Apple iPad owners who purchased either the Wi-Fi only model, which does not have an always-on 3G internet connection, or those who wish to avoid using AT&T’s much-maligned network, all have several alternatives for connecting an iPad to the web.
Some of the options are fairly straightforward, while others may require more technical knowledge and a willingness to jailbreak (hack) a device. Apple has warned that jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad voids the warranty and may result in data connectivity issues and application problems. So if you go this route proceed with caution.
The best choice will depend on what mobile devices you currently own and if a long-term contract is feasible. For those who live in areas not served (or underserved) by AT&T’s 3G network then some of these choices may prove a better option for taking the iPad out and about.
Verizon’s MiFi Hotspot
Many people long for the day when the iPhone will come to the highly-regarded Verizon 3G network. That may or may not happen, but there is a way to connect an iPad to Verizon. The company’s MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot can connect up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices at a time. The device costs $49.99 (with a 2-year contract). This may produce a better experience than AT&T, if for no other reason than the much larger 3G network Verizon has. However this would be a costlier option given that it requires a contract and a monthly data rate fee ranging from $39.99 for 250MB to $59.99 for a 5GB maximum.
With a simple download the Palm Pre can be put into a WiFi mode that enables other devices to connect to it. The Pre currently can be purchased from Verizon for $29.99 with a two-year contract. One downside to this option is that any type of tethering tends to drain a mobile phone’s battery pretty quickly.
Even though the iPad will not connect to T-Mobile’s 3G network due to incompatible network bands, some innovative users have found a way to connect to the carrier's slower EDGE network. Doing so takes a minor bit of surgery, though. The iPad uses a newer type of SIM card called micro SIM. Fortunately with some carefully aimed cutting a T-Mobile SIM can be cut down to size to fit into the iPad. EDGE is much slower than 3G networks, and there are likely to be the usual hiccups that come with any option involving hacking. Data rate plans for T-mobile are offered in two tiers, beginning at $49.99 or $59.99 monthly.
For the truly brave there is an option to use a jailbroken iPhone as a 3G modem. By downloading the MyWi app an iPhone can then serve as a 3G modem that can then serve as an Internet jump-on point for an iPad. If you own both devices and are the type that doesn’t mind the technical issues and self-diagnosis that come with jailbreaking this could be a very appealing option.