I remember having a conversation with Brian about the iPad the day it was announced. We were working on a Crowd Fusion project up at Alvey Manor, so we were actually working together in meatspace, as opposed to virtually online (which is more normal). Brian said he was going to get an iPad 3G and that the regular iPad would be a bad decision because his kids all have iPod touches, and the devices become somewhat useless when you’re outside of the range of a WiFi network (with the added caveat “except for games”). I disagreed, pointing out that the iPad is bigger than an iPhone / iPod touch, so it’s going to be away from WiFi networks less often. I also pointed out that the iPad 3G on a trip to the city would have the same spotty AT&T connectivity that the iPhone currently has, so that’s not a winning combo. $30 a month unlimited data off contract sounds great, but if it’s connectivity that fails you when you really need it, then what the hell is the point?
Also, I’ve seen the post about how you can hack down a regular T-Mobile SIM card to micro-SIM specifications so it will fit in the “it comes unlocked by default” iPad 3G, but the technology that runs the 3G connection on the iPad 3G is incompatible with T-Mobile’s 3G network, so you’re only going to get EDGE speeds using that method. Lame.
So, fast forward to yesterday, when my Zoom 4506 3G Wireless-N Travel Router arrived. Amazon sells the Zoom 4506 3G Wireless-N Travel Router for $79.22 plus $8.99 shipping and handling from one partner and they also sell the Zoom Telephonics Wireless-N Travel Router for 3G USB Modems for $89.99 plus free shipping from another partner. They’re the same device, and I have to say, I don’t know what the two one star ratings on the one item are about, as I’ve had mine running without problems for 24 hours now. As long as you jump into the admin settings and adjust it to keep the connection live and to reconnect, you’re solid. In any case, for under $90, I can use my off-contract Telava Mobile BroadBand Bullet, which I pay $60 per month for unlimited connectivity, as a WiFi access point for my 64GB iPad WiFi. Also, I can connect up to 4 other devices to the Zoom at the same time, so I can use both my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone, and a colleague’s laptop on this connection at the same time if I had to (sure it would slow it down a bit, but hell, you can’t share your iPad 3G’s connection with anything other than the iPad) and I’d still have one open slot to share with a stranger, if I believed in letting strangers all up in my WiFi networks (I don’t).
Also, my iPad sees this as nothing different than the normal WiFi connection that it’s always connecting to. There is no extra battery drain on the iPad itself, as there is on the iPad 3G (which according to all reports I’ve seen gets about an hour to 2 hours less battery run time when doing everything 3G, depending upon the usage). Sure, the Zoom WiFi Router only gets 3 and a half hours of connectivity on a single full charge of the device, but how often am I really going to be away from a regular WiFi connection, and during those times, how often am I going to be away from an outlet (the Zoom comes with a power cable for charging that is about the size of your regular generic cellphone charger, so it’s really portable and ready to be plugged in at Starbucks while I’m sipping some coffee and iPadding it up). Also, it has a removable Li-Ion battery that is the same battery used by a whole slew of digicams and camcorders, and which can be found for less than $5 a pop on Amazon. I’m buying 3 of those and an external charger for them for a grand total of $25.95 with shipping and taxes. If I have them all charged and in my bag, I can keep the internet connection running for the same 12 hour stretch that my iPad’s battery under super heavy usage gets. And I can Skype from anywhere because the iPad always thinks it’s on WiFi.
So let’s add that up: 64GB iPad WiFi for $699 + $90 or so for the Zoom WiFi Router + $25.95 for extra batteries for the router = $815 vs $829 for a brand new iPad 3G.
And I’ll get better battery life and better connectivity and better speeds to my connectivity… like this:
Sure, I’ll have to carry under a pound of extra equipment around, but it’ll be in my bag, and if I ever decide to dump Telava and switch to another carrier, I can do so easily. And, yes, true, I won’t have that precious integrated GPS chip, but I already have a GPS chip in my iPhone 3GS and the WiFi location triangulation isn’t too shabby anyway.
Conclusion: iPad WiFi > iPad 3G.
Also, I almost named this post: “The iPad 3G is a suckers bet.”
Additionally, here’s me in rant mode on Facebook with my friend Trevor yesterday discussing what ended up becoming this post: