What can we say about this? Apple doesn’t seem to want to build in 3G to their laptops and AT&T won’t allow tethering on the iPhone or iPad (without some ‘modifications’). So what’s a Mac user to do when they want Internet access on the road?
There are a few options out there, but I’ve been using a Verizon Mifi card for the last six months and think that this might be the way to go for Internet connectivity for all devices. In fact, I think it was the most important new product introduced last year…David Pogue from the New York Times humbly agrees with me.
How it works: Basically it takes a 3G signal (in my case, a very reliable Verizon one but Sprint has a veeery interesting 4G Mifi-type device) and routes that into a Wifi access point that allows up to five connections. The whole aparatus is the size of about 25 playing cards and lasts for about four hours continuously connected and about a day on standby (you can buy huge batteries or USB power adapters to make this almost infinite). The cost is $40/month for 250MB of data or $60/month for 5GB (the device is free with a plan) –About $20 more/month than the iPad’s AT&T plans.
But, I’ll be able to connect my MacBook Pro and iPhone (for AT&T#FAIL) as well as my Wife’s/friends’/colleagues’ devices and only have to pay the carrier one time, where AT&T wants you to pay a seperate ‘unlimited’ fee for every device you use.
Now, Apple has introduced the iPad, and with it a seemingly-reasonable $15-$30 month AT&T plan. But if you are already paying for 3G access on your MacBook and your iPhone, why would you want to pay for yet another wireless plan?
If you have a laptop and an iPad and want them both to use 3G, it is cost effective to get an Mifi…and it just got a bit better.
Novatel, who make the Wifi, have a new version coming out in a few months with GPS built-in. This brings a few solutions to a few problems. The iPad Wifi-only also doesn’t have a GPS unit built-in so this would make a great companion product for that, basically giving it all of the features of the iPad 3G — if Apple let’s the iPad interface with the Novatel GPS.
Additionally, I see this as a boon for camera enthusiasts who like tagging their photos with GPS coordinates and seeing them in iLife. Camera manufacturers have been slow to adapt to GPS tagging but many have found the solution in the Eye-Fi SD card product. This, along with automatically uploading pictures to many online services, tags photos with sometimes accurate GPS coordinates based on Wifi locations it detects when the shots are taken. EyeFi is working with Novatel to allow the two products to work in concert to give accurate GPS tags and instant uploading of pictures (and video). A very cool concept –especially for those who want to geotag professional shots on cameras with SD Cards like the Canon Rebel Ti1.
The Verizon Mifi also works with VoIP products like Skype and Google’s upcoming Google Voice with Gizmo5 integration, so technically I can finally dump my all-but-useless AT&T voice plan and go VoIP all over on a network with higher reliability.
So, before you plunk down for that 3G iPad, you might want to consider going Mifi instead (and getting your iPad a month earlier).