Skip the navigation

The case for the 3G-capable iPad

By Jason Snell
March 18, 2010 05:35 PM ET

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.

Originally published on www.macworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from Macworld.com. Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
Our Commenting Policies
Consumerization of IT: Be in the know
consumer tech

Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!