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The Apple iPad 2 is hard to resist, and for those who already own an iPad first-generation, impossible to justify.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, onto more important matters. Such as: Should you buy an iPad 2 with 3G service from AT&T or Verizon? Or should you save the $130 extra that a 3G radio in an iPad 2 costs and use your iPhone as a personal hotspot for your iPad instead?
In my last blog post, I answered the AT&T vs. Verizon 3G iPad question: According to two different reports, AT&T's 3G data network is faster than Verizon's.
As for the second question, I did some tests this afternoon using Speedtest.net on my first-generation iPad. I wanted to see which was faster: the first-gen iPad's AT&T built-in 3G radio, or using my iPhone 4 as a personal hotspot for my iPad, which I connected to my iPhone via Wi-Fi. I ran Speedtest.net three times using each connection method, then averaged the download and upload speeds.
The winner? My iPhone 4. When I used it as a hotspot for the iPad, the average download speed I got on the iPad was 1830 kbps and upload speed was 1022 kbps. By comparision, the average download speed using my iPad's built-in 3G connection was 1300 kbps, with an average upload speed of 251 kbps.
Your mileage may vary, as the cliche goes. But if you're only going to need 3G data service occasionally on an iPad 2, and you always have your iPhone (or other tethering-capable smartphone) with you, you might save yourself the extra $130 and just get a Wi-Fi-only iPad 2. You'll have to pay $45 monthly for the tethering privilege, however (but there's no contract), which includes AT&T's top data plan for $25 per month plus an additional $20 per month for tethering. That's compared to $15 a month for AT&T's least expensive iPad data plan (also no contract needed). Verizon's iPad 2 data plans begin at $20 per month. Also, the big differences in speed that I experienced might be less significant on an iPad 2, which is considerably faster than the first-generation iPad.
Just something else to consider as you wait in line at the Apple store. Oh, and Steve Jobs would say, one more thing: If you already bought an iPad 2 with built-in 3G and you're saying to yourself, "Damn! Should have bought the Wi-Fi only," I bet you could sale your iPad 2 on Amazon or ebay and even make a small profit. Supplies are still tight.