If you’re dreaming about buying an iPad, it’s worth sparing a few moments to think about how you’ll connect it to the web. Sure, you could just hop from Wi-Fi hotspot to Wi-Fi hotspot - but with no network lock-down, the 3G plans are looking surprisingly tasty. Tastier than standard mobile broadband, in fact. All of them are short-term, too, so you don’t need to tie yourself in.
Even if you can’t stretch to an extra £100 for n iPad with its own 3G micro-SIM slot, you can connect to a 3G network via Wi-Fi if you buy one of 3’s Mi-Fi portable hotspots for £40. It’ll save on iPad battery life, too, though you’ll need to keep the modem charged.
Of course, it’s worth checking coverage in your local area before making your final decision, but here’s our pick of the best deals, together with a lovely table that explains all the options.
Best for one-day binge surfers There’s no arguing with O2’s daily tariff - half a gig of data plus connection to any BT Openzone or Cloud hotspots, all for just £2. Incredible value - if you can get an O2 signal, that is.
Best for value hunters Buy a Wi-Fi iPad and 3’s Mi-Fi modem and you’ll save £60 on the price of a 3G-enable iPad. And with a 7GB PAYG top-up for just £25, you’ll get some of the cheapest data, too.
Best for road warriors With their combination of Wi-Fi hotspot access and 3GB of 3G data for £15, Orange and O2 tie. Orange has better 3G coverage, but O2 offers Cloud hotspots as well as BT.
Best for lightweights If you’re only interested in 3G for downloading the odd email, Orange’s 5p per MB PAYG deal isn’t bad (particularly when you consider it costs £6 per MB overseas. Nonetheless, £50 per GB compared to £1.50 per GB on 3’s 10GB deal (see below). You pays your money…
Best for multimedia Wanna slurp down live TV with impunity? The 3 network has much better coverage than most rivals (only Orange is close) so the immensely cheap 10GB monthly pack from 3 (£15) seems like a great deal even without additional Wi-Fi. In fact, it works out at the same price as BT’s basic 10GB home broadband package.