internet

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.

iPad and iPhone

iPad and iPhone - can they now work together in perfect harmony?

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

12 months
Orange £25.54 600 unlimited 500mb £5.10 for 500Mb

£10.25 for 1.5Gb

£15.32 for 3Gb

£25.54 for 10Gb

1 month
three £25 2000 5000 unlimited included 12 months

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.


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My attention has been drawn to a BBC Education article which reveals the screen habits of our 5 to 16 year olds, and it makes quite sobering reading.

Whilst my friend Cathy at Nurturestore focusses on whether our children are watching too much TV, there was another statistic within the report that worried me much more.

Almost half of the 5 to 16 year olds surveyed had Internet access in their bedrooms. Almost half!

I believe very strongly that children have to learn how to use the Intenet much as they have to learn to drive a car. You wouldn’t just hand your 17 year old the keys to your car would you? No, they’ve grown up watching you drive, you’ve talked to them about what you’re doing when you drive, before they even get behind the wheel they know that you stop at red lights and give way at give way signs because they’ve seen you do it millions of times already. When they try driving for the first time you, or a driving instructor, will be sitting next to them, guiding them every step of the way. Similarly children should watch you using the Internet, should learn by surfing alongside you that you can’t always believe what you read, and that people aren’t always what they say they are. Even if you don’t sit over them every time they use it, you should always be aware of what they are doing on the Internet, and teaching them how to use it properly.

The best way to do this is to keep the Internet in communal areas, not bedrooms! I know it’s getting harder and harder these days with so many devices having Internet access on them – mobile phones, handheld gaming devices, console gaming devices all have it. But the Internet is not something that you can hand to your kids and let them get on with it. And if you’re not confident using the Internet yourself, engage the help of a friend to teach your kids about the Internet, much as you would engage a driving instructor.

I sometimes let the geekdaughter watch videos on Youtube. Under supervision of course. And it’s scary how quickly she can get from watching something I approve of to watching something I don’t, just by following the related items links at the end of each video clip.

Almost half of 5 to 16 year olds have Internet access in their bedrooms. I can only see that percentage increasing as more and more Internet-connected devices aimed at kids come onto the market. You can’t prevent your kids from accessing the Internet, but you owe it to them to teach them how to use it responsibly.


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