5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

Summary: One of the major choices you have to make when purchasing your iPad 2 is whether or not to buy one with a 3G radio or not. Here are five reasons to consider the 3G variant.


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, iPad, Wi-Fi

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  • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

    Everyday I find more an more reasons to love my 64G/3G/Wi-Fi iPad, which is for business and personal use. Whilst many on these fora talk s#@t about the iPad, I use mine as part of my business and I make a decent income using it. It is an extraordinary piece of technology.
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      @ptorning Well like any "computer" (I actually don't think the iPad qualifies - you can't program it directly, plus it doesn't "feel" like a computer: no random slowdowns, no AntiVirus, no constant nagging about updates...) the it lives and dies on the programs it runs.

      It always makes me laugh when you hear fanboys (of any persuasion) knocking a platform. If that platform has the application you want to run, then it is the right one for you. One thing the iPad has is a lot of applications, and unlike Windows TabletPCs they are actually written for the device, rather than "running with suboptimal UIs".

      I too find the iPad useful, I use Things (CulturedCode), Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Kindle (Amazon) and of course Safari more than anything else. These are mostly for business reasons.

      I did have a TabletPC, which mostly got used with OneNote - nothing else was very compelling. Ultimately the system was too slow (after a couple of Service Packs squeezed the life out of it) and too short battery life (makes it useless if halfway through they day you can't take or refer to notes!).

      But I'm sure there are plenty of people who'll tell us both the iPad is useless, and doesn't do anything (but we know different).

      As for the article, as someone who is mobile, the 3G is pretty much essential. However, I know someone with a 3G capable iPad who's not bothered to get a SIM for it... So I guess YMMV
      • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

        "It always makes me laugh when you hear fanboys (of any persuasion) knocking a platform. "

        So true . . . uneducated wankers.
      • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

        @jeremychappell I have had an iPod touch for a couple years and I have an iPad2... constant nagging about updates IS part of the package. Sorry... but even the almighty iPad has constant updates.

        As for service packs slowing things down? Yeah.. iOS 4.2 brought Safari to an unusable crawl on my iPod Touch... the iOS 4.3 update fixed it, but it was terrible for months and I had to use Opera. All I can say is those updates cut both ways... and I am all in favor of them "nagging" me with anything that makes the computer (yes iPad is a computer...just with limited functions) run more effectively.
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      @ptorning <br>The issue I have with the iPad2 is the lack of 4G capabilities. Verizon has rolled 4G out to 50 major metro cities and is expanding each month. To come out with a brand new version (iPad2) that does not support the latest technology is a sin. You are better off spending $100 less on the original iPad and wait for the 4G iPad3 later this year.
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

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  • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

    I already have a 3G USB data card for my laptop. I'm not inclined to spend another $100 for additional 3G capability and another $20+ a month for a 3rd data plan (including my phone.)<br><br>So I have found a better solution. Cradlepoint makes a 3G battery powered wi-fi wireless router that accepts a 3G USB card. It's about the size of a deck of cards.<br><br>With that I can give access to more than one device, be it iPad(s), laptop or one of my friends laptops/iPads.<br><br>If you don't already have a 3G card, consider a Mi-Fi device. <br><br>While I agree that an iPad makes a lot more sense with anywhere data connectivity, I have a hard time accepting that I need to pay AT&T/Verizon tax on every iPad I buy.<br><br>Stick it to the man!
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      @dazzlingd I don't care for the MiFi or other hotspot solution. I've had a Virgin Mobile "unlimited", no contract MiFi for about 6 months and even had a Clear 4G hotspot for a few months. Both of which stunk on ice. While they could occasionally be faster than AT&T 3G that's built into the iPad, they were horrendously unreliable and clearly throttled/metered or whatever. The other problem (for me at least) is that I'm still "grandfathered" on my iPhone/iPad with unlimited data plans. And that's tough to give up (although I probably don't use enough data to really make it worth while).
  • Remove No. 4

    when tethered the iPhone 4 sends it GPS info to the iPad (not sure about other phones).. so no need to have yet another GPS eating up the iPad battery for absolutely no reason at all...

    and who would honestly put a ten inch tablet on their dash obscuring a good portion of their viewable windshield?? i feel sorry for the people driving on the road with someone that foolish..
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      @doctorSpoc I saw someone, just yesterday, with a whole spread of gadgets stuck to his windscreen - what looked like TWO GPS units, his phone in a cradle and a couple of big fluffy dice dangling from the mirror. There's no way he had a remotely decent view of the road ahead.
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      @doctorSpoc <br>With that I can give access to more than one device, be it iPad(s), laptop or one of my friends laptops/iPads. <a href="http://www.sanfrancisco-weddingphotographers.com">San francisco wedding photographer</a>
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  • i would add one that you missed..

