Mobile 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot: iPad vs. NetZero vs. Jetpack
Nobody goes out to buy a 4G iPad expecting to use it only as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. But, independent testing has confirmed that the iPad is capable of acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot for a full 24 hours under the right conditions, so it has its benefits.
A 4G iPad is certainly not the cheapest device you can get to act as a mobile hotspot. So, let’s take a little closer look at how it stacks up against other dedicated mobile hotspot options out there.
The iPad itself starts at $500 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model, but the 4G-enabled devices are $130 more, so buying a 4G iPad starts at $630--far more expensive than either of the dedicated mobile hotspot devices.
As a mobile hotspot, the iPad has two things going for it. First, the aforementioned battery life of 24 hours. Second, it has versatility the other options lack because it is, in fact, a tablet as well. So, it’s a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot with “Retina” display, and tens of thousands of apps.
Keep in mind, though, that using it as a tablet is a tradeoff. The 24 hour endurance as a hotspot is dependent on turning off the display and not using it for anything other than a Wi-Fi hotspot. Everything you do on the iPad itself will consume battery life as well and reduce that 24-hour timeframe.
In order to share a data connection and use the iPad as a 4G hotspot, the cheapest data plan you can get with Verizon is the 5GB plan for $50 per month. You can connect up to five devices at once.
NetZero 4G Hotspot
NetZero is most well known as a free or cheap dial-up Internet provider, but it hasn’t been heard from in quite some time. It emerged from the ashes recently, though, to jump into the mobile Wi-Fi game.
The NetZero 4G Hotspot device itself costs $99. NetZero claims it will run for more than 6 hours when fully charged, and it can connect up to eight devices at a range of up to 150 feet.
The nice thing is that NetZero provides 200MB per month of bandwidth for free. The caveat is that the free 200MB plan is only good for a year, or until you upgrade to a paid plan--whichever comes first. Once you switch off the free plan you can never go back.