iPad: Wi-Fi Only Please

The explosion of the iPad is nothing short of amazing! If you compare the iPad’s growth to that of the iPhone over the first two years, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence that its success is slowing down any time soon.

While reading through the inevitable, yet somehow still intriguing, technology predictions for 2012 I found a point made by Shawn Blanc to be a rather interesting one. He predicted that;

I think Apple is going to sell more of the 3G models. Just a hunch, but as people start to realize that their iPad can serve as a primary computer then an extra $129 to get 3G becomes a valuable upgrade.

Will the 3G iPad become the dominant model in 2012? Are there good reasons for you not to upgrade to a 3G iPad?

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World Wide Web

The picture of the earth that sits atop this article is, without question, a little far fetched…

We’re nowhere near the point of global network coverage, even if you leave aside the unpleasantly expensive problems connected with data roaming. For a Wi-Fi iPad owner however, the thought of using my iPad anywhere is certainly an enjoyable one. I wouldn’t reject the offer of a 3G iPad, but I’m not sure I’d consciously shell out for it either. I don’t agree that we’ll see a substantial increase in their numbers, and here’s why.

Roaming Sounds Fun…

Over the years there have been calls for Apple to make a 3G enabled Mac, with the technology most recently being connected with the MacBook Air. This doesn’t look very likely, although it’s never safe to rule it out, and the reasons for this are the same reasons I think we won’t really see an increase in the uptake of 3G iPads.


I believe that this is the strongest case for the absence of a 3G MacBook Air and the reason I don’t think we’ll see a surge in 3G iPad numbers. A significant number of people who own iPads also own iPhones, and the case for tethering is becoming more and more convincing. Why buy a 3G enabled iPad, when you can seamlessly connect it to your 3G enabled iPhone that you always have on you?

I have that very capability, bestowed upon me by a generous network provider who charges nothing extra for the privilege – although I don’t know what the situation is like in other countries. I would advise any iPhone owner I knew to go for a Wi-Fi iPad, purely because the tethering situation all but negates any extra use you would get from the 3G iPad.

Tethering in action! What a lovely blue colour...

The fact that it works seamlessly just adds to the impact of tethering, you barely need to think about it! It’s also much better to consolidate all of your data costs and have everything go through your phone carrier.

You can also connect a Mac to your iPhone very easily using bluetooth tethering. I’ve personally found that browsing like this is still relatively pain-free, although I wouldn’t hit any streaming…

Limited Utility

To get a clear idea of how much I would actually use 3G on my iPad it’s worth thinking back over the last month and remembering the times I tethered my iPhone. The fact is that I would only have used it on two or three occasions, certainly not enough to make the extra contract worth the hassle.

Obviously everybody’s different, and use will differ vastly, but how often are you really going to need to use your iPad when Wi-Fi isn’t available? Surely tethering would suffice on those particular occasions?

If you have the money and find the turning on of your bluetooth a real pain, then perhaps a 3G iPad is worth your consideration…

Wi-Fi Everywhere

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that we’re not massively far off not needing network signal at all. Wikipedia has a long list of cities that already have, or are piloting, free Wi-Fi. How much longer until it’s ubiquitous?

Your Thoughts

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! Do you have a 3G iPad and use it all the time? Do you agree? Have your say below…

  • http://Wwtwebstreet.com Key

    I would agree that it is not necessary to have a 3G iPad. I have a 3G model but don’t pay for the 3G part. If I am ever away from wifi I can swap out my sim from my iPhone to the iPad or just tether like you mentioned. I don’t have to do this much though because I have wifi at school and home where I use it most.

  • http://cansurmeli.com [email protected]


    I don’t think a 3G option is really necessary for an iPad. Because we got Wi-Fi nearly everywhere. And when we don’t just switch back to your smartphone whether it’s an iPhone or something else. Or tether it.

    The only scenario I can possibly think of a 3G solution for an iPad is that if you are a traveller around the world but then again you would have to pay a lot of money for that which is not the option for a lot of users.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ConnorTurnbull Connor Turnbull

    I’m personally going to be picking up a 3G iPad 3 when they inevitably come out. I’m going to be working away from my desk a lot more next year, and for that reason i’m going to be buying a MacBook Pro too. However, when the day ahead does not require the power of a MacBook Pro (which i’d tether to a MiFi), a 3G iPad will come in very handy.

    Sure, there are other methods of getting 3G connectivity on your iPad (i.e. the aforementioned MiFi or phone tethering), but it all comes down to convince. Also, as a PAYG iPhone user, no carrier deems me worthy enough to legitimately tether my phone to my tablet, even though the option on my iPhone is there.

  • Jeff

    I just had this conversation with some one this morning. He’s considering buying an iPad, and I suggested he get just a Wifi, because if he’s traveling the mountains in Poland where Wifi might be hard to find; he’ll be in Prague the next day, and he can find Wifi there for sure.

  • Mike J

    My only thought on this is that the 3G on the iPad is much more “travel friendly” than my locked iPhone. At home the iPhone tetheing works fine, but when in the UK last year it was really handy to have the ability to buy a ten pound O2 sim for the iPad and just plug it in… Gave me all the data I needed and more.

  • Scott

    I agree 100%! I have a wifi iPad 2 and a 4g phone I tether it to. I have to say that my close to 10 megabit 4g connection FAR outshines anything a 3G model brings to the table. Apple needs to get with the program and start offering 4g iPhones so I can give up my Android phone!

  • http://twitter.com/DarylGriffiths Daryl

    It never occurred to me that I could tether an iPad to my iPhone for data…

    As it happens my 3G iPad2 was free when I took the 24 month contract (business pays for that too) so it was a no-brainer for me!

    However, I have a friend who has the iPad1 and no data contract on his iPad but does have an iPhone so I will suggest this to him.

    How much do I use the 3G on my iPad? 97Mb sent / 217Mb received – in 4 months… (I do live in a pretty rural part of the UK with very patchy 3G, so those low numbers will be due to some extent to there being no 3G signal available even when out of WiFi).

    We have a WiFi network at work and a couple at home – we also have 3G extenders at both places too but I could cope without the 3G part if I was having to pay for the iPad myself.

  • David

    Everybody does NOT have an iPhone! Including me, which is one reason I spent the other $130 for 3G. I also wanted the GPS chip, which you can only get with the 3G model. Very handy when taking long trips. I use Motion-X GPS; great app! Thus, I buy the $15 or $25 3G plan only when I really need it, as Wi-FI is nearly ubiquitous for me the rest of the time. Very simple, cheap plans, and NO extra devices to carry around!

  • http://www.kieru.com Rob

    You’re saving $200 on the base cost of an iPad 2 but adding $240 – $360 a year to your phone plan via tethering surcharges. Doesn’t seem as great an option as you’d think…

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