If you're looking to get a 1st Gen iPad, and want 3G data from a carrier other than AT&T, this is the best deal going, although it's by no means inexpensive.
The iPad Promotional Bundles
Verizon Wireless sells three iPad promotional bundles, that packages including one of the three Wi-Fi iPad models (16GB, 32Gb and 64GB) and a Novatel MiFi2200. The package ups the price of each of the three iPads by $130, ostensibly to cover the cost of the MiFi hardware.
Separate data plans have been created for the bundles which offer mobile data with a tiered price model. The least expensive is $20, which buys you 1GB of data use per month. The three other plans are $35/3GB, $50/5GB, and $80/10GB per month. Overage charges exist for each plan; if you go over the 1GB usage allowance on the $20/month plan, the fee is $20 for an additional 1GB of data. The other three plans have a $10 fee each additional 1GB.
While the bundles require a service agreement, Verizon says they’re month-to-month and can be canceled without termination fees.
The Novatel MiFi 2200
This mobile hotspot isn’t cutting edge, but it gets the job done. It’s about the size of a business card and is EV-DO Rev. A compatible for a maximum downstream data connection of 3.1Mbps. Once activated and powered on, the MiFi creates an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network for the iPad and up to four other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to connect to. The SSID and password are printed on a label attached to the bottom of the device, though each of these can be changed in the MiFi’s UI.
To access the MiFi software interface, connect to its Wi-Fi network and point your browser to 192.168.1.1. There you can view your signal strength and battery level, network connectivity, data usage, connected devices, etc. You can also change the SSID, the network key, security setup, etc.
You’re free to connect other devices to the MiFi, including your phone, laptop, etc.
During my testing, the MiFi performed well with my Wi-Fi iPad. The service is stable and the battery life was pretty good - about 4 hours per charge. Although I have EV-DO connectivity at my home and office, I averaged about 700Kbps downstream connections. This isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly mind blowing, either. Your connection speeds will vary based on signal strength, network time, EV-DO availablity, users connected, etc.
One thing is certain, however - a moderately fast connection beats no connection every day of the week.
If you're using the MiFi to browse the web and to check and send email, 1GB is likely all you'll need; but if you download any type of data - movies, music, apps, etc., you'll likely need more. In my three weeks with the MiFi, I used about 525MB, which was largely just surfing and email.
If you want 3G connectivity on your iPad, you should probably get a tablet with the necessary hardware built-in. But if you live in an area where Verizon offers good coverage and AT&T coverage is spotty, this is a viable option. And because the MiFi works without being right next to the iPad (it can be in a pocket, bag, briefcase, etc.) you can use it without necessarily having to mess with it much.
That said, many expect the 2nd Generation iPad to be available with 3G data service from Verizon, so it’s best to wait. And even if the next iPad, too, is AT&T only (which I doubt), it’s still best to wait for a couple of months to enjoy the newer technology.
Verizon will still have MiFis in April.