3G or MiFi?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by jazzer15, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. jazzer15 macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2010
    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am thinking about buying an iPad. I commute on a train to work every day and don't have wifi at work, so I will need some way to access the internet with it.

    I currently have a VirginMobile MiFi that I use with my ipod touch (I'm not completely thrilled with the service or the MiFi, but it's OK and relatively inexpensive). Would it make sense to consider getting a 3G iPad for the convenience (I would stop using the MiFi, not pay for 2 plans) or is a MiFi the better route? One thing, I guess, in favor of a MiFi is that I could upgrade to 4G down the road and not have to buy a new iPad when 4G is available in them.
  2. Zcott macrumors 68020

    Oct 18, 2009
    Belfast, Ireland
    I'd recommend the 3G iPad and getting on Three. They offer 1gb a month for £7.50, which is pretty good.
  3. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    I have a 4G mobile hotspot from Verizon. It's the best option for me. YMMV.

    () It requires a two year commitment (not the month to month plan available with the iPad.) It's $50 per month for 5 gigbabytes. I have to have a mobile hotspot for my laptop so it made little sense to add another data plan for the iPad. I could also use my phone as a hotspot (llegally) or add tethering capabilities legally at an additional ($20) monthly charge. Not worth it in my case since I would have to upgrade my phone to take advantage of 4G/LTE capabilities.

    () It provides 4G/LTE speed for my iPad as well as my laptop and smartphone. Very, very fast (comparable to a cable modem at my home) but still not available everywhere.

    () The mobile hotspot has about a five hour battery life, less than a 3G iPad but not a significant problem for me since I am seldom away from a power source for more than five hours.

    () Without a 3G iPad I don't have GPS capabilities for my iPad. Not a big problem for me since I have better navigation capabilities on my Android smartphone but again, YMMV.

    () Saved $130 on the purchase of the iPad, offsetting to some extent the higher monthly charge for the (more generous) data plan.
  4. jazzer15 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2010
    What is "Three"? I'm in the US, is this something in Ireland?
  5. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    It's a carrier that provides service to a few countries in Europe.

    Back to your question: AT&T speeds are (probably) going to be much faster than Virgin Mobile. The downside is, you'll lose your unlimited plan (if you have that) and the option to use your laptop, iPod, etc.
  6. jazzer15, Sep 17, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2011

    jazzer15 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2010
    Thanks. A lot of your points are similar for me, although not all. I don't think I will need 5GB per month, but you make a good point about the offset of the cost of the iPad against the extra amount for the data plan.

    I have a GPS for the car, but not a smart phone that provides navigation capabilities. Are there many app capabilities that I would be missing without this function?

    I do believe 4G/LTE may be available by me.
  7. abta1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2010
    Paris, France
    Although I have yet to purchase a mifi, I bought my wifi iPad 1 with the intention to use it with a mifi rather than paying for another data device.

    However, it must be said, having to use another device to provide connectivity for a device, even though the mifi can handle multiple connections is still less convenient than having a 3G iPad.
  8. dooyou macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2007
    Do you think 1 GB is enough for one month if you use it daily for a few hours?
    (sure, not youtube).
  9. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I used mifi last year and I thought it was a lot better deal than something like 3G, because I could use it with multiple devices (MBP, iPod Touch, iPad) and I could recharge it as necessary using an external battery pack (also compatible with iPad and iPod).

    It seems like a lot to carry around, but it all fit easily into my man purse (each one about the size of an iPhone) and kept all of my batteries going no matter how long I was out. I haven't done a comparison, but I imagine this setup also conserved a lot of my iPad's power, because it didn't have to have 3G on searching for towers.

    The huge downside is that (at least in my case) the mifi did poorly on trains outside of urban areas.
  10. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    If you're going to be a Verizon customer you might be interested in their new policy of "throttling" internet access for customers using more than 2 Gigabytes of downloaded data per month. (Beginning 9/11). As is often the case, the entire policy is confusing (intentionally.) Bottom line, however, is that if you're a heavy data user (i.e. more than 2 gigs per month), you're better off with a 4G/LTE device than a 3G device. (The former is not "throttled.)

