All iPads Those with tethering: Wi-Fi only or Cellular model this time?

cannono

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Oct 21, 2014
546
520
So with Instant Hotspot making iPhone tethering a snap, and with many phones having a tethering function, what model will you choose and what convinced you?

I was going to go with Cellular, but I have an iPhone 6 that I can tether with and I personally think tethering over Bluetooth is incredibly reasonable on battery life.

I'm almost hoping someone can convince me I need cellular.
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,860
30,384
Boston
I had a first gen mini that was wifi only, and I felt shortly after purchasing that, I made a mistake. When the rMini was introduced last year and I had an opportunity to buy it, I opted to get the LTE version.

I like the LTE because it includes GPS, its faster then many public wifi spots, it doesn't kill the battery of my iPhone and its more secure then public wifi. Another advantage for me, is my kids can use it, while I drive and I don't have mess with turning on the hotspot on my phone while driving.
 

zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,364
2,835
I don't think I'll be buying an Air 2, but if I were I'd buy the wifi model. I'm currently on my 3rd ipad and only the first one did I buy cellular and I just never used it. I realize that is specific to how I use my iPad, but I agree that tethering just isn't a big deal, and that battery life is good enough. A big driver for this is also that I keep so much other content on my iPad - books, magazines, movies, etc. that I almost don't mind if I'm forced to look at that stuff from time to time because I'm offline. The cellular option just doesn't bring $130 of added value to me.
 

cannono

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Oct 21, 2014
546
520
I had a first gen mini that was wifi only, and I felt shortly after purchasing that, I made a mistake. When the rMini was introduced last year and I had an opportunity to buy it, I opted to get the LTE version.

I like the LTE because it includes GPS, its faster then many public wifi spots, it doesn't kill the battery of my iPhone and its more secure then public wifi. Another advantage for me, is my kids can use it, while I drive and I don't have mess with turning on the hotspot on my phone while driving.
But doesn't Instant Hotspot mean that you don't need to fumble with your phone? The kids just pick it as the Wi-Fi and it will connect so long as both devices are on the same iCloud registration. They don't need to touch the phone. Unless I am somehow misled in thinking you have an iPhone.
 

zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,364
2,835
If my understanding is correct, Instant Hotspot is meant to address two issues. First, it allows devices that are logged into the same iCloud account to connect to the hotspot with no additional password and without explicity enabling the hotspot feature on the phone. Second, it allows a Mac running Yosemite to initiate the hotspot connection which was not previously possible.

So for the case of tethering an iPad to an iPhone, the only real improvement is that you no longer need to enter the password - but that's a small improvement as you previously only needed to enter the password the first time you connected. I guess the fact that you don't need to enable it is also a small improvement, but I had just been leaving my hotspot on for as long as I can remember, there was no reason not to. In any case, you still have to manually make the connection on the iPad.
 

cannono

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Oct 21, 2014
546
520
If my understanding is correct, Instant Hotspot is meant to address two issues. First, it allows devices that are logged into the same iCloud account to connect to the hotspot with no additional password and without explicity enabling the hotspot feature on the phone. Second, it allows a Mac running Yosemite to initiate the hotspot connection which was not previously possible.

So for the case of tethering an iPad to an iPhone, the only real improvement is that you no longer need to enter the password - but that's a small improvement as you previously only needed to enter the password the first time you connected. I guess the fact that you don't need to enable it is also a small improvement, but I had just been leaving my hotspot on for as long as I can remember, there was no reason not to. In any case, you still have to manually make the connection on the iPad.
But that's no different than connecting to Wi-Fi, which is the efficient move for all iPads. Why wouldn't you check for Wi-Fi instead of using up data or using what may not be a prime LTE spot? If the Wi-Fi is no good, you switch to LTE in nearly the same amount of ease thanks to Instant Hotspot.
 

zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,364
2,835
But that's no different than connecting to Wi-Fi, which is the efficient move for all iPads. Why wouldn't you check for Wi-Fi instead of using up data or using what may not be a prime LTE spot? If the Wi-Fi is no good, you switch to LTE in nearly the same amount of ease thanks to Instant Hotspot.
I'm not sure what you are getting at? Of course it's no different than connecting to wifi (although you won't have to enter any password or accept any terms on a public portal page, etc). Hotspot is for times when wifi isn't available or reliable.
 

chinanderm

macrumors regular
Jul 20, 2014
211
174
Iowa
After years of going with just the Wi-Fi model and relying on tethering, I've opted for the cellular model this time (iPad Air 2). While I won't always have the cellular data active on my AT&T account, it will be nice to have it when I do need it and not have to rely on tethering with my iPhone. I have always had bad luck with iPhone tethering, especially when the data connection is weak. Works fine on the phone but not on other devices connected to it.

