iPads At Large: 3G Options For The Wifi Only iPad

Fri, May 28, 2010


This is a guest post by D. Salmons from TestFreaks.

So, you have a nifty new iPad, but you don’t have the 3G model. However, you really want to be able to get online when you are out and about, and a carefully constructed map of available Wifi hotspots just won’t give you the coverage you need. So, what can you do?

There are options to letting your Wifi iPad connect to a 3G network without having to trade it up to another model. You may find that such an option is more flexible than you think. Read on to find out about some of these options.

Use a Portable Hotspot

Have you considered paring up your iPad with a portable 3G hotspot, such as the MiFi 2200? Offered by both Sprint and Verizon, the unit gives you a 3G for your iPad and up to four of your friends, making it great for group activities. The good news is that it will not only work for your iPad, but it will also give you a connection for your laptops, gaming devices, and anything else that uses a Wifi connection.

The device can be found for free if you shop around, and the service is going to set you back around $60 a month. It does cost more than the iPad only service, but you can run a lot of different devices through the small unit. In fact, if you have an iPad and a USB 3G card for the laptop, then using the single MiFi unit could actually save you money.

Another good thing about the unit – if you go with Sprint – is that the MiFi 2200 gives you GPS location information, thanks to built in hardware. This lets you use the iPad as a live navigation device while on the road, and it can pinpoint your location for other services, such as finding the nearest coffee shop. It is reported that Verizon has disabled GPS functionality in the units they offer, so keep that in mind if so needed.

Tether with a 3G Phone

If you already have a 3G phone, then there is a good chance that it supports tethering. Now, the iPhone does support tethering (which makes it a perfect combination with the iPad), but AT&T does not allow tethering, so that is out. (Unless, say, one was to discover MyWi and run it on a jailbroken unit, but according to the agreements this is a very grey area). In fact, I cannot see using an unmodified iPhone as a tethering tool in the states until it is on another network.

If you happen to have an Android device, then rooting it and running ANetShare and Wireless Tether will allow you to connect your iPad to your Android phone for a happy online experience. There was an earlier report that using the iPad over Bluetooth with an Android device running PdaNet was a viable solution, but from what I can gather that has been ruled out.

If you happen to have a Windows Mobile phone, then it only takes a download of WMWiFiRouter to take you iPad online with it. The software allows the WinMo phone to act as a wireless access point, and you connect your iPad as you would any WiFi hotspot. In fact, you can use this to connect not only your iPad but any other Wifi device you have, including your laptop.

Through a Macbook

If you or a friend have a 3G wireless card, then you should be able to turn on Internet Sharing and get to the access point through the iPad. Please note that some 3G USB dongles that run third party software will disable this functionality.

One more thing I wanted to mention, but it is not exactly a 3G option – say that you’re in a place, such as a hotel room, where the only connection option is an ethernet port for data… if you happen to have your macbook with you, you can easily hook it up to the data port and turn on internet sharing. From there you connect the iPad to the Macbook as you would another hotspot, and you are good to go. This lets you carry the iPad about (out on the balcony overlooking the ocean, for example) while your macbook stays safely inside.

With a little effort and creativity, you will find that there are several options for getting a non-3G iPad onto a 3G connection. There are even some advantages, such as a slightly longer battery life and no restrictions on the apps (the iPad, for all practical purposes, is using a Wifi connection). If you plan on traveling a great deal with the iPad, then the extra expense for the 3G model may make sense. Otherwise, there are indeed options.



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