After spending 4.5 hours standing in line to buy an iPad 2 on its first day of availability, I ended up buying a model I did not intend to buy 4.5 hours earlier. My goal was to buy the $599 32GB WiFi-only model. It provided the right mix of price and storage for me. Having used a 16GB WiFi-only iPad 1 for nearly a year, I didn’t see a need for a 3G model. However, the 32GB and 64GB WiFi models were sold out by the time I reached the doors of my local Apple Store. In fact, all the 32GB models were sold out as was the AT&T 3G 64GB iPad 2. My choices were a WiFi-only 16GB model (too small) and the 64GB Verizon 3G model. So, I ended the proud owner of a $829 Verizon 3G 64GB iPad 2 which can be purchased without the requirement to purchase a 3G plan.
While toying with the idea of activating Verizon’s 3G data plan for my iPad 2, I began thinking about my existing and little used Verizon plan for my Motorola Droid. I was paying nearly $80 per month for a service I rarely used. So, I called Verizon Wireless last week to cancel my Droid service and to see if that action would provide Verizon a reason to sweeten the 3G data plan for the iPad 2. They didn’t make any offers. So, here’s the arithmetic I looked at and the reason I ended up with a 3G-less Verizon 3G iPad 2 tethered to an AT&T iPhone 4.
1. Verizon’s 1GB 3G service for the iPad 2 costs $20 per month. That seemed a little low.
2. Verizon’s 3GB per month plan costs $35.
3. The iPad 2 cannot be used as a mobile hotspot (tether other WiFi devices to its 3G data)
4. My iPhone 4′s grandfathered unlimited 3G data plan cost $30 per month
5. AT&T’s tethered 4GB per month 3G data plan costs $45 per month. Any three of my WiFi enabled devices can share its 3G data service – This includes my iPad 2. The net increase in my monthly recurring fee is $15.
So, tethering my Verizon 3G iPad 2 to an AT&T iPhone 4 ended up:
- Less expensive: $15 net monthly increase vs. $20 or $35
- Providing more data: 4GB vs. 3GB
- Letting me tether any WiFi-enabled device including my iPad 2
- Providing the ability to make or accept voice calls without dropping a tethered data session
And, since I also dropped the Verizon voice+data plan for my Droid, I ended up with a net $65 per month savings (80-15) at the cost of my former AT&T unlimited 3G plan.
I’ve found myself tethering an iPad, MacBook, or netbook to my iPhone 4 far more frequently than I thought I would. These have all been for relatively short sessions and for light activity (mostly email and some web browsing). Even these brief tethered periods were very useful to me. AT&T’s iPhone 4 app reports that I’ve used 69.34MB of my 4GB data since April 2. I don’t think it captured my initial tests before they started the billing cycle, so let’s call it 100MB of data. Careful use of 3G tethered access should keep me well below my monthly 4GB data cap. This means no video streaming, system updates, or any other large data activities that I can avoid. Email with attachments is a tricky one. I need to look at my current MacBook/netbook email client (Thunderbird) and see if I can tell it not to download attachments automatically.