A lot of times I have encountered the wireless connection is all of a sudden dropping. Thank goodness for USB tethering to my MacBook Pro as I run an internet radio broadcast and most of the time have to utilize a mobile hotspot device while not at home. The hard-wired connection is solid. Wireless? Not so much.

The advantage that I am seeing with having cellular on my iPad is that I can do the broadcast from the iPad and not have to worry about fumbling with a hotspot device.
 

blaugrana69

macrumors regular
Sep 23, 2012
228
72
Got an Air and Mini 2 cellular, sitting out this round of ipad updates but if I was buying I'd go with wifi only this time.
Reason: When I bought the ipads I was then under contract with o2 (UK) with my iphone with a 1gb monthly data allowance. Now I'm out of contract and with my iphone 6 I'm on 3 network with unlimited data (and 4gb per month tethering allowance). I will tether now rather than buying not inexpensive data sims, found in the UK that the cheapest option was to buy from ebay - but still £16 for a 3 month sim (6gb allowance).
 

superlawyer15

macrumors regular
Sep 15, 2014
227
167
I decided to go with the wifi only model and rely on tethering for those rare instances where I want to use the ipad but dont have a wifi signal.

There just doesn't seem to be any justification for paying that monthly cost to the carriers when tethering is a viable alternative, especially given how seldom/if ever, I have a need for a cellular connection.
 

Sissyboy

macrumors regular
Jun 21, 2010
210
24
I have an iPad 2 with cellular service through AT&T. I've had it since they first came out. I haven't used it in over a year.

I also have the iPad 4 and the Air. Neither has cellular service.
I don't regret purchasing either without cellular service.
I don't use my iPad away from wireless much, but when I do it is no problem using my iPhone hotspot.

I have the 6+ with 8.1 installed on it. The tethering works great without touching my phone in my pocket. The phone shows up as a wireless network on my Air without messing with my iPhone. With my iPhone 5s and iOS 7 I had to fiddle with my phone to get it to work. But not anymore.

I didn't try my iPad 4, but I assume it acts the same way.

Excellent new convenience feature provided by Apple.
 

randymac88

macrumors regular
Aug 4, 2008
195
7
I'm coming from a 3rd-generation cellular iPad (Verizon), and I went wifi only. Frankly, there were so few times that I really ended up needing the cellular connection that I just couldn't justify it. I usually ended up tethering up anyway, as with the iPhone 5 LTE chipset speeds were faster anyway (I think).

20 bucks a month for 2 gigs really doesn't get you very far anyway for when I needed it. Tethering is the way to go in my book.
 

IrishVixen

macrumors 68020
Jun 20, 2010
2,487
96
Wifi only. Didn't even consider cellular when I switched from an original Mini to a Mini 2 last week. I simply don't find I need cellular access on this device more than two or three times a year, and that for pretty brief periods. I've also never missed having GPS on an iPad. So paying the extra money up front and additional for a tablet data plan just doesn't make sense in my situation.
 

ninaco

macrumors 6502
Mar 11, 2012
289
73
VA
My iPad 3 is LTE and I found myself needing the wireless at least a few times every month. But, I didn't have a smartphone when I bought it.

Even though I don't have an iPhone (galaxy S4 :D), I think tethering the iPad to the phone shouldn't be much of a hassle. So, I bought the wi-fi only Air 2.
 

RadioFr33Europe

macrumors newbie
Oct 21, 2014
10
1
Got a wifi model to replace my AT&T iPad 2. I only used cellular twice as I either had a Mifi or tether-able phone.

No reason to pay the extra $120 for something I use that infrequently. If the cost was lower, maybe.
 

rritterson

macrumors 6502
Jul 10, 2008
357
1
DC USA
I had a cellular iPad 2, and went with a WiFi only Air (v1) last year. I regretted it. While I only want/need cellular service a few times a year, it's annoying enough not to have it that I wish I did. It's also useful if you internationally travel, as you can get a data-only SIM for an iPad even cheaper than you can get a phone SIM and then you can reverse tether to use the phone if you need to. My dad and I got around Europe on my iPad 2 a few years back--exceptionally handy to pull up a map or website while walking around.

