> I am thinking about purching a new iPad. I know absolutely nothing about them. In order to be able to connect to the web, do you have to be in a "hot-spot" like with the iPod? Do you already have to have a data plan for a cell phone or can you get a data plan just for the iPad? What does a typical data plan run?
In order for any iPad to connect to the web, it has to be connected to the an Internet connection or hotspot.
You can get a wifi only iPad or one that has a built-in Internet modem that connects to a 3G (iPad 1, 2 or new) or 4G (iPad new).
The 3G iPad 1 is only available on AT&T. The 3G iPad 2 is available on AT&T and Verizon. The 4G iPad new is available on AT&T and Verizon. With either of these iPads, you can pay a monthly fee that gives you a certain amount data bandwidth to surf the web, download apps, stream content, check and send emails, etc. If you go over the bandwidth limit, you pay per gigabyte to keep using it during the month. There is no contract and you can turn it on and off at will right from the device. These models also have GPS capabilities that the wifi only models do not. Apps that use GPS feature will work only with the 3G/4G models. 3G/4G data plans have nothing to do with any data plans that you may have with these carriers on a smartphone or other device. They are usually and most likely separately billed at anywhere from $15-$80 a month depending on the bandwidth package you desire and the carrier you chose. Overage prices range from $10-$20 a gigabyte. Remember the 3G/4G models have Wifi too so they can do the following as well.
Wifi models have to connect to an external source for Internet access. If you have Cable Internet at home and currently have a single computer connected to it, you will need to get a wifi router to extend the service to your IPad and any other devices equipped with wifi like gaming devices like the Wii, Xbox or Play Station; laptops, etc. Cable companies offer a wifi router for a monthly cost, but I recommend an one time purchase of a router from Best Buy or Amazon (around $50).
Wifi hotspots are available at some public places like coffee shops, restaurants, parks, libraries, doctors office and possibly at work. If there are enough of these hotspot equipped locations accessible to you, then you are in a good position.
If not, you may have other options as well. Some smartphones have carrier approved hotspot capabilities available, usually at a monthly cost of $30. Some phones may have unsupported methods for sharing (often called wireless tethering) the Internet, you are already paying for, to your iPad.
If you have a Mifi device, usually from your business, for use with a laptop; it can be used with the iPad too.
Most devices, including iOS, are smart enough (programmed) to auto switch from cellular data connections to Wi-Fi if you re-enter an area with a wifi hotspot that you have signed unto before.
There are exceptions, like location that require you launch a website and agree to their web agreement before connecting to their wifi hotspot, like McDonalds or Sam's Clubs.
Keep in mind that, even when you are connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, there may be wifi blind spots that may drop you from a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you do not turn off the cellular data antenna, you can may reconnect to the cellular network and use minutes (actually bandwidth) that might have thought you were avoiding. Bottom line is that you should turn the cellular data off whenever you don't want to use it
Carl W. Brooks