In case you are thinking of getting a new iPad this week you should know what your options are for data connections. There are basically two models of iPads available, one that has only WiFi connectivity and the other that can connect to the internet using WiFi or wirelessly using a carrier’s 4G LTE network. If you plan to be using you iPad primarily at home or in close proximity to a WiFi connection or hotspot you could probably save yourself $130 and buy the WiFi only model. On the other hand if you are likely to be taking your iPad with you wherever you go you will probably want to get the 4G model so that your device is always connected to the internet.
If you’ve decided to purchase a WiFi only model, you are likely spending most of your time at home and thus using your own WiFi network to connect to the internet. Most wireless modems are compatible with the WiFi radio in the iPad so the initial setup is fairly simple and takes less than a minute. If you have an cell phone and carrier that allows it, you could use the cellular radio in your phone as your connection to the internet. This can be done by bluetooth tethering which is allowed by most carriers in Canada as long as a you have at least a 1 GB/month data plan. Some cell phones can also create their own WiFi hot spot which could also be used by your iPad.
The WiFi + 4G gives you the most flexibility but will also cost you more money, $130 more initially as well as whatever ongoing charges you incur on your data plan. In Canada, tablet data plans are available from all of the major cellular carriers (Bell, Rogers and Telus) and since they all use the same 4G technology you can choose the carrier with which you have had the best experiences. The carriers themselves have not made it easier to choose as they all seem to be offering the same iPad data plans. They each have a flex plan in which the cost changes depending on how much data you use in a given month. The minimum is 10 MB of data which costs you $5 per month , if your data usage exceeds 10 MB then you move to the $15 plan that gives you 250 MB of data, if you exceed this amount of data then you are automatically bumped up to the $35 plan that gives you 5 GB. Another option that is available is a 30 day plan that comes with no long term contract and can be activated by the user directly from their iPad. Data and costs vary from $15 for 250 MB to $35 for 5GB. Yet another option is to share the data that you have on an existing cellular data plan, most carriers charge 10 $/month to do this. For those who already have data plans with at least 1 GB/month this may be the best option but you should check with your carrier since they seem to have many conditions tied to this option. As an added bonus all of the carriers have announced that iPad’s activated on their networks will be support tethering and the personal hot spot at no extra cost . You can choose your carrier and option at the time of purchase at most retailers, at which time they will provide you with a micro SIM card that has to be inserted into the iPad to activate the connection.