Wifi only. Didn't even consider cellular when I switched from an original Mini to a Mini 2 last week. I simply don't find I need cellular access on this device more than two or three times a year, and that for pretty brief periods. I've also never missed having GPS on an iPad. So paying the extra money up front and additional for a tablet data plan just doesn't make sense in my situation.
If you are on T-Mobile, you can get 200mb of data for free every month and you don't even need a phone line with them to get it. 200MB would be more than enough for me to cover my non-tether needs. (I am a T-Mobile customer--for $10 I could get 5GB of data via the 'match your phone' offer they have going)
 

melman101

macrumors 68030
Sep 3, 2009
2,693
272
Originally, I had an iPad 1 with wifi. I used MyWi tethering via jailbreak. It was a pain. I got the wifi one because it came out a month before the cellular and I couldn't wait. iPad 2 I got the 3G one. I haven't really used the 3G a lot, but it did come in handy a few times. This time around, my job bought me the iPad Air 2 so I kindly asked for the cellular version and they said yes. They offered a wifi iPad Air 2 with a mifi but I decided that the cellular model can be used as a mifi and I'm not sure of the details, but I'm gonna try to get that 200mb free T-Mobile data plan. I love that this model has an apple sim for easy selection / switching of carriers.
 

Closingracer

macrumors 68040
Jul 13, 2010
3,473
1,372
I had a cellular iPad 2, and went with a WiFi only Air (v1) last year. I regretted it. While I only want/need cellular service a few times a year, it's annoying enough not to have it that I wish I did. It's also useful if you internationally travel, as you can get a data-only SIM for an iPad even cheaper than you can get a phone SIM and then you can reverse tether to use the phone if you need to. My dad and I got around Europe on my iPad 2 a few years back--exceptionally handy to pull up a map or website while walking around.



If you are on T-Mobile, you can get 200mb of data for free every month and you don't even need a phone line with them to get it. 200MB would be more than enough for me to cover my non-tether needs. (I am a T-Mobile customer--for $10 I could get 5GB of data via the 'match your phone' offer they have going)
You need t-mobile service to get the 200mb of free data I believe
 

IrishVixen

macrumors 68020
Jun 20, 2010
2,487
96
I had a cellular iPad 2, and went with a WiFi only Air (v1) last year. I regretted it. While I only want/need cellular service a few times a year, it's annoying enough not to have it that I wish I did. It's also useful if you internationally travel, as you can get a data-only SIM for an iPad even cheaper than you can get a phone SIM and then you can reverse tether to use the phone if you need to. My dad and I got around Europe on my iPad 2 a few years back--exceptionally handy to pull up a map or website while walking around.



If you are on T-Mobile, you can get 200mb of data for free every month and you don't even need a phone line with them to get it. 200MB would be more than enough for me to cover my non-tether needs. (I am a T-Mobile customer--for $10 I could get 5GB of data via the 'match your phone' offer they have going)
You need t-mobile service to get the 200mb of free data I believe
Actually, you don't--at least, you didn't last year when they introduced it (though that launch was as screwed up as anything I've ever seen!) My husband's been running it on his Air for a year now, with no other account, so I'm well aware of it. It makes sense for him--his phone is on an AT&T single line with unlimited data, so no tethering.

For me, nope, still doesn't make sense due to the upfront cost. Tethering via Bluetooth doesn't bother me. I do it maybe three times a year, never have an issue with it. Works fine every time, I don't find it to be a particular nuisance for the few random times I need it, and using Bluetooth for it doesn't drain the iPhone's battery by much compared to wifi tethering. And I barely use any d

If I needed it a lot, cellular would make sense. I actually did have a cellular iPad 1 for about a year...and that pretty much was the reason I went back to wifi. I simply don't need that capability. I don't tend to resell my devices, so money spent upfront isn't going to be recouped later.

For some though, that TMobile deal is outstanding. My husband has been very happy with it.
 
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Closingracer

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Jul 13, 2010
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Actually, you don't--at least, you didn't last year when they introduced it (though that launch was as screwed up as anything I've ever seen!) My husband's been running it on his Air for a year now, with no other account, so I'm well aware of it. It makes sense for him--his on an AT&T single line with unlimited data on his phone, so no tethering.

For me, nope, still doesn't make sense due to the upfront cost. Tethering via Bluetooth doesn't bother me. I do it maybe three times a year, never have an issue with it. Works fine every time, I don't find it to be a particular nuisance for the few random times I need it, and using Bluetooth for it doesn't drain the iPhone's battery by much compared to wifi tethering. And I barely use any d

If I needed it a lot, cellular would make sense. I actually did have a cellular iPad 1 for about a year...and that pretty much was the reason I went back to wifi. I simply don't need that capability. I don't tend to resell my devices, so money spent upfront isn't going to be recouped later.

