As I’ve mentioned before, I have an iPad. I love my iPad, and use it all the time. There are several different models of iPad that you can buy, and I have the 32Gb WiFi one. When choosing I decided against the 3G model fairly early on because I didn’t want to pay for another data contract for just one device. I already have a data contract with my phone, and looking at the data tariffs for the iPad, it seemed that I would do better by getting a MiFi.
A MiFi is a little portable dongle which has a 3G data connection which it shares wirelessly. You can connect up to 5 devices to its’ single connection. I reasoned that if I was going to pay for a data contract I’d rather have one that I could use for my laptop, my iPad, and even the geekdaddy’s devices as well. When I researched it (almost a year ago), the data contract prices for the iPad were very similar to the MiFi, and so I reasoned that as a MiFi was more expensive, if I ever found myself needing a data connection for my iPad, I’d get a MiFi.
Time has passed. I haven’t got a MiFi. I’d still quite like one, but not enough to pay the monthly cost! Then this week, Apple released the iOS 4.3 update, and for those of us who own the iPhone 4 this brings an interesting new update – the personal hotspot. This is an extension of the “tethering” functionality which finally allows the iPad to use the iPhone’s data connection (previously it’s only been available to laptops). So is this now a better option for me than the MiFi?
I decided I would do some research into the UK providers, and see how the costs compared for the use of the new personal hotspot functionality. Cue a frustrating couple of days searching for the information on various websites and listing to funky hold music – in some cases it was very difficult to find, and in the case of one provider it wasn’t on the website at all and I had to resort to the help of my Twitter friends to find answers for me.
As I am currently out of my contract period on my iPhone, I have only researched the “SIM only” prices for each of the providers. If you are still within contract your costs may vary. My belief is that the tethering costs quoted are the same for full phone contracts as well as SIM only, but you should check before buying!
Out of the 6 providers of iPhone 4 services within the UK, only 4 currently allow tethering (Tesco mobile and t-mobile do not offer the option). Only one provider (three) offers tethering at no additional cost, the remaining three (O2, Vodafone and Orange) charge separately for tethering. Here’s a summary of the offerings:
|Provider||Monthly Cost||Minutes||Texts||Data||Tethering||Contract length|
|O2||£15.32||300||unlimited||500mb||7.50 for 500mb||12 months|
|Vodafone||£20||600||unlimited||1Gb||£5 for 500mb
£10 for 1.5Gb
£15 for 3Gb
|Orange||£25.54||600||unlimited||500mb||£5.10 for 500Mb
£10.25 for 1.5Gb
£15.32 for 3Gb
£25.54 for 10Gb
For me there’s no clear winner. The three deal looks extremely good – anything with unlimited data looks good to me, and I was briefly tempted to switch. However I’ve never used three before I have no idea what their coverage is like around here, and I’m unwilling to commit to 12 months with them if it’s no good. I know Orange have good coverage here, but they are much more expensive than my current O2 plan.
So my decision has been to commit to 12 months with O2 in order to get their cheapest iPhone plan – the Simplicity 15. I’m paying the £7.50 per month for tethering, and I’ll see how it goes. This results in a net increase of just under £3 per month for my contract (I was previously on their Simplicity 20 tariff), which is certainly cheaper than getting a MiFi. I know from looking at my previous bills that 500mb of data is plenty for me to manage with on my iPhone – I generally use less than 100mb! I’ll see how I get on with 500mb for tethering as well.
Incidentally, the chap I spoke to at O2 confirmed that the 500mb I am paying £7.50 per month for is an additional 500mb, just for tethering. This means my tethering data allowance is separate to my standard phone allowance, and I essentially have a 1Gb data allowance in total. I haven’t confirmed this with the other providers involved.
At the time of writing I have not been able to test my new tethering as it has not yet been activated on my phone (O2 say it can take up to 24 hours for this to happen). As soon as I can start testing it I’ll let you know how I get on!
Disclaimer: The information presented here is a result of my own personal research at the time of writing. In some cases I am unsure whether prices quoted include VAT at the current rate. You should always double check the price you will pay directly with your chosen provider. This is not a sponsored post. I have received no payment or incentive to write it. I just thought it might save other people some time and effort if I published my results! If you do find it useful, please leave me a comment.