What is the perfect iPad companion?

by Volker Weber


What it the perfect iPad companion? Hint: it's not the iPhone.

The iPad is basically an iPod touch XXL. Or the other way around: the iPod touch is an iPad nano. They are very similar. No camera, no phone calls. But since it's much bigger, it's going to stay at home much more often. This means, you are going to be fine with Wi-Fi most of the time.

When you do leave home however, you will need to connect via a carrier. That's where the iPad 3G comes in. And where you are asked to pay extra. Not only for the 3G modem, but also for a contract. You would think your carrier would give you an extra SIM for a small one time fee, but instead most carriers would like to sell you an extra contract for the iPad, and you are most likely to not use it that much. Makes perfect sense to the carrier, but not to me.

Since you are likely to carry a mobile phone with you at all times, why can't you just use that to connect? Carriers have invented a new term: tethering. In the olden days you would run a wire from your notebook to your mobile phone and use that as a modem, in more recent times you would use Bluetooth to replace the wire. That however would require the Bluetooth DUN (dial up networking) profile on the iPad, or better yet, the PAN profile (personal area network). That would be low power, easy to setup and very robust.

The carriers don't like that. You might actually use the bandwidth you already paid for. What they do like is to sell you another contract for the iPad. That's why the iPad does not have this capability, same goes for the iPhone.

Things change, when you introduce an Android 2.2 phone to the equation. An uncrippled Android 2.2 phone, that is. It will allow you to create a wireless access point wherever you are. Connect the iPad via Wi-Fi and you are online. Same phone, same SIM, same contract, no extra cost.

The Android phone is not your only option. You might also try any other platform that provides that capability, for instance the Palm webOS devices. However, there is a second reason to go with the Android device: you get access to all the software, Apple would not let you have. Like Wi-Fi finders for instance. Which again is handy for the iPad Wi-Fi.

An iPad runs all iPhone software, an Android 2.2 runs all of the apps in the Adroid Market. And it gives an iPad mobile internet access with no added cost. That's a pretty powerful combination.


I am still very happy with MyWi on a jailbroken (simlockfree) iPhone. It does exactly what I need: provide me with a mobile hotspot, wherever I am. Using a small-fee-VPN on the iPad and the world is good.

Armin Roth, 2010-05-28

Jailbreak does not count. It's unsupported and you can't buy one.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-28

forgot to say: My car hotspot doubles as Navigation system, so I can answer mail (of couse, safely parked in a lay-by) when on the road. :-)

Armin Roth, 2010-05-28

An option I like the look of is a UMTS router: a small gadget you stick a SIM card into and it provides wireless LAN to (I think up to 5) devices. Eg. Huawei E5, which O2 is going to sell unlocked for EUR 129. Its predecessor was tested in c't 10/2010.

Jan-Piet Mens, 2010-05-28

Yes, very good indeed. But why carry another device when your phone can do it?

Volker Weber, 2010-05-28

Volker: I don´t care about counting it or not. I want to use it and not worry about those things you described above. Support is in the community, though - a concept I have come to respect. In this particular case, if I need support, I go here: support.intelliborn.com. I don´t as it simply works, and reminds me of the days when you were able to throw code on a computer without the manufacturer getting in the way. Whether this code you were throwing at it was good or not, wasn´t the manufacturer´s problem, either ;-)

I feel that´s a pretty good concept: Apple supports what they ame up with (Hardware, OS and SSW). And they don´t mess with what I do with the stuff I paid for. But you might call me a friggin conservative old fool, if you wish, you are authorized to do so from now on.

Armin Roth, 2010-05-28

Jan-Piet: in the long run (here meaning LTE) similar devices will replace DSL in many a case of residential access, I guess, providing the customer edge wirelessly northbound.

Armin Roth, 2010-05-28

But what about the battery life of the android phone? Isn't it drowning out very fast?

Marcus Putz, 2010-05-28

why carry another device when your phone can do it?

Indeed useless if your phone can do it. Mine can't.

