Australia How to turn the Wi-Fi only iPad into a Wi-Fi/3G iPad

Posted: April 21, 2010 in Apple
Tags: , , , , ,

And why you will might be better off if you do.

“Not since Moses has there been so much excitement over a tablet”

The Magic
Apple amazed the tech work with selling an estimated 500,000 Wi-Fi only iPads in the first week of sales in the USA only.   Considering 300-350,000 of these were purchased sight unseen (or touched) as they were pre-ordered, it is pretty amazing.

Australia and the rest of the world can pre-order 10 May and receive their units the end of May.

Then they will need to decide if they will get a Wi-Fi only model or a combined Wi-Fi / 3G combined models, the only difference being the extra cost of the 3G device and of course the running cost of 3G data plans in Australia.

Steve Jobs

Apple Guru and co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs described the device as ‘magic’ (many times in his recent unveiling). Many now agree with the feel of an iPhone but 4 times larger there is a comfortable feel about the device. Using it, the screen almost seems 3D, due to the video card built into the device.

Some like the iPad considering it unique to computing others do not see the point of it.

In my case I wanted a device (Apple or PC), that I could listen to audio books, read books and pdfs, and listen to media especially videos (podcasts and movies) and of course games whilst being mobile on public transport, airports or even at work not wanting to be in violation of internal internet issues.  The iPhone is great but bigger in this case is definitely better.

So for some the iPad is just a device 3-4 times bigger than an iPhone or an iPod Touch. As the iPad doesn’t make std. phone calls even with 3 . However, you can Skype and make phone calls Wi-Fi or 3G aspects

Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi/3G

This begins the drama of it all. Yes you can choose between 16,32, 04 64GB storage, but why would I not spend  an extra $100-150 and get the 3G model and have both.  I believe for 2 reasons. Cost and Battery Life.  The estimated prices are below in AUD.

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB
Wi-Fi Only $570 $680 $800
Wi-Fi / 3G $720 $830 $945

Updated 20 May – wow I was pretty close on my predictions I added 6% over US (non taxed) pricing above
below is with 10% GST from the apple store

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB
Wi-Fi Only 629 $759 $879
Wi-Fi / 3G $799 $928 $1049

with GST

To date my understanding is the 3G model will NOT allow users to make std.  phone calls on it.
Knowing now expensive and out of control data costs can be on an iPhone. I would be loath to let my child grown or otherwise have 3G, unless it is pay as you go.

Both Telstra and Optus have announced they will have a data plan for the new iPad 3G whether it will be a plan with a contract or pay as you go we do not know yet,  but is assumed it will be more expensive than the cheapest plans available today, as all other carriers like Virgin, Three, Vodafone and others have made the data plans for mobile broadband (3G) competitive. The catch on the new iPad is it will require a special new sim card so you cannot use your existing one from your other carriers you do today (not too easily). Make way for new technology and a new choice.

Do it yourself Wi-Fi/3G

A mere 2 years ago a wonderful new device hit Australia. Looking like a regular USB memory stick,  it houses a regular 3G sim card from your standard mobile carrier or has no sim card but allows customers to get 3G for their phone or laptop as long as you have a pc/laptop  to plug the USB device into. Great for the office and has some mobility but not very handy otherwise.  These USB 3G Broadband Modems  are available from all the carriers so data plans are very competitive.  Most of these 3G modems are locked to a single carrier preventing you from changing plans or carriers very easily, but work very well, but are NOT 100% portable again as you need a PC to connect the unit to power it, and run its software.

Newish Products & Technology

New on the market are a couple of devices that offer all the benefits of 3G USB sticks but none of the drama (e.g. no pc required after initial set-up).  There are 2 main versions of this and they both act a bit differently.  They both offer you a Wi-Fi  hotspot , have 5 hours of rechargeable battery life and get bandwidth from  the commoditised 3G broadband market.

Option 1 – Virgin Locked Rechargeable 3g mobile broadband no USB needed-

About the size of a large USB stick or small box of matches, and available from Dick Smith, and others , here in Australia,  the Virgin mobile Wi-Fi modem , allows you to share the device with 3 devices at the same time and even has a Micro SD slot in case you want to add some memory to the device as well to use as a memory stick.  The upside it is it is small and battery operated lasting up to 5 hours. Data Plans from virgin are competitive.

