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Should you buy a 4G iPad or a Wi-Fi iPad?

What is the difference between a 4G iPad and a Wi-Fi iPad?


The iPad 2 is available on both AT&T's and Verizon's 3G data network

Image © Apple, Inc.

You've decided to buy an iPad, but which model? 4G? Wi-Fi? What's the difference? It may sound difficult if you aren't familiar with the lingo, but once you understand the difference between the 4G iPad and the Wi-Fi iPad, the decision becomes easier.

Full list of iPad 2 Features

The difference between a 4G iPad and a Wi-Fi iPad:

  1. 4G Network. The 4G iPad allows you to hook up to either AT&T's data network or Verizon's data network, depending on which network you choose when purchasing the 4G iPad. This means you can access the Internet even when you are away from home, which is great for those who travel a lot and don't always have access to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. GPS. The Wi-Fi iPad uses something called Wi-Fi trilateration to determine your location. In addition to granting data access while on the move, the 4G iPad contains an A-GPS chip to allow for a more accurate read of your current location.
  3. Price. The 4G iPad costs $130 more than a Wi-Fi iPad with the same storage.

Which iPad should you buy? 4G or Wi-Fi?

The big question is whether or not that 4G connection is worth the extra $130. Also, keep in mind that you will also need to pay a monthly fee to AT&T or Verizon for the data connection, with the lowest AT&T data plan starting at $14.99 and the lowest Verizon plan starting at $20 a month.

So is it worth it?

For those who are on the road a lot and away from their Wi-Fi network, the 4G iPad can easily be worth the added cost. But even for a family that is mainly going to use the iPad at home, the 4G model can be the right choice. The best thing about the data plan for the iPad is the ability to turn it on or off, so you don't have to pay for it in months that you won't use it. This means you can turn it on during that family vacation and turn it off when you get back home.

The added GPS can also be great if you are thinking about getting a GPS for the car, but this should be thought of more as a bonus than a major feature. After all, you can get a dedicated GPS navigator for under $100, but if you think the 4G data connection for the iPad sounds nice, the added ability to act as a GPS almost pays for the difference in price.

But the iPad is not an iPhone. And it's not an iPod Touch. So you aren't going to be carrying it around in your pocket. If you are going to use it as a surrogate laptop, the 4G connection is definitely worth it. And if you think you'll take it with you on family vacations, it could be a great way to entertain the kids. But for many people, the iPad will never leave their home, so they won't really need a 4G connection.

What if 4G isn't supported in my area? What if I'm buying an iPad 2 that doesn't have 3G?

Don't worry if you don't yet have 4G coverage in your area by either Verizon or AT&T. The decision you are making is whether or not to have a mobile data connection for your iPad. The pricing structure for the 4G network on the iPad 3rd generation and the 3G network on the original iPad and the iPad 2 is the same, so even if you are buying an iPad 2, your decision making process is going to be the same as if you are buying the newest iPad.

Compare prices on the iPad 2

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