Jan-Piet Mens, 2010-05-28

Marcus, yes, it's heavy on the battery. But despite having used Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot for a couple of times yesterday, I survived the whole day on one charge of the Nexus One.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-28

I read that O2 Germany will not allow tethering any more with the small data packs - making things complicated and restricted again. Hopefully it's not true. If you use tethering a lot, you will upgrade your data plan anyway (the small one is 200 MB UMTS-HSDPA für 10 Euros)

Christian Just, 2010-05-28

Du willst in jedem Fall die 1 GB Option, wenn Du mit dem iPad unterwegs bist. Die wird nicht eingeschränkt, oder? Bei der 200 MB Option macht das alles sowieso keinen Sinn.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-28

Willkommen im Jahr 2010: Man rennt mir einen gehackten Handy durch die Gegend um einen um sämtliche Anschlüsse kastrierten Pseudo Notebook einen Datenzugang zu ermöglichen!

O Gott wie sinnlos!

Nur nebenbei: Natürlich war ich heute früh auch bei Gravis. Ipads gab es wie Sand am Meer oder besser gesagt: wie Öl im Meer. Jetzt liegt soone Sinnlos Kiste bei mir im Kofferaum. Naja Konsequenz war noch nie meine Stärke :-)

Roland Dressler, 2010-05-28

i get the same effect with joikuspot http://www.joiku.com/ on an old symbian G3 phone

Mark Myers, 2010-05-28

Die PC-Nutzung ist auch mit der 1 GB-Option untersagt.

Christian Just, 2010-05-28

my current way...

sell T-Mobile iPhone 3GS this weekend hopefully. t-mobile Sims are already killed.

since yesterday iPad 3G with self cutted 'micro' o2 Multicard with 5GB Data-Package VoIP and thether friendly.. No snares like big magenta

Tomorrow via DHL Nexus One with the fresh FroYo then

Thats a Device Overkill, but i'm snoopy about FroYo too ;))

Martin Jaecke, 2010-05-28

I like this idea. I've got the iPhone 3G, and my ^%@#$@$ contract is up in a few months. I was thinking about Android anyway, but I hadn't considered tethering my iPad with one. Now I'll have to really start seriously digging through the various Android phones, I guess. Apple's insistence on controlling their devices so thoroughly can be very frustrating, but the six million different Android devices are annoying, too - just in a different way. Any favorites?

Rob McDonagh, 2010-05-28

Pardon my ignorance on the subject but what is this about then?

Slawek Rogulski, 2010-05-29

It's about this new capability the carriers charge extra for when you connect a notebook to the iPhone. Or switch it off altogether like AT&T does.

On top of that, the iPad is not a notebook. Do you know what the iPhone cable looks like? One USB plug, one Apple plug? You can't run this cable from the iPhone to the iPad. Much in the same way as you can't run it from the iPod touch to the iPhone.

That's the physical part you could solve with the USB dongle from the Camera Connection Kit. However, the iPad would not accept the iPhone on that port, neither does it have the software to support it.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-29

Rob, today without a doubt the Nexus One. In a few months? Ask again.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-29

So I just did an experiment. I connected a MacBook to the Internet via an IPhone. The IPhone and the MacBook are connected via Bluetooth - no cables required. The Iphone is running off StarHub (one of the three telcos in Singapore) 3G network.

Slawek Rogulski, 2010-05-29


you might want to read the fine print on the link you pasted above:
"Tethering is not currently offered in the U.S. and some other countries. See your carrier for availability."


a more general question: Assuming the contract doesn't allow tethering but the phone is able to do it (e.g. because it's a Nexus One on a SIM only contract), would the carrier be able to detect it and/or stop it?

Armin Grewe, 2010-05-29

Ah yes, the fine print ... how true is it that the devil is in the details?

Slawek Rogulski, 2010-05-29

Slawek, on top of that, you can't do with an iPad what you are doing with a Macbook. I wrote about the missing profiles, didn't I? Bluetooth is not an available/not available. There are tons of capabilities, and iPhone and iPad have only few of them.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-29

which ipad case do you think is the best?

Simon Miller, 2010-05-29

So does anyone have any opinions on the Dell Streak?

Slawek Rogulski, 2010-05-29

I have a couple of cases and prefer two Belkins. Search for Belkin in the top right search field. The main reasons I like them is that they feel "expensive" and I never have to take the iPad out.

I am also waiting for a clear TPU sleeve. Looks like silicon, but is way better. That is what has won the race for the perfect iPhone sleeve. Belkin could not start developing them before they had a physical device. Drawings are not good enough for a perfect fit of a hard material. The leather sleeves are soft, so they don't have to be so perfect.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-29

"sonthey"? You were writing this on the iPad indeed :-)

Armin Roth, 2010-05-30

Innovation: New typos.

Volker Weber, 2010-05-30

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