To 3G or Not to 3G?

With the launch of the new 4G version of the iPad, the initial popularity of the WiFi-only Kindle Fire, and the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview I decided to do a test of the viability of living with a WiFi-only tablet versus one equipped with 3G/4G.  I’ve had brief experiences before, such as taking a Kindle Fire with me to lunch and discovering that the restaurant didn’t offer WiFi access.  But yesterday I decided to spend an entire day with 3G turned off on my iPad and see how that impacted my usual usage patterns.

Of course turning off 3G in my home or office is not an issue because I have WiFi in both.  If you are only using your Tablet at home or in the office, you almost certainly don’t need 3G and we’ll ignore that in the following discussion.  I was at home or the office before, between, and after these events.

First stop was a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  I love having my Tablet with me for these because as we all know the wait-time can vary so dramatically.  In the worst case the doctor is delayed by an emergency and you can sit for an hour or more.  Sadly this was to be the first “failure” in my test as the doctor’s office did not provide public WiFi.  Fortunately I was not kept waiting long, so I did not succumb to boredom and re-enable 3G access.

Next up was lunch.  Since I was going to one of the more modern fast casual places I figured they would offer WiFi access, but sadly I was mistaken.  I tried to access a weak signal from a yogurt shop down the block, but couldn’t successfully connect.  Sorry, no reading the New York Times, the blogs I follow, or even checking my mail over lunch.

Later in the afternoon it was time for Physical Therapy.  I got to the office early and decided to sit in my car for a few minutes and check how the stock market did.  Oops, no WiFi hotspot to connect to out there.  Darn, I guess I’ll have to take my iPad into the office with me instead of leaving it in the car.  Well, that was a waste since there is no public WiFi in the office either.

On the way home I decide to stop at the supermarket.  I need to look up a recipe and create my shopping list.  Fortunately Safeway has started to add WiFi hotspots to its stores, and so this is the one time during my day of travels where I don’t need 3G.  But had I gone to my preferred supermarket, rather than the one I happened to be driving by, I wouldn’t have been so lucky.

Yesterday was typical of my usage habits.  When I say mobile I mean mobile.  I use my Tablet everywhere, and that means I want connectivity everywhere.  Publicly accessible WiFi is just not ubiquitous enough to provide that.  Even at-home scenarios don’t fully work with WiFi.  A few weeks ago I was waiting in our barn for a service guy to appear.  For about an hour I sat in the lounge using the Tablet to entertain myself.  There is no Internet, WiFi or otherwise, in the barn.   And so I’ll stick with a Tablet that has 3G (or for anything new, 4G) thank you very much.

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