iPad Wi-Fi + 3G: A Hands-On Look at Apple's Mobile Tablet

Signing up for service couldn’t be easier. You’re prompted to create an account (this is a new account, regardless of whether or not you already have AT&T service for any other mobile device) and then pick which plan you want. You’ll also be presented with a lengthy set of terms which you’ll have to agree to, most of which are pretty standard: no peer-to-peer software, or running servers such as Web cameras (not that the iPad has a camera), or using any software that maintains an active Internet connection when it would otherwise be idle.

The iPad Plan agreement also specifically precludes tethering—sharing your iPad’s 3G connection with a computer—“unless [the Plan is] specifically designed for tethering.” AT&T has remained hesitant to give a date for tethering for the iPhone, despite support for the feature in iPhone OS 3.0, and the situation appears no different for the iPad. So if you were looking to use your iPad as a portable hotspot for your MacBook, you’re out of luck.

Once you’ve entered your billing information, you’ll have the option of adding a 30-day International plan: $25 for 20MB of data; $60 for 50MB; $120 for 100MB; or $200 for 200MB. You can choose what date you want the plan to start—it’ll be effective at midnight Eastern Time on that date. AT&T provides a list of 40 countries in which International Plans are supported, though it doesn’t guarantee coverage in all places. You can also add an International Plan at any time through your account.

You'll get a message when your plan has been activated.
After you’ve signed up for service, a dialog box will pop up and alert you that your plan is now active. You can view the amount of time left in your account at any time by tapping on View Account in the Cellular Data settings.

If you pick the 250MB metered option, you can keep tabs on your data consumption under Settings -> General -> Usage, where you’ll be able to see how much data you’ve sent and received over the cellular network. You can also go to View Your Account and see how much data and time you have left in your current plan.

AT&T also says it will send you messages as you approach your consumption limits, though it does warn that these may not be timely, and that, depending on how much information you’re using, you could even blow by the limit before you get the warning. Data doesn’t roll over to the next billing period—anything you have unused at the end of your month is gone. When you run out of data, you can add another 250MB for an additional $15 or buy the $30 unlimited plan if you want to stay online. If you choose not to add more data, your plan will simply expire (though it will automatically renew on the last day unless you’ve told it not to).

And Away We Go

Having been stuck at a number of Wi-Fi-less locations with my iPad over the past few weeks, I’m looking forward to having a fully armed and operational tablet at my disposal. I’ll be reporting back with a full review on my experiences using the 3G iPad next week.

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