New iPad on Verizon Offers Best Mobile Hotspot Value

| Analysis

Personal hotspot, a feature available on iPhones since the Verizon iPhone 4 launch early last year, enables smartphone users to share their cellular data connection with other devices, such as tablets and laptops. While useful, the feature, which usually carries an additional fee, has thus far been limited on iOS devices to traditional cellular data speeds, which are much slower than most home and office broadband connections. The introduction of the 4G LTE-capable iPad, however, may dramatically change the personal hotspot playing field and be the best value proposition for users seeking mobile broadband access.

iPad Hotspot 4G LTE

In the United States, the two carriers offering 4G connections for the iPad are AT&T and Verizon. Unfortunately, only Verizon has thus far promised to support the personal hotspot feature at launch. While AT&T claims it is looking to introduce the feature “in the future,” it won’t be an option for Ma Bell customers initially. 

While personal hotspot features from both carriers on the iPhone cost an additional $20 per month on top of the data plan, Verizon has confirmed that the iPad data plans include the hotspot feature at no additional charge.

Verizon’s monthly iPad data plans break down as follows:

1GB: $20
2GB: $30
5GB: $50
10GB: $80 

The major benefit of the iPad data plans is that they are contract-free, unlike other hotspot options, such as the popular MiFi device, which are available at a subsidized cost only with multi-year contracts. Without a contract, the small devices cost $270 from the Verizon store. Extrapolating the cost out over two years, a contract-locked 5GB 4G MiFi plan from Verizon will cost about $1200.

Verizon 4G MiFiThe Verizon 4G MiFi.

With the iPad, there is a significant upfront cost of $629 (for the base 16GB 4G model), but after that point the 4G data is available to the user month-to-month without a contract; the data connection, faster than many home broadband connections, is able to be turned off, upgraded, or downgraded as the user sees fit.

Continuing the example from above, an iPad user who signs up for the 5GB plan continuously for two years would pay a total cost of about $1830, but they would also have a shiny new iPad instead of a MiFi that doesn’t offer any additional functionality on its own. 

Realistically, however, most users would likely not need the 4G data every single month, and might opt to enable it only when traveling, saving hundreds of dollars over time. It’s this flexibility that makes the iPad such an intriguing mobile hotspot option. Sure, a user can go month-to-month with a MiFi but during those months when the data connection is inactive, the MiFi merely sits in a drawer while the iPad offers a useful computing experience.

The MiFi does have some advantages, however. For price-constrained consumers it remains the absolute cheapest option for getting a dedicated hotspot. It’s also vastly smaller and lighter than an iPad, allowing it to be slipped into a pocket or bag. If you’re truly only looking to provide internet access to another device, such as a laptop, it may be the best option.

But for an extra few hundred dollars the iPad offers all the benefits of a 4G hotspot and so much more. It remains to be seen if AT&T’s inability to offer the personal hotspot at launch will significantly affect sales between the two carriers. We only hope that AT&T offers the functionality soon and follows Verizon’s lead of eschewing an extra charge on top of the data plans.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

Comments

Oh Yeah?

I think you need to re-examine your math. According to your article:

Extrapolating the cost out over two years, a contract-locked 5GB 4G MiFi plan from Verizon will cost about $1200.

then:

Continuing the example from above, an iPad user who signs up for the 5GB plan continuously for two years would pay a total cost of about $1830

Hmmm… sounds like a wash (MiFi at $1200 + new iPad at $629 = $1829 same as iPad Hotspot)

But wait a minute! If I have the MiFi, I don’t need a 4G iPad. I could, instead, get the WiFi only iPad for $499 thus saving $230! And I’d have a little hotpsot that could be carried much easier than the iPad if I needed a hotspot but not a tablet. There is that 2 year lock-in, but it’s not a better value straight up.

I still think 3G/4G service on tablets is dumb.

Alarik

Regarding the SIM chip.

I read on the Apple website that one can “pop” different SIM chips in and out—for example, if you are in a foreign country and you’ve purchased a SIM chip for that locale. Presumably these are microSIMS.

WIth either of the 4G pads, do you take this to be the case? And if so, just how difficult is it to fumblefinger a microSIM in and out of the slot?

Thanks!

Bryan Chaffin

Hmmm? sounds like a wash (MiFi at $1200 + new iPad at $629 = $1829 same as iPad Hotspot)

If you read a bit further, you’ll see that Jim talked about how not being bound by a contract allows you to pay for one’s hotspot only when needed.

I’ll add, though, that one device beats two device.

Still, this is certainly a subjective issue. The MiFi is a great device and will be the right choice for many people.

Dave Hamilton

Yeah, for those of us that only need a MiFi 3 or 4 times per year, this math works very much in our favor since we don’t have to pay for the unused months.

russell

One advantage of a separate “MiFi” type device is that some low cost versions are available.

I’ve got a much cheaper Hua Wei brand “MiFi” type device that also works well at a fraction of the cost of the MiFi branded one - bought it very cheaply with a prepay data pack as it was locked to a carrier and found someone on the internet selling an unlock for about 20 USD.  Now I can just use any prepay data SIM card while travelling, the unlock works 100%. 

Far cheaper (in Europe) than any other option I know about - most countries have a low-cost supplier who sells prepay data only at about 12 EUR/10GBP/16 USD for 1 GB to be used within a month, but you have to hunt a bit to find them the first time - and it can be cheaper to buy a SIM card plus USBdongle and throw the dongle away than just the SIM.

skipaq

We will be moving next year and the lowest cost broadband option we have found is DSL that will cost about $65/month. iPad with hotspot looks to be a less expensive option at $50/month. Not sure about the 5GB being enough; but the 10GB at $80/month would likely be.

WJR

I would pay more if I could select week to week rather than month to month.

Frank

Just get a wifi iPad and use your iPhone or other smart phone hotspot device and pay only $20 for 2Gb. It’s cheaper than buying a 4G LTE or 3G iPad and spending more for less.

russell

Just get a wifi iPad and use your iPhone or other smart phone hotspot device and pay only $20 for 2Gb. It?s cheaper than buying a 4G LTE or 3G iPad and spending more for less.

This isn’t always useful, especially outside USA.  Data-only plans are far cheaper than data plus voice plans.  So two SIMs are needed, one for data and one for voice.  a MiFi or iPad makes this possible.

Jeff

Does anyone know if you can take the SIM out of your Verizon MiFi and put it into the new Verizon 4G iPad?  This would be ideal so you don’t need to carry two devices around when you only need an iPad, yet still be able to have the MiFi available for when you need internet connectivity for your laptop.  Thanks.

Log-in to comment