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Thursday, June 10, 2010

iPad Connectivity options: 3G vs WiFi vs tethering

Connectivity Options for Apple's iPad

Ok, now that i've been using the iPad for some time (unboxing video here), I thought i'd touch on an important topic related to it: Connectivity.
Definitely one of the more significant selling points for the iPad is mobile internet surfing, as well as consumption of media on the web. Therefore, one would assume that keeping your iPad connected as much as possible is a top priority. 

While my full review of the iPad is still forthcoming, I prepared a quick write-up on the connectivity options available for the device. 

Obviously WiFi is the best option, but when you consider mobility, not all the places you go to will have an available free wifi hotspot. Here are the alternatives:
1. Get an iPad 3G 
2. Use a MiFi device
3. Tether the iPad to your mobile phone

The more accessible consideration is to get an iPad that has 3G built-in. However, you will need to pay at least $100 more for you iPad, just to have that feature. You will also need to buy a micro simcard,  and worse yet, you will need to pay for the monthly fee of using the 3G network just for the simcard. It's important to note that micro simcards are different from the ones we normally use in our mobile phones. The use of microsims in to the general market is not quite there yet...so if you want to use (or are limited to) a specific network provider, then you need to do some sim cutting. Not a sophisticated solution.

Another option to keep the iPad connected is using one of the "MiFi" devices that have cropped up lately. This portable device works by inserting a simcard inside, and it will broadcast the 3G network into a WiFi hotspot. The benefit of this is you can use it for more than just your iPad WiFi. The drawbacks are the as with getting an iPad 3G...namely more costs, and more netowrk subscriptions + an added drawback of 1 more device to carry around.

The last option is to tether you existing mobile phone to your iPad. There are usually 3 ways of tethering a phone:
- by USB (can't, because the iPad has no USB port)
- by bluetooth (there are no phones that can officially act as a bluetooth modem for the iPad yet, even the iPhone!)
- by broadcasting a WiFi hotspot (similar to a MiFi device mentioned above), this seems to be the last and only alternative to tethering your phone to the iPad, so let's explore it some more.
First of all, why is this solution more viable than the just getting an iPad 3G or using a MiFi device? The obvious answer is $$$ savings. You won't need to shell out more cash for the iPad 3G model, you won't need to buy a simcard just for it, and you won't have to pay another monthly plan. 
You will always have your mobile phone with you, it already has a simcard, and you are already paying monthly for its 3G usage.
Ironically the iPhone cannot broadcast a WiFi hotspot (officially anyway, if you know what i mean), but there are other alternatives out there that can. Since I'm currently in a Pro-Android mood with the latest firmware releasing, let's use my Nexus one as an example. I made a video below showing how to setup the connection between the iPad and the android phone (note: It's easy).

If you're finding it hard to get a Nexus one phone, the HTC Desire is also available (official release next week in Manila), or basically any other Android phone upgradable to 2.2 firmware. If Android isn't your cup of tea, there are also ways to do it with Blackberry, Palm, and Nokia phones with a little searching. If you have an iPhone, unfortunately you will need to jailbreak it to get this functionality, just do a little google search for "MyWi".

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