Carrier Using iPad as hotspot vs MiFi

Discussion in 'iPad' started by iHavequestions, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. iHavequestions macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2011
    I'm considering getting a mifi for my phone/computer connectivity and getting an iPad that's wifi only to also connect with my mifi.

    But I'm wondering if the better option is to simply get a iPad that is cellular enabled and using this as a hotspot for all my other devices.

    Which option provides faster connectivity? Anyone do either of these? Any other thoughts?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Ledgem macrumors 65816


    Jan 18, 2008
    Hawaii, USA
    I'm not particularly familiar with mifi, but I tether from my iPhone to my computer and iPad fairly regularly. Even though it doesn't match your setup exactly, I'll tell you a bit about my experiences, my setup, and quickly run through what I perceive as some pros and cons of the two setups you're considering.

    Tethering from an iPhone shouldn't be any different than an iPad, and you can tether through three methods: USB to your computer (assuming you're using a Mac; not sure how PCs would fare), Bluetooth (works seamlessly with iOS devices, not sure about non-Apple), or WiFi (works with all devices). The iPhones are programmed such that they shut down the WiFi network after about 15 minutes of inactivity, requiring that you re-enter the sharing screen to re-broadcast the network, and then initiate a connection while on that screen in order to maintain the network. I don't know if this 15-minute limitation exists when the phone is connected to a power source.

    Bluetooth tethering is much more convenient. Simply initiate a Bluetooth connection from one device to another and, as long as you left the hotspot enabled, tethering begins immediately. The Bluetooth connection stays on all day, until the devices go out of range or break the connection. As long as your devices use Bluetooth 4.0, a low-power profile (introduced with the iPhone 4S and iPad 3; everything later supports it), the battery drain is surprisingly minimal for leaving the devices connected all day. I would tether my phone to my iPad Mini from 9 AM to 5 PM or 9-6 and my phone's battery wouldn't drop below 50% (but I also wasn't using the phone for anything else).

    USB tethering is a breeze. Plug the phone in and the Mac recognizes it as a network device within about two seconds.

    Speed-wise, USB should be the fastest, followed by WiFi, followed by Bluetooth. I believe the Bluetooth transfer speed maxes out at 3 Mbps (Bluetooth 3.0 + HS maxes out at 24 Mbps, but I don't think this is what the tethering uses); for reference, most LTE services seem to give speeds of 10-16 Mbps. I am using an iPhone 4S (which is limited to 3G and does not support LTE; fastest speeds I've achieved on the phone that I've seen were around 6-7 Mbps), but I never felt that the connection on my iPad mini was any slower when tethering via Bluetooth than on the phone itself.

    So, which is better: tethering from the iPad, or w Mifi device?

    The theoretical benefit of the Mifi device is that it's a dedicated router with a battery of its own. You wouldn't need to worry about taking it out of range of your other devices, and you wouldn't need to worry about draining the battery of your iPad or being forced to keep the iPad plugged in all the time.

    There are a few downsides, though. Based on a very quick look-over, the battery life for Mifi devices is rather poor (four hours). It would represent one more device to lug around, and one more device and charger to bring along on trips.

    Assuming you have it on you regularly, the iPad is a much more versatile hotspot in that regard. The battery life even with tethering is exceptional, you'd already have the device on you, and assuming your phone is an Apple device, the charger and charging cable are likely compatible (for full-sized iPads, charging from the iPhone charger is painful, but the iPhone can charge from the iPad charger).

    My recommendation ultimately comes down to your phone plan and your usage scenario. If there's no major difference in cost between devices and their data plans, then it's a matter of convenience. The Mifi device might be more convenient if you're only tethering at home, whereas an iPad would be more convenient if you want to tether on the go (assuming you usually have the iPad with you). The benefits of the iPad as your device increase further if you have more Apple devices that you would be tethering to, given how well they integrate together.
  3. chrise2 macrumors 6502

    Sep 17, 2012
    I use a MiFi. I find the performance to be better than with tethering through the phone (via Wifi hotspot). MiFi is cheaper than upgrading an iPad to the cell version. The downside of the MiFi is that its one extra thing you have to charge. I like the Mifi because I'll use it with my laptop, iPad, my wife's ipad, whoever else wants to mooch my internet.
  4. terrywfoster macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2009
  5. rui no onna macrumors 603

    rui no onna

    Oct 25, 2013
    Connectivity, I reckon you'll get the same speed on both. For me, I went the iPad with LTE route both for convenience and economics.

    MiFi LTE
    Device cost: $30 (w/2-year contract) + $800 (iPad 128GB WiFi)
    Monthly Line Access Fee: $20 (AT&T Mobile Share or Verizon Share Everything)
    Total 2-year cost: $1,310

    iPad LTE
    Device cost: $830 (iPad 128GB LTE w/2-year contract) or $930 (month-to-month)
    Monthly Line Access Fee: $10 (AT&T Mobile Share or Verizon Share Everything)
    Total 2-year cost: $1,070 or $1,170

    The hotspot feature remains on when the devices are plugged in. When running on battery, both the MiFi and iPad turn off the hotspot when not in use for a certain period of time (e.g. when tethered devices such as an iPod Touch or another tablet goes to sleep). However, if you connect an always on device such as a laptop (plugged in to the wall) or desktop, then the wifi hotspot will stay on, too, at least as long as either the MiFi or iPad LTE has battery. One really nice thing about the iPad is it lasts for over 24 hours when used as hotspot so no need to worry about the battery. Going for the LTE version also gives you GPS on the iPad.

    I tether my laptop to the iPad all the time. I can usually go through three to four 8-hour days as hotspot before needing to charge the iPad if it only gets minimal screen-on time.
  6. Bigmacduck macrumors regular

    Feb 15, 2009
    Throw away/sell MiFi and buy a Cellular iPad Air or Mini. Use the personal hotspot of the iPad to connect your PCs and other devices to the internet. Reason: the battery life of an iPad is so much better when doing a hotspot than with MiFi and it does not get hot as the MiFi does. The iPad's screen can be off when in hotspot mode. I often have it in my backpack or suitcase closed when I am using it as a hotspot for my PC or MacBook Air. So you have a much better functionality because you can use this 'personal hotspot' also for serving, video, games, email, etc.

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