Monday, December 20, 2010

MiFi Options for iPad

I have owned a Sprint MiFi device since May.  It is the size of about 10 credit cards stacked on top of each other.  The plan runs for $60 a month.  My decision to go with an iPad and MiFI solution versus a 3G iPad was simple.  I had owned a Compact Flash (CF) mobile Internet device previously and had updated to an USB dongle when the newer laptops no longer shipped with CF card slots.  When the iPad was announced, I immediately started looking at upgrading from the USB dongle to the MiFi.

The Main reason I choose to stick with my Sprint mobile Internet plan is that I am Grandfathered into a "real" unlimited data plan.  A few years ago Sprint switched from an unlimited plan to a 5 GB cap on the mobile Internet bandwidth on new accounts. So for $60 a month I can literally turn my device on and keep it on all month without incurring any additional monthly charges. The second reason is that I have other devices that I need to connect to the Internet.  I have several laptops, an G1 iPod Touch, a couple of Nintendo DSs and other devices that need to connect while outside the home or office where I would otherwise use the faster connections via WiFi.

The MiFi cards are typically free with a 2 year contract.  If the only device you need to connect is an iPad, than a MiFi device probably won't make since to use.  Some of the newer Smartphones can be used as a Hotspot for an additional monthly charge (usually $10).  Using your Smartphone as a Hotspot to connect your iPad to the Internet is an option for some; however, the battery life on these Smartphones typically drain fast.  If you use it as a hotspot, it will drain even faster.

Here is some additional information on the subject.         

How to turn your Wi-Fi iPad into an iPad 3G
By Dan Ackerman

Maybe you're one of those people who couldn't wait for the 3G version of Apple's iPad and instead had to run out and get the Wi-Fi version right away. We mainly think of the iPad as a living room/kitchen device, but with the warmer weather arriving you might be feeling a bit of 3G envy, seeing newly minted iPad 3G owners soaking up the sun in their local parks and coffee shops while tapping, swiping, and pinching away.

The typical solution for getting a go-anywhere 3G signal on a Wi-Fi-only device such as a laptop or Netbook has traditionally been a 3G USB key--but, of course, lacking a USB port or a way to install the required software, we can't use our 3G USB key on the iPad. Smartphone tethering would work also, but if you have an iPad, there's a good chance you've also got an iPhone, so no tethering for you unless you jailbreak your phone.

The solution is a device we've talked about several times before, the Novatel MiFi, a portable wireless router that takes the 3G signal it receives and broadcasts it as a Wi-Fi signal. We've previously reviewed versions of the Novatel hardware from Verizon and Sprint (and the infamous Technobeaver has weighed in on the MiFi as well).

(Credit: CNET/Sarah Tew)

Hooking the MiFi up to our non-3G iPad was easy. We powered on the MiFi box, and its signal was immediately recognized by the iPad, and listed in the Network Settings submenu, along with all the other Wi-Fi signals in the area. Selecting the MiFi connection, we were prompted to enter a password (as one would do for any secure Wi-Fi connection); the password is a string of numbers printed on a sticker on the bottom of the MiFi unit itself. Up to five devices can connect at once, and the device's range is about 30 feet.

Just like a regular wireless router, you can access a control panel from a connected device (via a Web browser pointed to the MiFi's default IP address), but for the most part, our experience was a set-it-and-forget-it one.

The MiFi signal shows up in your list of available Wi-Fi networks.

One big advantage of using the MiFi as opposed to an iPad 3G is that we were able to avoid any of the streaming-video content restrictions reported by iPad 3G users. The ABC video player worked fine, as did the Netflix streaming app (an update allowing the ABC app to work on the iPad 3G is reportedly on the way).

In anecdotal use, the MiFi was fine for Web surfing and even video streaming, but didn't feel as fast as our normal 802.11n home Wi-Fi connection. Here in New York, both residential cable modem speeds and 3G speeds are notoriously dodgy, and your mileage may vary greatly. Using the app from the Apple App Store, we got about 14Mbps download speed from our home Wi-Fi connection, and 1Mbps from the MiFi (which was using the Verizon network).

According to our previous tests, the MiFi should run for about 3.5 hours of continuous data transfer, or longer for intermittent use. The costs vary depending on your carrier and data plan, but the hardware itself costs around $100 to $150--comparable to the markup for the 3G version of the iPad--and unlimited data plans are $60 per month (the same as most USB 3G keys).

That may be double what the iPad 3G's plan costs, and the iPad plans offer the additional benefit of not requiring a contract, but the real advantage of the MiFi is that it can be used with a variety of other devices (up to five at a time), including laptops, Netbooks, and even the iPod Touch. (We also previously looked ahead at a few other possible 3G options before the iPad was even released,see them outlined here.)

What's your preferred setup? The less-expensive Wi-Fi iPad with the more expensive MiFi monthly data plan (but a connection you can use on almost any device), or the more expensive iPad 3G, with the less-expensive (but locked down) data service?


Hurry! A Best Buy iPad Bundle is Waiting for You!
By Roberto

Still looking for an iPad deal before the end of the year? Well, Best Buy has a very good deal in store for you. Best Buy has begun a promotion that gives away a 3G or WiMAX router with the sale of a WiFi iPad.

The promotion was discovered by Best Buy shoppers on Sunday. According to 9to5Mac, the sale promotion ends on January 2. So you better hurry!

How does the promotion work?  If you buy a WiFi-enabled iPad and sign up for a two-year mobile data contract, you can get either a MiFi on AT&T, a Fivespot on Verizon or an Overdrive on Sprint.

This deal is a discount over the carrier bundles. For example, AT&T requires a full 3G iPad, while Verizon Wireless' MiFi bundle will set you back as much as buying the 3G iPad by itself. It's unclear if this deal requires a special data plan different from the one already offered by each carrier.

Just for reference. AT&T sells the iPad 3G model directly and offers no-contract 3G data plans for $14.99 per month (for 250 MB), and $25 per month (for 2 GB). The Verizon MiFi hotspot came out in October in three different packages: $629.99 for a 16 GB iPad, $729.99 for a 32 GB iPad and $829.99 for a 64 GB iPad. Contrary to AT&T, Verizon offers a month-to-month data plan of 1 GB for $20 per month.

On a separate note, there are other carriers offering data access plans for your iPad as well. Clear is offering MiFi deals as well (click here). Virgin Mobile has also joined the club with some special deals as well.

As usual, companies want to move stock before the end of the year. A good chance for you to take advantage of these deals, and treat yourself with a brand new iPad!


Carl W. Brooks
iAmThereforeiPad, Founder and Chief Editor

iPad News, Reviews and How-To-Dos.  
We help make your iPad experience Magical through information!

On Dec 19, 2010, at 10:52 PM, Susan fleischman wrote:

How much per month?  If it is external how big is it?

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