3G-Enabled iPads on Sale


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5 p.m. a couple hundred people lined up at the the Fifth Avenue Apple store in Manhattan to pick up a 3G-enabled iPad.

First in line: Justin Sher, 31, a molecular biologist from Brooklyn, who'd been waiting since about noon. Sher said he'd seen the Wi-Fi iPad and was “totally stoked" about buying the 3G version. He'll use it for work, he says. He expects to draw with it, type in numerical data and be able to plug it into a projector to show at meetings.

Hours before the iPad 3G models were set to go on sale, the atmosphere was tame at two New York City Apple retail stores.

At 1:30 p.m., there were no lines to be found in or around the Upper West Side store near Lincoln Center, though a number of patrons were inspecting Wi-Fi-only models inside the store. The 3G models were understandably behind closed doors. A sign in the window indicating that the store would be closed from 4 to 5 p.m. (so the staff could get ready) was the only outward clue that today was indeed 3G-day.

A half-hour later, I only counted two-dozen or so people who were quietly waiting in line for the iPad 3G. No surprise, but this wasn't close to the frenzied scenes that look place when the first iPad or iPhone went on sale.

As previously announced, the Wi-Fi + 3G models will cost $629 (16 GB), $729 (32 GB)and $829 (64 GB), respectively, compared to $499, $599 and $699 for same-capacity models without 3G. AT&T's is charging $14.99 a month for 250 megabytes of monthly data for the iPad, or $29.99 for unlimited data. No contract is required, so customers can come and go as they please.

Folks who eschew the 3G model with AT&T coverage still have other options for connecting an iPad wirelessly. When I'm out and about with the iPad, I've been creating my own portable Wi-Fi hotspot with the Verizon Wireless Novatel Wireless MiFi card, largely without a hiccup. (Sprint also sells the card). The thin card , which months ago cost me nothing for the hardware following a rebate, is a little wider than a standard-size business card. The beauty is you can leave it your pocket, without having to tether it to a computer. That's a good thing for fans of Apple's tablet, because the iPad lacks a USB port or any other slot that you might employ to connect a more traditional 3G-type cellular modem.

What's more, MiFi provides a Wi-Fi hot spot not just for your iPad, but for up to four other computing devices.

Be aware of a few downsides, compared to the Wi-Fi + 3G model. I'm paying Verizon Wireless about $60 a month for 5GB of data, double the AT&T tab for unlimited data. And while Apple says you'll get about 9 hours of surfing the Web on the 3G iPad, the Mi-Fi battery itself in my experience generally dies out in roughly half that time.

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