The paid service with NetZero runs $10 a month for 500MB, $20 per month for 1GB, $35 a month for 2GB, and $50 a month for 4GB. There are no overage fees with NetZero because the service simply stops working when you max out your allotted bandwidth.
Verizon 4G Jetpack
The Verizon JetPack is the only one of these three options, which can be acquired cheaper by subsidizing it through a two-year commitment to a Verizon data plan. If you buy it with a contract, it’s only $70, but we’re going to compare it based on the no-contract price of $270.
The Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE (also known as the MiFi 4510L) only allows five simultaneous Wi-Fi connections like the iPad, and it has the lowest endurance of the three with an estimated five hours of hotspot time on a full charge.
As with the Verizon 4G iPad, you have to get a 5GB data plan for $50 per month to share the data connection. If you go over the 5GB, each additional 1GB costs another $10.
Which one of these makes the most sense depends on your needs. At $630 for the 4G iPad compared with only $99 for the NetZero 4G Hotspot, NetZero is clearly a cheaper solution.
NetZero also has better battery life than the Verizon device, allows you to connect more devices simultaneously than the iPad or the Jetpack, and provides 200MB of data for free (at least for awhile). It also has the advantage of offering smaller, cheaper data plans for sharing so you’re not required to spend $50 for 5GB if you don’t really need it.
However, if you’re buying the new iPad anyway, that changes the math some. If you plan to buy a new Apple iPad, and you’re just trying to decide between Wi-Fi only or 4G, then you’re only talking about an additional $130 investment which puts it much closer to the cost of the NetZero device.
The $50 a month you have to spend for a data plan to use the iPad as a Wi-Fi hotspot is higher than some of the smaller data plans at NetZero, but think about that for a second. You’re trying to connect multiple devices to share a blazing 4G connection--how long do you think it will take to burn through 500MB or 1GB? What happens when you’re in the middle of important business and you exceed your NetZero data plan, and your service just stops?
The bottom line is that you probably don’t want to buy an iPad to act primarily as a mobile hotspot, but if you’re already going to have a 4G iPad at your disposal it would be silly to invest in a separate dedicated mobile hotspot.