iPad plans compared

  • iPad plans compared
  • Guide to how much data you need
  • Connecting to the internet over 3G or WiFi

Apple's iPad has been an instant hit, with customers eagerly embracing the latest format. Described as magical and revolutionary by its makers, the iPad makes full use of the touch screen technology and user-friendly design that made the iPod and the iPhone so popular.

Update: Search the best plans for the new Apple iPad

Much of the appeal of the device lies in its wireless internet access. While all iPads come with WiFi capability, the higher spec model is 3G enabled, which means it can be used to connect wirelessly to the internet in areas outside of a WiFi network.

However, the iPad's slim design has left no room for a conventional USB port, so Apple has come up with a micro-SIM instead. iPad customers can buy data from a range of providers to use on their device; however, they can only use it on their iPad as the micro-SIM is not transferable to other devices.

Optus, Vodafone, Three and Telstra are the biggest Australian providers to come up with a range of pre-paid and post-paid plans for the iPad. Each carrier has several options available and there is a plan to suit every pocket.

Light iPad internet users

If you don't use your iPad to connect to the internet too often but you do want to have the capability, you should consider Vodafone or Three.

Vodafone has some great value plans for light users. Plans start from just $9.95 for 250Mb, which lasts for 30 days, while $150 buys 12GB that can be used over an amazing 365 days. This is plenty for occasional surfing and you don't need to worry about recharging every month, as most pre-paid plans require.

With Optus, on the month-to-month post-paid plan, $20 buys 2GB, while on the pre-paid plan $15 will get you 1.5GB, although this only lasts for 15 days.

Heavy iPad internet users

For just $50, Optus is offering unlimited internet use on the iPad on its pre-paid plan. There is a fair use policy, the data cannot be used overseas and Optus has stipulated no peer-to-peer use but this is still a great value deal for medium or heavy users.

Vodafone is offering a similar plan and a $49.95 recharge will get you unlimited downloads for 30 days.

If you need a reliable, fast connection to your iPad you may want to consider a plan from Telstra. The NextG network that Telstra uses is renowned for its speed and network coverage. NextG also works better in places some mobile broadband struggles to reach, such as lifts or underground.

Telstra offers up to 12GB over 30 days for $100 on its pre-paid iPad plan, which is more expensive than other providers but may provide a better service, which heavy users will appreciate.

Connecting to the internet without a micro-SIM

Apple's micro-SIM design has attracted some criticism. As it can only be used on the iPad, customers with other devices are forced to buy several data plans and may have one for their phone, one for their laptop and now one for their iPad. If you want an iPad but have been put off by this extra expense, there is another way.

It is possible to buy a modem that can create your own Wi-Fi hotspot, so with one data plan you can connect all your wireless devices at once. Simply insert a SIM into the modem and the device converts the 3G signal into a wireless network.

Internode offers the MiFi, a modem that can connect up to five wireless devices at once, with a ten metre range. The MiFi is available with a SIM for $249 on a 24-month NodeMobile data contract. On a one-month NodeMobile contract, it costs $349.

Virgin also offers a mobile broadband Wi-Fi modem, which can support up to three devices. Virgin's post-paid mobile broadband plans with a Wi-Fi modem included start from $39 for 6GB of data a month.