Services use wifi & built-in digital compass
      • Sigh

        If not how is it that mine can pinpoint me within yards even if not on wifi?
  • Agree with you Jason.

    I ordered my WiFi only iPad yesterday.
    That along with tethering to a smartphone is all the connectivity we need.
    Better spend the extra $130 on a higher capacity version,if needed.
    • Ditto

      And it's a safe bet that the next iPhone will have 4G and tethering/hotspot capability, so if you own that (or another similar phone) then 3G/4G on the iPad is redundant. And streaming video over 3G/4G? Not unless you're a billionaire or the rates/caps get better.
  • Me Too

    I ordered one as well, in the hopes that there would be huge shortage and then I can make a few bucks!
  • 4G LTE Probably a Waste of Money

    If mobile operators keep charging end-users separate data plans for smartphone, tablet, notebook PC, etc., paying for iPad Gen-3 with built-in LTE is pretty much like throwing money away with no real effect. Using the smartphone as hot-spot is a much more sensible way. After all, many consumers still keep the grand-fathered all-you-can-eat data plan when they first started using smartphone two or three years ago.
    • Too True

      Without streaming, my work/personal LTE phone avg's 3-6 gb a month use.
      If I extrapolate that to an iPad, freaking ouch!!!

      Very Critical concern.
    • One wrinkle in the Unlimited Data Plan

      Unless you are willing to break your device, if you switch to a plan that includes tethering then you will lose the unlimited data.
  • I may get a WiFi version, but not 4G.

    I love the new display. I have an original iPad. It is WiFi only, and I have never felt a need for any cellular capability, especially due to the spotty ATT coverage, the ludicrous capping, throttling and overall unreliability of it, and the extortionate plan pricing. However, if you are on the corporation's dime,then go for it. For some reason, I have usually found that where there is no free WiFi coverage, the cellular data signal strength is about one bar. Why do you think that might be?
  • Not very wise to use public hotspots

    Maybe it are the outrageous costs of data plans in the US and Europe that makes it not worth buying a Wifi/mobile version, but you would be mad not to do it in other places in the world. For instance I have an unlimited 3G data stream for 2 mobile devices (iPhone 4S and iPad) combined for less than 25 USD per month. It would make no sense to buy a WIFI enabled iPad. Besides I do not like the idea of using public WIFI I like to keep my data protected and that must be worth a lot even in the US.
    • Protection to be or not to be...

      What purpose is there to worry about your data, when the bad guys will just break in and take it off the server anyway? Has anyone NOT been hacked yet?
      Tony Burzio
  • Two words - Assisted GPS

    I have the same sort of feeling as you, but the Wi-Fi models lack assisted GPS. I can tell you I am impressed with the capabilities of navigational apps if assisted GPS is built-in. And I also think the 4G model might prove handy traveling internationally on the supposition that I can slip a SIM card in and have internet access almost anywhere.
    Is this a valid assumption?
    • Absolutely....

      The author has been short-sighted in my opinion. He is concerned that tethering might not be supported and yet uses it with the MiFi and Android phones, they may not call it tethering but from the carrier's perspective that's exactly what it is. And he is giving up navigational and locational based services. And carrying extra kit - the MiFi. I travel extensively and now have Pad & Quill cases for my iPhone and iPad. I can tuck papers into the iPad one and credit cards into the iPhone one. I also carry my reading glasses, a small pocket notebook and a LiveScribe pen, and that's me, everything I need work wise for the office or a productive journey. I have the same concerns about those who clamor for USB ports and card slots on the iPad - this just leads to clutter and heavy bags. All my gear fits into my suit jacket pockets with the exception of the iPad. I have to say, some of the cloud services out there now and the iPad apps to use them Re stunning, so data isn't an issue either. My rule? Carry as few devices as possible and select those with the most features. I do travel internationally as well, I have an App for my boarding passes and a pocket in my notebook that holds my passport. Traveling is getting a who,e lot easier.
      • I am right on track with you...

        Your travel habits and use of this tech sound just like mine. I have found using a WiFi only iPad to be the seventh circle of hell.

        I have a verizon 3G iPad 2 and I am always connected, I never think about it. I have the 1 GB plan I think (don't have the energy now to look it up, flame me if there is no 1 GB plan) and I never go over. It is probably because I am usually connected to WiFi.

        I have a MiFi too (the same Samsung SCH-11 as above), but I have almost stepped on it several times because it is an unreliable POS. Even with the firmware updates, it is just now becoming usable. The last thing I want to do is have to make sure one more thing is charged or find an outlet for my 10 hour battery iPad (one that could have a fast 4G connection that will work a helluva lot better than the lame MiFi.

        I have thought about tethering to my iPhone, but I really hate to give up my unlimited data plan I still have running on my iPhone. If I tether, I either have to jailbreak or give up the plan. And then there's no 4G...yet.

        This is a no brainer, my 64 GB Verizon 4G iPad is coming March 16. Can't wait. Resale will be...whatever it turns out to be for my iPad 2.
  • I made the same choice...

    Although I would have preferred using the larger battery of the iPad to using the 6-hour battery of the Samsung Mobile Hotspot. I spent the extra money on a larger amount of storage.