    i'll say No. 4, since i think your No. 4 is not valid at all.. iPad 3G data doesn't require a contract.. you can do it on an ad hoc basis.. just when you go away etc.. if someone only wanted to use it infrequently, it might come out cheaper than adding a steady $20 to your phone contract.. but still you take a $200 hit up front.. hard pill to swallow for something that you would use pretty infrequently..

    but, i'll say again.. iPad sucks as a 'mobile' device.. i've tried it in that capacity.. you have too via your iPad 1 experience and you came to the same conclusion.. it's just too big, unwieldily and awkward to be pulling out and using on the go.. it's an amazing 'portable' device though.. i.e. you use it at your home or at the destination you go to (why i say 'portable' vs 'mobile').. and those places normally have WiFi these days.. and for those places that don't, you have the tethering option

    i think all your reasoning is based on the false assumption that people in general will or even want to use the iPad as a mobile device and that's why you reasoning is flawed at the most basic level.. the way you formulate the argument in the first place is not valid for most people.. remember, as a tech blogger you are quite different that most people.. for most people a phone fills that gap.. WAY, WAY better than a tablet ever could.. and with 4.3" phones.. a tablet for 'mobile' doesn't make sense...
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      I agree with your premise that a 10" tablet is portable but not mobile. Would a 7" tablet fill the "mobile" void? Several competitors are coming out with 7" models. I also really liked the Samsung Tab and was surprised at how the 7" screen seemed 'big enough'.
  • Considerations

    Good article.<br><br>I purchased a 64gb iPad 2 with 3G as an option since I had previously considered some of the points made in the article above. However, I was also undecided how I might end up using my iPad - direct 3G plan with AT&T or tethered via my iPhone 3gs. It's a $15 increase from my $30/mo AT&T iPhone data plan for 4gb/mo data hotspot vs. $25/mo on-demand up to 2gb/mo. Tethering comes in cheaper if you plan on using the iPad 3G monthly, but you could save throughout the year if you use it direct and not every month I guess. 4gb of data direct to 3G iPad would cost $45/mo as a measure.<br><br>All that said, Best Buy handed me a Verizon iPad 2 when I had a ticket for an AT&T version. Now I'm wondering if I should exchange it for the AT&T version I requested OR keep it as an option to AT&T when I'm somewhere AT&T's signal is weak. I've heard Verizon data is generally slower than AT&T which also weighs in on my decision process. I went ahead and activated tethering this weekend and so-far-so-good, but this article has me thinking.<br><br>Thoughts on this and the above?
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      I waited in line on opening day and got a Verizon version. As soon as I got home, I realized that I really wanted the faster data download capability. Also, AT&T does have coverage in more remote spots than my Verizon iPhone has. Took me until this week, though, until I could exchange it.
    • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

      Wait for the 4G version! It is orders of magnitude faster than 3G. Apple should have provided an upgrade path for 4G on the iPad2 but didn't. That is a show stopper for me.
  • Less Mobility = Good

    On a college campus I see students walk right into the street fiddling with phones never once recognizing their surroundings. I have never seen anyone texting on an Ipad while driving. Portable is good, reckless mobility is not.
  • RE: 5 reasons you should consider a 3G iPad 2

    I do not think you should buy an Ipad2. The problem with the ipad series of tablets is that they only have one years value. Right now its ipad 2 last year it was ipad 1 next year in March 2012 it will be ipad 3 with LED screen and 14mp camera with bigger drive and 4g connectivity. Making the one who bought the ipad2 looking like a fool for once again not waiting. The ipad has made leaps and bounds but your talking about a company who almost went bankrupt not too long ago. A company that needed Microsoft's help to bail them out and create iPod. A company that realize in order to keep this going keep reproducing the same thing over and over with minor changes to keep you coming back. Come on people they are not all that besides without the apps they are nothing.
    • Yes


      There will always be something better next year, and the year after that, and the years after that. Until the ultimate "perfect" device is created beyond which no further improvements can be made. That's tech-land for ya. The real question is: At what point will the iPads sold last year no longer be able to perform the functions for which they were originally sold in a useful manner? This we do not know. My iPad 1 still works fine and, aside from not having a camera, can use all the apps sold today in the app store. Therefore your premise, that they only have 1 years value, is wrong.
      • agreed, HAVE to buy in at some point... but you can't use iMovie at all..

        @oncall ..on iPad 1... also via recent updates from the devs, games like Infinity Blade and RealRacing HD will recognize they are running on an iPad 2 and will run at fast frame rates and figures/objects will have much greater detail as well.. so even just a few days out.. at least one app will only run on iPad 2 and a few will run in a much more advanced way on iPad 2..

        but as you say.. that is part of the game.. you get in when the device meets your needs.. there will ALWAY be something, better, faster, with more feature coming.. that will never end.. if you wait, you will be waiting forever and never getting any enjoyment out of the device at all.. not to mention iOS device have great resale value so you don't actually lose that much by being an early adopter..