01 September 2011
If you’re wondering whether you should get the 3G iPad or just get the Wi-Fi one, there’s a new tool from the BBC that might help you to decide. The BBC invited volunteers to download an app for their Android mobile phones, and the app tracked where mobile signals were available. In total, 44,600 people submitted 1.7 million hours of data across the UK.
What it means for you is that you can enter a postcode on the BBC’s UK mobile coverage map, to see whether there is 3G coverage in that area. If the map is green where you live, it means there is coverage. If it’s purple, it means there is 2G coverage, which is slower but will still work on your iPad. The white areas have no data, which means nobody participated in the survey there. (It doesn’t matter that the data was collected using Android phones, because the iPad uses the same network).
If you have somewhere you might want to use your iPad regularly and won’t have access to free Wi-Fi, it’s worth checking it to see what the 3G coverage is like there using the BBC’s map. Technology news site The Register warns that you should take the data with a pinch of salt: if there’s one square showing superior coverage to all the squares around it, that’s probably a blip in the data. But the data should be broadly accurate and is based on actual coverage experienced by people using mobile phones.
As my book iPad for the Older and Wiser explains, Wi-Fi is usually free to use at places like cafes and in your own home. 3G requires a payment, typically a subscription that allows you to access a certain amount of data in a certain timeframe (such as 1GB in a month, which would be enough for about 200 songs or 10,000 web pages, according to O2’s estimates). Generally, I’ve found it helpful to have a 3G iPad for when I don’t have Wi-Fi coverage, including when in the car or when my home Wi-Fi network goes down.
UPDATE: My Friend Mark who lives in Shropshire says: "Don't believe the map 100%... says I get 3g when in fact very occasionally I get an unusable 3g signal and most of the time I hardly get a 2g one!"
It's a standard feature in Android, although some networks (especially in the USA) disable it.
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