For some though, that TMobile deal is outstanding. My husband has been very happy with it.
I thought reading through the fine print you do and this was like a month ago. I can be wrong but that's what I thought I read. Myself I have T-Mobile with unlimited data for $70 so I get 3gb of Hotspot and I have a pretty big battery in my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 so I don't mind tethering. Just watched 2 TV shows on hulu on my Samsung tablet fine tethering it through my phone on a ride on the LIRR (long Island commuter rail system)
 

IrishVixen

macrumors 68020
Jun 20, 2010
2,487
96
I thought reading through the fine print you do and this was like a month ago. I can be wrong but that's what I thought I read. Myself I have T-Mobile with unlimited data for $70 so I get 3gb of Hotspot and I have a pretty big battery in my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 so I don't mind tethering. Just watched 2 TV shows on hulu on my Samsung tablet fine tethering it through my phone on a ride on the LIRR (long Island commuter rail system)
They definitely don't make it easy to find, but... http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

When you scroll down, the 200 MB is listed. And when you take a magnifying glass to the ridiculously tiny (and grey) fine print for the "free data" plan, it doesn't say that you're required to have any other paid account with them--voice or data, family/single, or otherwise. So I *think* it's still possible. But I could be wrong. Maybe someone who's tried recently will chime in.

That said, it was an adventure getting TMobile to admit to it being available last year, and I don't know that their customer service dept is any better with it now. (Activating it was easy--once I looked up the instructions online from others who had gotten it to work and pulled it away from my frustrated husband who'd struggled with it for a couple of hours, it took about 45 seconds. And yes, I'm still laughing that Mr. Technical Writer didn't actually read the directions. LOL) But it's worked very well for him ever since, and if it's still available, it's a terrific deal for those who only need a little data for the iPads, but don't have the option of tethering.
 

Ledgem

macrumors 68000
Jan 18, 2008
1,759
510
Hawaii, USA
So for the case of tethering an iPad to an iPhone, the only real improvement is that you no longer need to enter the password - but that's a small improvement as you previously only needed to enter the password the first time you connected. I guess the fact that you don't need to enable it is also a small improvement, but I had just been leaving my hotspot on for as long as I can remember, there was no reason not to. In any case, you still have to manually make the connection on the iPad.
It used to be that the iPhone screen needed to be set to the Personal Hotspot settings in order for it to broadcast a wifi network for other devices to join. With the new "instant hotspot" feature, devices with Bluetooth 4.0 "low energy" support (which is practically all iOS devices at this point, and Macs from 2012 and newer with some 2011 models included with a caveat...) can see the potential wifi network to pair through even if the phone's screen is off. It's a much easier process to start tethering compared to how it used to be.

Granted, it's not much different than what those of us who were tethering through Bluetooth were doing. I still maintain that tethering over Bluetooth is the preferable option, even with the "instant hotspot" feature.

But that's no different than connecting to Wi-Fi, which is the efficient move for all iPads. Why wouldn't you check for Wi-Fi instead of using up data or using what may not be a prime LTE spot? If the Wi-Fi is no good, you switch to LTE in nearly the same amount of ease thanks to Instant Hotspot.
The most common argument against tethering seems to be that it drains the iPhone's battery very quickly. It's true, too: it takes a good amount of energy for the iPhone to broadcast a wifi network, which explains why Apple has programmed things so that the tether connection times out and automatically disconnects if there is no activity over it for 15 minutes.

The alternative that most people don't seem to know about is tethering over Bluetooth. The process is roughly the same as the Instant Hotspot, but instead of going into your wifi settings and choosing a wifi network, you go to your Bluetooth settings from one device and tap to connect to another in your list. Unlike wifi tethering, once the connection is made, it will stay until it is forcefully broken (such as if the devices go out of range, or if Bluetooth is shut off on one device). This is the option that I use regularly, and battery drain is surprisingly minimal.
 

Closingracer

macrumors 68040
Jul 13, 2010
3,473
1,372
They definitely don't make it easy to find, but... http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

When you scroll down, the 200 MB is listed. And when you take a magnifying glass to the ridiculously tiny (and grey) fine print for the "free data" plan, it doesn't say that you're required to have any other paid account with them--voice or data, family/single, or otherwise. So I *think* it's still possible. But I could be wrong. Maybe someone who's tried recently will chime in.

That said, it was an adventure getting TMobile to admit to it being available last year, and I don't know that their customer service dept is any better with it now. (Activating it was easy--once I looked up the instructions online from others who had gotten it to work and pulled it away from my frustrated husband who'd struggled with it for a couple of hours, it took about 45 seconds. And yes, I'm still laughing that Mr. Technical Writer didn't actually read the directions. LOL) But it's worked very well for him ever since, and if it's still available, it's a terrific deal for those who only need a little data for the iPads, but don't have the option of tethering.
God I had to call 5 times for a signal Booster with then since I get no service in my house and waived the next day shipping for my troubles... Left t-mobile years ago because if customer service was bad and isn't much better Imo but it's cheaper and unlimited data so I'll live with it