    As far as what you'll be missing without GPS on your iPad, accurate mapping of your progress on maps is affected. (The display of maps you select is not affected and the wifi iPad will keep approximate track of your location via wifi locations. Likewise, apps like "Yelp" that rely upon an accurate reading of your current location are impacted.

    If that is a major problem for you, however, you can purchase a GPS accessory that connects to your iPad for about $100. That would provide the GPS functionality you're looking for.
  11. jazzer15 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2010
    Thanks everyone. I am thinking of going the 3G route as I am a fairly light internet user except at home where I have broadband and I like the idea of the convenience.

    Assuming I do go with a 3G iPad 2, the question is which one -- Verizon or AT&T? I am in New York and commute into the city. I generally travel outside the US 2-3 times a year for work for about a week each, but I'm not sure I would bother with getting a local SIM card, so I don't think the outside US issue should be a deciding factor. I have heard AT&T is generally faster, but that Verizon has a better network. AT&T got a lot of bad press in NY when it was the only iPhone option. Any hands on experience with each option?
  12. jsh1120, Sep 18, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011

    jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    I would avoid anecdotal stories about experience with each carrier. There are several sites, one of which is accessible through C-Net, that bases carrier quality statistics on thousands of individual reports generated from apps on individual phones. Take a look at some of those sites and evaluate the coverage in terms of the local areas you frequent.

    Here's one such site.

  13. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Have you looked at Sprint at all? They offer an unlimited 4G and 3Gbs of 3G (say that three times fast) for $45 with their multiple-device wifi hotspot.
  14. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I think in general AT&T would be better for being GSM, you might think you won't need to use it when traveling but there might be a time where it will be convenient. Of course if AT&T really is not good in your area it won't be very useful. So I suggest you get an AT&T iPad, try it out in the areas where you're going to be using it. If it's not good enough you can return it and get a Verizon one.
  15. Zcott macrumors 68020

    Oct 18, 2009
    Belfast, Ireland
    Sorry, I thought you were from the UK.

    Also, 1gb is enough because it's not my primary Internet connection.
  16. DNAppleGold macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2009
    My work just gave me a Mifi (Verizon 4g) as part as an experiment to replace our 3g laptops. Thus, I'm afraid I can't comment on pricing issues or how much data is needed. Here are my thoughts in general.

    1. I generally have better reception and noticeably faster service service from the Mifi vs either the internal 3g laptop or Ipad 3g.
    2. It is mighty handy to have a single connection that can provide wifi access to my computer, ipad, iphone, and wife's computer if she's traveling with me. (e.g., I turn on mifi and all of above get connected without doing anything).
    3. There are times where carrying the Ipad and mifi are really not feasible (the gym) and thus there are times where I wish I had connectivity but don't.

    Price and data plans being equal (and remember you'll save $100 on the Ipad) I like the mifi better because I travel a lot for work with multiple devices and the overall service is better. If I had the Mifi when I bought the Ipad, I probably would have gotten the wifi only Ipad and larger storage.
  17. jazzer15 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2010
    Thanks for the insight. Actually, I think it would be a good bit cheaper on a monthly basis for me to go with the built in 3G. At least with Verizon prepaid 1GB for a month is $20 on the iPad and $50 for a MiFi. It's $50 and $80 respectively if you go up to 5GB. If I'm reading AT&T's info correctly, the lowest MiFi rate they have is $50 for 5GB, while you can get 2GB for $25 with the iPad. I expect 2GB is a good bit more than I would generally use since I also have a connection at home (I have been getting by with 500MB on my Virgin Mobile MiFi).

