While we’ve talked about the compromises made by Apple for the iPad, the device’s most compelling feature is its 3G mobile broadband data. With the original aluminum iPhone, the press had said that Apple had revolutionized cell phone purchasing and activation by allowing users to purchase phones without having to deal with the carrier and users can activate the phones at home, saving the time spent in stores (Apple has since caved and reversed back to the traditional phone activations). With the iPad, Apple may be well on its way to revolutionize mobile broadband in three distinct ways.
Contract-Free Data Experience!
First, the device requires no contract! This is huge as most carriers still require a lengthy two-year data contract even if you bring your own data device. Trust me, I’ve tried with T-Mobile to get a month-to-month data only plan for the Nokia N900, but was told I needed a contract.
Affordable Unlimited 3G Data!
Traditional notebooks still require a costlier $60 plan per month (and still require a contract!), but the iPad, which is part tablet in its productivity features and part netback in portability, may be the device to bring affordable data to the masses for this much computing power. For $30 per month of contract-free, cancel as you like data, you just can’t beat this price. It’s certainly more affordable than the $60 per month and may herald in the next era of computing–data in the cloud for the masses. While the iPad offers tablet functionality, AT&T is willing to charge you smartphone data pricing.
The App for That Paradigm
The ironic thing is that Mobile Safari on the iPhone and iPad is supposed to herald in the best browsing and web experience, yet Apple is promoting “there’s an app for that” for simple tasks that can be done on a full web page. Reserving a table via the OpenTable app, purchasing a book on the Amazon app, or bidding on the Ebay app are tasks that are much simpler to perform with an app rather than a webpage. This will mean that more people will be doing more things mobile (via apps) than on webpages and it brings convenience even if you’re at your desk.
For all that was compromised on the iPad, a lot was done right when it comes to bringing 3G to more people. $30 unlimited contract-free data that can be easily activated from the device is a winning solution. Considering the iPad isn’t a smartphone, it could easily be counted as a data-only device to warrant a $60/month price tag, the device got exceptional 3G data pricing comparable to smartphones. To boot, the device will probably be more data intensive for any carrier’s network than an iPhone.
We would have liked to see 3G iPads for Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but my guess is that AT&T is caving more than other carriers because of its tenuous relationship with Apple–rumors of the iPhone exclusivity possibly ending soon may have prompted AT&T to give Apple consumers more to hold onto a relationship with the software and hardware maker. The catch? AT&T is probably not subsidizing the device at all or as much, and that means that users wanting 3G data will have to pony an extra $130 for the 3G-capable version (compared to the WiFi-only option) of the iPad.