Yesterday brought news of Verizon offering the iPad for sale in its stores by the end of the month and that they would bundle the iPad with a MiFi (portable WiFi hotspot, using the 3G data network). After posting about the announcement I posted this link to the Atlantic that talked about the pricing of the data plans for the iPad (AT&T 3G equipped iPad versus WiFi iPad with MiFi from Verzion).
I wanted to take the time to elaborate on this comment I made (I got a few emails about it):
If money is no object and you get great service from both companies (like we do here in Seattle) then why would you want to have to carry around the MiFi and your iPad? I hate doing it, but I didn’t want to wait for the 3G model (probably will for the 2nd gen version though).
I purchased my Verizon MiFi on day one when the gadget was released so that I could get internet on my Mac that was universal to all devices (WiFi is pretty much in everything these days). I certainly can understand the allure of the MiFi and in fact I think it is a great device. Actually it is an awesome device.
The MiFi + iPad combination is a great pair that works really well together and for that short time that there was no iPad w/ 3G available that combo was king of the hill. Now though that the 3G iPad is out in the wild the MiFi + iPad combination leaves something to be desired, something that unfortunately the MiFi cannot fix.
The first problem that you will encounter when pairing a MiFi with an iPad is where to carry the MiFi. The device itself is tiny, but you will be hard pressed to find an iPad case made to accommodate it. Which all leads to my most common problem: “crap where did the MiFi go?”
The sleeve I use for my iPad has a pouch that I keep the MiFi in M-F, but that pouch is too big for it so most times the MiFi will flip out and be kicking around in my car, messenger bag, house, office or elsewhere. My biggest complaint with the MiFi is that it is not built into the iPad – this is something that the MiFi will simply not be able to solve, but that the iPad 3G does solve (except that you can’t use it as a mobile hotspot).
Battery life is a big issue when you want to rely on the MiFi for internet access. With only one-client accessing the MiFi you get 4-hours battery life out of the device (and that is with strong reception from the cell network, anything less drains your battery significantly faster) and the iPad (famously) gets 10 hours of battery life. Meaning that under ideal conditions your MiFi will leave your iPad without internet for 6 hours. Lame.
I can tell you first hand that on average I get about 2-3 hours max out of my MiFi. Luckily though you can buy extra batteries and swap them in and out of the MiFi – but all that means is that you have more crap to carry and charge (see problem #1). Now the iPad certainly gets less battery life when using 3G (Apple states it gets only 9 hours) but it has a lot more browsing life than you do with the MiFi – 5 hours more browsing time.
Ease of use is another huge reason to just get the iPad with 3G instead of futzing about with the MiFi. The MiFi is super easy to use, but it is not as easy as just using your iPad. By that I mean that if you have a 3G iPad and you want to look up something on the net you flip it on, wait a second and surf the web – it connects to 3G for you if you don’t have WiFi available. With the MiFi you would have to pull out the iPad, check to see if you can get WiFi (because you are too lazy to pull out the MiFi first, trust me I am speaking from experience). Then when you see you have no WiFi pull out the MiFi, turn it on, wait, wait, then connect the iPad to the MiFi (it will do this automatically if you have used the two together before).
That extra step is a real pain in the ass. The MiFi on a good day takes about 9 seconds to start up and be ready to use. That is not including the time it takes me to find that damn thing.
iPad 3G It Is
All of this is my long winded, round about way of saying: if you want anywhere internet buy the iPad 3G, not an iPad + MiFi. In fact there is only one non-financial reason that you would not want to buy in iPad 3G, and that is that it has an ugly black plastic strip for the 3G antenna on it.