Macworld - We're roughly two weeks out from the arrival of the iPad, and the pre-orders are apparently pouring in. So far, most of the focus has been on the three Wi-Fi versions of the device, mostly because those of us who want to get our hands on an iPad now don't want to wait until later in April, when the 3G-capable models arrive.
Impatience is a powerful thing. I understand that completely. And I've already pre-ordered a Wi-Fi iPad, because I really must have one as soon as humanly possible. (This is my job, after all.)
But for regular users--for people who aren't tech writers or software developers--I think the 3G-enabled iPad models have a whole lot going for them. And they deserve serious consideration, despite the wait.
Now, the later ship date of the Wi-Fi plus 3G iPad models (keep in mind, all iPads include Wi-Fi) is not the only barrier that might make you consider not buying one. There's a definite price difference. To get your hands on an iPad that supports the 3G cellular network, you'll need to shell out $130 more than what you'd pay for a Wi-Fi-only model with the same amount of storage.
But unlike just about every other cellular-connected device out there, buying the 3G iPad doesn't actually commit you to paying a single penny to AT&T (the exclusive U.S. provider of the iPad's 3G data plan). This is because Apple has cut a remarkable deal with AT&T, allowing iPad users to access AT&T's network without any contracts or commitments.
When you buy an iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G, you can use it happily without ever enabling the 3G features. Now, if you're planning on never taking your iPad anywhere that doesn't offer Wi-Fi, you can give up flexibility and save your $130. But how many people will never want to use their iPads on anything but Wi-Fi? Plenty of commuters don't have access to Wi-Fi during their journeys. When you're traveling, Wi-Fi can be hard to come by. The iPhone has taught us that it's really, really nice to have a 3G data network available whenever you want.a--
And this is where Apple's deal with AT&T really pays off: When you say you want the option to use 3G on your iPad, all you're paying for that option is $130. There's no two-year commitment to pay $50 a month. Instead, when you suddenly find yourself somewhere with no Wi-Fi service, you can open up your iPad's settings app and buy 250MB of data for $15, or an unlimited amount for $30. You can even tell the iPad to cancel the service when the month is over, so you don't get stuck unwittingly paying for iPad data you're not using.
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