Not-So Odd Couple: WiFi-Only iPad 2 and iPhone 4 Hotspot

The iPad 2 offers a 3G version that lets you tackle any web/network task without being dependent on an external wireless network or hotspot connection. Anywhere you can receive a 3G signal, your 3G iPad 2 will connect.

So if you’re mulling over which version of the iPad 2 to get: WiFi or WiFi + 3G, while you constantly call your local Apple retailer to check their stock (let me answer that for you…they don’t have any), allow me to give you a tip if you own an iPhone 4 with iOS 4.3 installed – use your iPhone 4 as a wireless hotspot for your iPad 2.

Let’s check out the pros and cons.

Pros: The 3G version of the iPad2 costs $100 dollars more than the WiFi-only version, in addition to another data plan you’d have to manage. Save that money and add/upgrade to the appropriate tethering/hotspot data plan for your iPhone (available only on iPhones running iOS version 4.3, a free upgrade via iTunes). Sure, you are now dependent on your phone to provide network access to your iPad, but tell me ONE time when you didn’t have your phone…I thought so. Plus, based on my tests, the wireless hotspot feature for the iPhone works just as fast as if your iPad 2 was doing its own network communications.

You only need to carry your iPhone. If you have an iPad an maybe even a computer, your iPhone can act as a hotspot for multiple devices, possibly canceling the need for a laptop network card and a separate MiFi device. Which means less stuff to carry, and less devices that need to be charged, thus increasing your mobility (this is a small business mobility site)

Worried about overage? Yes, wireless carriers are phasing out “unlimited” data plans, and there are some hefty overage fees if you do go over. But trust me, you have to be doing some heavy web-surfing, video watching, image/file downloading to come near the higher-end hotspot data options.

Cons: You are dependent on your iPhone to provide your iPad 2 a network signal. If your phone dies of battery drain, so does your iPad 2 network connection…and we all know that feeling you get when not even half the day is gone and your phone’s battery indicator drops below 15%. Add to the fact that your phone is taking on yet another duty as a wireless hotspot; and you will have to be even more vigilant and make sure you plan out your day to include some “recharge time” if you plan surf the web on your WiFi-only iPad 2.

iPad data plans are more flexible than iPhone data plans. With an iPad data plan, there are no contracts to sign, and you can increase and decrease your allotment or cancel the plan entirely at any time with no repercussions. With the iPhone hotspot feature, you have to be careful not to violate your wireless contract.

My Opinion: I consider myself an average wireless network user who always has my iPhone in-tow and I keep it charged up. I still use my phone more during the day than my iPad 2, so the few times I do pull my iPad out to use, I am confident that I can do just about anything and not worry about going over on my data plan. It is a little annoying that I have to remember to turn on the hotspot function before I can really use my iPad, but a couple of seconds extra and I’m connected. So I am glad that I opted to skip the iPad 3G version and went WiFi only.

Below are some questions you will have to answer to decide which iPad is the best option for you:

– How often will I need to connect to a network
– How long will I need to stay connected
– How much data do I plan to utilize

Finally, the iPad can connect to any device that has hotspot capabilities, so check your mobile device and your wireless carrier’s plans to see if you can take advantage.

Trust me, you have PLENTY of time to decide which iPad 2 is for you – The stock levels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.