Media coverage of a report from IDC Research says sales of Wi-Fi only tablets have passed sales of 3G models in Australia and New Zealand.
IDC’s analyst explained the shift away from mobile networks to Wi-Fi in terms of product offerings. This misses the point: for most people 3G tablets don’t make sense.
3G option is costly
Adding 3G, and now with the new iPad, 4G to an Apple tablet adds NZ$200 to the price. For the 16GB iPad, that’s a hefty 27% premium. For that kind of money, you need to know you’ll use that tablet while on the move.
To use mobile data you also need a Micro-Sim card and a mobile data account with a carrier. Make that an extra Sim card and account unless you don’t have a mobile phone.
3G is troublesome
When I bought my iPad 2 I decided this would be too much trouble. I might only need to use 3G with my iPad once or twice a month and I didn’t want to deal with extra Sim cards and mobile accounts.
Instead, if I need a 3G iPad connection while I’m on the move I use my mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hub. That way my phone account picks up the data cost.
I’m not likely to travel anywhere with my iPad and not take my phone as well.
Phone Wi-Fi hub fast enough
I haven’t benchmarked speeds on my iPad and phone combination against an 3G iPad alternative because the comparison is not important. My set up is more than fast enough for my everyday needs, the only drawback is using my phone as a Wi-Fi hub drains the batteries faster than normal use.
This approach means less administration and it consolidates all my data buying in a single account which means economies of scale.
If you’re always on the run and need plenty of data a 3G tablet might make more sense, for most users it doesn’t.
For a while I also tried separate Wi-Fi hub devices, but these made life even harder. The need feeding with Sim cards, phone accounts and batteries. They also meant carrying an extra device.