The Smart Way to Get Cellular Service on an iPad

With the iPad 2, as with the original iPad, Apple is continuing to charge an absurd $130 premium for models equipped to access 3G cellular networks. Even worse: You have to pick between Verizon and AT&T when you buy your iPad, since their wireless data networks are incompatible. It’s pretty sad to spend over $600 for a tablet computer that is then locked into a single data provider on an aging 3G standard.

Smart consumers are foregoing the 3G option on iPads and instead investing in portable internet access points, which can then serve not only their iPad but also other Wi-Fi enabled phones and computers in the vicinity. This preserves freedom to upgrade to faster 4G networks in the future and to switch service providers without having to buy another iPad.

For example, you can buy a MiFi mobile hotspot for the same price as the iPad 3G option and then get unlimited data access from Virgin Mobile, without a contract, for $50/month — for up to 5 Wi-Fi devices.

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