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iPad Arriving at Verizon Wireless with MiFi Option

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As rumors and reports swirl about the ever-more-likely possibility that Apple will soon make an iPhone model compatible with and available from Verizon Wireless, official word has come down that the cellular carrier will sell the iPhone's big sibling, the iPad, in its phone stores by the end of October.

Starting on 28 October 2010, you can buy a Wi-Fi iPad at over 2,000 Verizon Wireless stores in the United States by itself or bundled with the MiFi, a cellular router. The base price for iPads is a very slight markup from the Apple Store price - less than a dollar. The 16 GB iPad sells for $499.99, the 32 GB model for $599.99, and the 64 GB model for $699.99.

The 3G model of the iPad works in the United States only over GSM networks, and works only at 3G speeds on AT&T's network. Verizon and Apple did an end-run about this network compatibility problem. For 3G access on Verizon's CDMA network, you pony up another $130 for a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. That $130 is the same difference between the Wi-Fi and 3G iPad models that Apple and its retail partners charge. (Verizon's network operates at a raw downstream rate of about 3 Mbps; AT&T's current network tops out at about 3.6 Mbps, but a 7.2 Mbps update is rolling out, and is currently active in limited cities. The 3G iPad can use that higher downstream rate when it's live, just like the iPhone 3GS and 4.)

The pocket-sized MiFi connects to Verizon's cellular data network and shares that connection with up to five Wi-Fi devices. (Discerning readers will note that one could buy a single iPad-MiFi bundle and share its mobile broadband connection with up to four other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.) The MiFi 2200 has a rechargeable battery that can provide 4 hours of active use and 40 hours of standby time before it needs to be recharged. Purchasers of the bundle need to activate the MiFi by syncing it with a Mac or PC, after which it can be used without accessing the computer again.

Verizon will offer three unique monthly data plans for the MiFi bundle: $20 for 1 GB (and $20 for each additional GB), $35 for 3 GB, or $50 for 5 GB ($10 per extra GB). No other data device from Verizon comes with similar plans.

Although purchasers will have to sign a service agreement with Verizon, the data plans themselves are on a month-to-month basis, and can be changed or cancelled at any time with no termination fee. The MiFi can be purchased separately, but then must be used with a two-year, $60-per-month plan limited to 5 GB with per-megabyte overage fees, as well as cancellation penalties.

(Discerning readers will also note that you could buy the bundle, then resell your Wi-Fi iPad in its original box and just keep the MiFi.)

If Verizon is not your cup of connectivity, Virgin Mobile also offers the MiFi with an unlimited service plan - $40 for 30 days - as Glenn Fleishman reported a few months ago. See "Virgin Mobile Offers MiFi Mobile Hotspot without Contract" (28 June 2010).

The Verizon deal was not the only iPad announcement of the day. Apple also announced that both Wi-Fi and 3G iPads would be coming to over 2,200 AT&T stores in the United States, also on 28 October 2010. Prices for the devices will be the same as at the Apple Store. iPad data plans from AT&T currently cost $14.99 per month for 250 MB and $25 per month for 2 GB, and require no long-term contract; you can cancel at any time.

With the news that iPads are now available in China, as well as the recent addition of the magic slab to 1,743 Target stores and several thousand Wal-Mart stores (joining Best Buy and Micro Center in the United States), the iPad seems poised to give Apple a very merry holiday season, indeed!

That's especially relevant in the face of upcoming tablets based on Android or Windows 7. Although much will be made of these tablets among the drama-addicted press, it seems unlikely that any of these tablets will be able to mount a significant challenge to the iPad in the near future given Apple's dominant market position, backed up as it is by this significant distribution network.

 

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Comments about iPad Arriving at Verizon Wireless with MiFi Option

R Unger  2010-10-19 12:16
Hopefully the author can answer this since I haven't seen it addressed in several similar articles...every author talks about how the data plans are on a month-to-month basis and can be cancelled with no termination fee but then what? Say I cancel due to non-usage/under-usage for a period of time and then circumstances change and I need the capability again. Can I get the same plan back on a month-to-month basis with no additional costs and/or restrictions incurred?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-10-19 12:46
Yes. Sorry that it's confusing. You can always restart month-to-month plans after canceling. That's part of the charm.

You might have been misled when AT&T changed its iPhone and iPad plans because if you canceled an unlimited plan on the iPad (which was month-to-month) there was no way after the change to fixed-usage plans to get an unlimited plan again.

Verizon Wireless lets you sign up again after canceling with no fee. Virgin Mobile sells its access only in 10-day and 30-day pieces.
R Unger  2010-10-19 13:10
Thanks for the clarification, Glenn. Unfortunately, in my case, the Virgin Mobile online coverage maps (same as Sprint's?) show marginal coverage in my area while Verizon's is quite strong. Everyone in my residential neighborhood uses Verizon cell phones since the AT&T coverage is too spotty. That's why many of us are anxiously awaiting the release of a Verizon iPhone.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-10-19 14:14
Exactly the problem with Virgin Mobile's coverage. Yes, it's coverage map is the same as Sprint's. Where Sprint allows up to 300 MB/mo of data roaming with its devices, Virgin Mobile sticks solely to Sprint's footprint. That reveals how poor Sprint's coverage is in parts of the country. Verizon spent right a while ago to cover everywhere with 3G, even though it's stalled in terms of broadband speed with the standard it chose.
John Baxter  2010-10-24 10:08
I have seen reports elsewhere that the bundled MiFi is locked to the (any??) iPad, rather than being a "full" MiFi.

Until that is confirmed or proven wrong, prospective buyers should make sure to check if use of the MiFi in the usual way is part of the attraction of the bundle.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-10-24 11:25
The FAQ says you can use it with up to five Wi-Fi devices, which leaves room for no ambiguity.