Option 2- Rechargeable 3g mobile broadband no USB needed, /BYO USB  3g Modem stick.

A bit more complicated but just as exciting, The other option is the new NetComm 3GT1WN 3G wireless N, travel Router. Priced the same as the virgin device it does things slightly differently. In this case you will need to buy (or you might have one) a usb 3G modem. So the idea is it is still battery operated but you need to plug in your USB memory stick into it (rather than a pc alone). The advantage is it has a LAN port so you can connect it hard wired to a device if needed. It is also 802.11 N offering connection speeds up to 150mbs between it and your device.

Security

Both devices offer the security STD.  WEP, WPA, and WPA2 security so you don’t have someone else suck your bandwidth.  Pocket-sized it is a better unit but you have a bit more work to do setting it up with the USB modem.

Why do it Yourself?
So an obvious question is if it costs $150 more for the 3G iPad unit why spend $150 on one of the devices above.  For me it was blindingly obvious, with the additional device I can use it as a travel router on anything that takes Wi-Fi  as well as the iPad, my phone, laptop, or share it with a friend,. if you choose.  Also the cost of the data will likely be cheaper this way than a dedicated plan form one of the big carriers.  Yes it might be possible to set-up an ad-hoc network from the iPad, but I think that gets messy. For me the idea of having a small device that can do it all is battery powered is a great idea and using both was a breeze.

Additional Considerations

3g Broadband Plans– Regardless of what 3G plan you get or from which carrier, there is one that best suits your needs. But remember the more data you buy the longer it is before it expired. I made the mistake of buying cheaper data plans $15 or $20, not using it then having it expire on me. Another option is to spend around $150 for a plan that only expires after 12 months.  If you are not sure how much bandwidth you will need you can also buy a cheap amount at first and explore from there.

Using your phone as a Wi-Fi router- I would be remiss if I did not mention this option. There are many many phones even very cheap ones that will act as a wi-fi router per above. However most have their limitations.

The iPhone as a Wi-Fi router (via tethering)
Steve Jobs has said publicly you will not be able to tether the iPhone to the iPad as obvious as it seems. Hackers figured it out almost immediately and on a hacked or jail-broken phone you have an app called  ‘My-Wi’ another called ‘PDANET’ that apparently works very well. I prefer not to jailbreak my iPhone, but this is a good option as well.  I would rather jailbreak my phone than buy the 3G iPad based on information to date.

Updated 20 May 2010- rumours are out that the iPhone 4.0 will allow tethering form the iphone and to the iPad.
We will see next month hopefully

Mi-FI


All the geek rage in the USA and in limited runs here in Australia is the Mi-FI  unit currently only available form Internode in South Australia. Costing between 350-400 it does nothing different than the virgin unit, and is made by Novatel.

Final Thoughts

Wifi, MiFi, or MyWi, the decision is yours. My guess is once Apple realize the black market (mywi) or MiFi alternatives are costing them sales, they will work to allow tethering to the iPad . Perhaps a feature they will have on the new iPhone 4.0 in June

Updated 20 May 2010-

Looks like telstra is now allowing roll over of data usage for the iPad and no locked in contracts. This is a show stopper/maker making in my opinion, the iPad 3G using Telstra data as the best device. I cannot now see why the majorit of folks would use the travel router/modem model. THe except ion is for folks that want to use it for multiple devices (ipad, laptop or iPhone if using a different 3G carrier)

I have a Wi-Fi only iPad and am using the virgin model. I live outside the Melbourne CBD (mornington peninsula) , at home the 3G signal in the middle of nowhere is good and I get fast Wi-Fi to the iPad. But in the car (driving or standing still) I lose signal a lot of the time (90%)  My guess is that the technology for getting the 3G signal sending it via wi-fi to the iPad, and the iPad using that signal there is a dropout.  The obvious answer is there is no coverage here. Per the virgin 3g coveraeg map here it shows 100% coverage by a wide area. With 3G there I believe  is an arrangement that carriers will share each others signal towers in dropout areas. However I am not sure if this same principal works with the huwei/virgin/wifi device, but it is unusable where I am.

I am off to CeBIT in Sydney next week so will try it out there.

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Comments
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