    After thinking about it, I am probably going to wind up going with a 3G iPad, if only for the convenience. I don't think I will usually need to use 3G internet on more than the iPad when I am away from the house and, in the rare situation, I do still have my MiFi I can add some money to. I am a little torn, though.
  18. KevinC867 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 8, 2007
    Saratoga, CA
    I am very happy with my 3G (AT&T) iPad. Even if you think you will continue using your MiFi plan, the extra $130 is a good investment for the GPS function and the added flexibility.

    I travel abroad pretty frequently and GSM cellular is often my only available way to connect to the internet. Buying a local SIM is a great option for me at these times. My iPad is jailbroken, so I also have the option to use the MyWi app to create a hotspot for my other devices. I can't say enough good things about this app. The outstanding battery life of the iPad makes it a great device to use as a MiFi hotspot.

    My iPhone is also jailbroken, so when I'm home I usually tether my iPad to my iPhone (again with MyWi) rather than pay for a monthly iPad data plan. The MyWi "On Demand" feature makes it very convenient to do this.

    I realize that jailbreaking is not for everyone, but I still think paying the extra $130 for a 3G ipad is a sound investment.
  19. SmithErick macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2011
    Greensboro, NC
    I have a 4G mifi through Verizon. I also work there and can get some deals on these puppies for fellow members.

    With Verizon having 4G LTE in almost every major market in the country it is the best bet for speed. It is the real deal when it comes for 4G, not HSPA+ like the other folks.

    Anyway, I use my mifi everywhere my ipad goes. Best combo ever because five wifi capable devices can connect to it.
  20. S1njin macrumors 6502a


    May 3, 2010
    4G MiFi hotspot for me as well.

    I like the flexibility of getting multiple devices connected to a data package. I also like the excellent speed I get when I'm in 4G coverage. I'm also a gadget freak so I like having a extra toy to play around with.

    When I'm streaming HBO, I like that my throughput as as good as its going to get over a WWAN connection.
  21. poloponies Suspended

    May 3, 2010
    Not anymore. 5GB cap coming shortly.
  22. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    A word about that. Although the theoretical differences between 3G and 4G speeds can be tremendous, especially if you're talking about Verizons super-fast 4G/LTE network, the user experience doesn't come close to matching those theoretical differences. (e.g. 10-20 times faster.)

    While I certainly notice the difference between a 3G and 4G connection on my Verizon mobile hotspot, the former is usually quite usable for browsing and media streaming. To the extent that it's not, it's not a question of native speed in the two networks but the congestion that sometimes exists for specific cell towers. That doesn't occur (at least in my experience) with the 4G network because so few devices actually use that network even in heavily populated areas.

    4G service has two major advantages in terms of user experience. The first is noted above. The second is a sort of "future proofing" since the iPad is not available as a 4G device. That may change with the iPad 3 but it's likely to depend both on Apple's willingness to bear the additional battery drain it represents and carriers' willingness to bear the additional demand on their still developing 4G networks.
  23. S1njin macrumors 6502a


    May 3, 2010
    Ah, and here we see another added benefit of the MiFi. Battery drain on a future 4G iPad will be more for sure. W/ a MiFi it doesn't matter - think of it as a auxiliary battery for your device.
  24. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    Another thing to consider-even if you don't use the 3G service, the 3G models have GPS hardware, the wifi ones don't.

    I'd be really curious to hear how your Virgin Mifi's doing! I'm debating between buying one of those or doing service on my Verizon iPad when I go on a trip. Virgin's service is obviously the best deal when you use a lot of data, coverage between the networks of course just depends where you are.

    I liked the idea of not having to "toss" the 3G hardware if I upgrade my iPad, but then went 3G anyway for the GPS hardware it includes.
  25. poloponies Suspended

    May 3, 2010
    Apple's not about moving downward on battery specs. You won't see "4G iPad, now with a 5-hr battery!" When you do see 4G on an iPad it'll be because they have a beefier battery.

Share This Page