The new iPad launched this month, smashing the opening weekend sales records of it’s predecessors by shifting 3 million units in three days. To paraphrase one of the great thinkers of our time, dear reader, we’re living in a tablet PC world, and I am a tablet PC girl.
GUY! I’m a tablet PC guy…dammit.
I’m not the only one either. For many the days of the desktop are a warm and fuzzy memory. We smile as we fondly recall clambering under desks to check cables, or accidentally turning the thing off with your foot and losing hours of unsaved work. Ah…good times. Mostly.
Even the ever-faithful laptop is slowly being usurped by tablets as the productivity tool of choice for professionals on the move. Even the smallest laptop needs a cumbersome power brick and dedicated carry case. You get none of that nonsense with a tablet; try sticking your PC or iMac in your messenger bag and setting it up in Starbuck’s, see how far you get.
Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan or a plucky young Android evangelist, there’s a tablet computer out there that, with just a few exceptions, could replace your desktop or laptop for every day office tasks.
So let’s say I’ve convinced you. Let’s imagine for a moment your mind is made up and you’re going to switch to a tablet. You’ve decided on your operating system and storage, but there’s just one thing you can’t decide…3G, or not 3G?
That is the question, dear reader. Whether ’tis nobler month to month to suffer the bills and tariffs of outrageous data plans, or to take arms against the choice of networks, and by opposing go WiFi only.
Look at the pros and cons of integrated 3G:-
- Pros – always connected to the mobile web, can send SMS & MMS texts
- Cons – £100 higher outlay for the device. Reduced battery life. Additional cost either on monthly contract or PAYG.
Now, I’m assuming that if you’re considering a tablet, you probably have a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, chances are you have a data plan with it and you’re already paying out monthly for that. With that in mind, consider that just about every smartphone now has the ability to generate a wifi bubble and connect other devices to its mobile data connection, suddenly that extra £100 plus monthly data is looking like a completely unnecessary expense.
I’m not saying mobile data itself is unneccesary – far from it. At the very least it’s an essential fallback in case the wifi service is rubbish or fails entirely. Just ask mobile media maker and social technologist Christian Payne, his SIM card is is most piece of kit!
However, free wifi, whilst not quite as ubiquitous as we’d like, is commonplace enough that mobile data usage isn’t required in many places. Restaurants, pubs, even some buses and trains have wifi, and conference goers would expect any savvy event organiser to provide a stable, speedy connection to the social web for attendees.
We live in trying financial times, and it just seems to me that paying an extra £100, plus monthly fees, for an integrated mobile connection seems unnecessary when most of us are carrying a mobile data connection around in our pockets anyway. Even if you don’t have or don’t want a smartphone, for less than the extra £100 for a 3G enabled tablet you can pick up a personal 3G hotspot, like the MiFi from Three.co.uk.
Last year I bought an iPad2 which easily connects to, and goes online through, my two year old Android 2.2 powered HTC Desire. I have friends who connect their wi-fi only tablets through their iPhone hotspots. It’s so simple to do and not once in the 6 months since I’ve had the iPad have I found myself wishing it had integrated 3G.
So my advice to you, buying your tablet and debating over the 3G or WiFi only models, is check the 3G device already in your pocket, and do the math. You could save yourself some money.