We have had our iPad (sans 3G) for weeks and I find it astonishing how easily it has fit into our lives. Even for a guy with two desktops, a Macbook Pro, game consoles, and an iPhone, it’s easy to say that I have my fair share of tech around the house, and yet it was surprising how often the iPad became my choice device for doing all sorts of things. I loved it some much that I gave the Wi-fi version to my wife and purchased the recently released iPad WiFi+3G. There are not a lot of differences between the two devices other than the plastic strip along one side that harbors the 3G receiver, the ability to get data pretty much wherever you are, the AT&T no contract plan, an imperceptible increase in the weight by a ounce, a $130 price increase, and a hack that you might need to use if you live outside of an established AT&T 3G network area but still want to sign up with AT&T for the 3G data plan.
For instance, my wife and I constantly found ourselves playing Scrabble over morning breakfast at our local breakfast spot on the weekends. When we were curious about a word that did not seem to be in the dictionary included with the app, we were able to jump on Safari and check out Dictionary.com on the net to see if they had the word, and if it was legal in Scrabble.
iPad WiFi+3G is great for travel. Just this last weekend I had to make a trip from Portland, Oregon to Napa, California and I found that the iPad worked seamlessly for me. During the flight down and back I was able to comfortably obtain and read Cory Doctorow’s Sci-Fi tale of paranoia – Little Brother – in the Kindle app, and in my hotel room and later at dinner I was also able to outline and eventually flesh out two articles without any problems in Apple’s word processing program, Pages. Having ubiquitous connection to data via 3G or the Edge network made life so simple! Prior to owning the iPad I faced the choice of lugging our laptop (and the supporting gear) around or creating merely a rough draft of notes on my iPad and emailing them to myself so that I could later flesh out the article. With the iPad, I was able to take advantage of my creativity, on the spot, when it struck.
After visiting some wonderful restaurants in the Napa area, upon my return I was inspired to do some cooking, so I consulted the Epicurious and Big Oven apps the following day. My wife and I were looking for a nice vegetarian spring dish and the Epicurious app proved helpful in finding the perfect recipe. It even narrowed them down for us by dietary concerns (we wanted something vegetarian). The grocery list function within the app proved helpful for generating a grocery list that contained all the necessary ingredients we would require for a wonderful Ginger Fruit Salad, as well as the ingredients for a Southwest Rice and Corn Salad with Lemon Dressing dish that was also appealing. While shopping, we bumped into a couple of friends, one of whom had a music label that I had yet to visit online. So right there in the store I quickly jumped on Safari and checked it out. Having the iPad 3G I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the store offered free Wi-fi, and I could use the gorgeous graphics in stunning detail. When I got home, I was able to use the Apple iPad case to stand the device up freely while I perused the instructions for preparing the dish. As I engaged in my act of cooking exploration the iPad belted out a soundtrack for me in the background using the iPod application.
As my wife and I devoured our creation, we enjoyed the latest episode of LOST via the ABC player, (which had updated their app recently for the iPad 3G). Watching television on your iPad is great, but it was a good thing we had chose the unlimited 3G option for $30 per month from AT&T over the $15 per month 250 mb plan, or we likely would have burned through the cap after watching that one episode.
After the meal when the house had finally settled down and the sun had succumbed to twilight, I was able to enjoy 5 issues of The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassady in the Marvel app before turning in for the night. When I placed my iPad conveniently on my bedside table, I was tickled to discover that it still had about half of its power remaining.
While you could do all of these things with a laptop they were so much more easily and smoothly achieved with our iPad. About the size of a magazine, it was easy to slip in my bag during travel and rugged enough to endure the inadvertent bumps and jostles. Cooking with my laptop in the kitchen would have been not only a space hog, but also a constant worry about would have happened if I were to get some sauce on it. I didn’t have that much of a worry after my iPad had already endured and survived the sugar coated fingers of a four year old at our friends home a couple of weekends earlier. This is what it has been like to live with an iPad Wifi+3G.
The only negative thing about the iPad Wifi+3G is that it is on the AT&T network. First of all there are not as many 3G sweet spots around my area of Oregon as there are on Verizon. Also, in order to sign up for the data plan I had to give an address that was located in a known area that has 3G coverage with AT&T. I had heard from friends who tried to sign up with their residential address around here (which does not have 3G access) that AT&T wasn’t allowing their transactions to go through. I was able to go back and correct the billing address later after the service plan was already established.
To be fair, coverage wasn’t bad. If you are in a car and travel outside of the 3G coverage, the iPad does switch over to the slower EDGE network and if that isn’t available it will try to use GPRS as a last resort.
A tip for you though. If you do sign up for data coverage, be sure to cancel when you are finished using it that month. If you don’t, the contract with AT&T automatically renews for the next month, and unused data does not rollover. I don’t mind the auto renewal of the contract, but if you had the 250 mb plan and only used 100 mbs that first month, it seems a shame that you cannot rollover the spare 150mb.
I would recommend the device to those who want an iPad and need a more ubiquitous connection to the net. If you plan on using your iPad mostly on a home or work Wi-Fi network, then the iPad WiFi+3G may not be for you. On the other hand if you travel a lot, or find yourself in lots of situations where you are not sure whether you will be connected to a Wi-Fi network or not, then the iPad WiFi+3G will provide you with a comfortable amount of certainty that you can get those turn by turn directions on the road, fire off that important email, download that important presentation from your colleague, or keep your child entertained on that long trek to the grandparents house.