Anyway, signal type for the delivery of data over the air is becoming more and more confusing to a lot of people. For those not familiar, here’s the difference in laymen’s terms:
- WiFi – This is a location specific broadcasting of that location’s internet signal. Homes, offices, cafe’s, stores, etc. You will lose the signal when leaving the building or a short distance from it. It’s typically faster than the cellular ‘G’ signals.
- 3/4G – This is a non-location specific data delivery using a cellular signal. It’s convenient because this signal type allows for use “anywhere/anytime”. It is typically slower than a WiFi signal.
So if 3/4G offer “anytime/anywhere” signal types then I should want that in a tablet, right? Actually, the answer is “no” and I will explain why as well as what your options are. There are two basic reasons not to purchase a 3/4G version of a tablet:
- No choice of carrier or plan. Getting the “best deal” on services like data is never accomplished without choice. Unlike WiFi which is standard architecture in a device, 3/4G is a unique chipset to each carrier. Therefore, a device with built-in 3/4G has to be made for a specific carrier. You have no choice.
- Cost is higher. Compared to WiFi-only devices, 3/4G included devices are typically $100 to $200 more for the cost of the device.
No argument here that 3/4G signal capability can be very convenient and beneficial for many users. So what are your options? And what are the benefits?
- MiFi – These are battery powered little boxes offered by cellular companies like Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. Once on, you become a walking mobile WiFi-like hotspot using the 3/4G signal of the cellular carrier. You get the mobility convenience plus your choice of plan and service as well as initial cost savings of the tablet.
- Tethering from your data-enable smartphone – “Tethering” is the function of using your smartphone as a data modem for things like laptops and tablets. It’s done either through a USB or Bluetooth connection. Be careful hear because this isn’t free to do. Most cellular carriers allow this as an additional service and fee for smartphone owners. Check with your cellular carrier. Likewise, watch your data usage if you are on a set data amount each month as full-featured web usage can quickly rack up a lot in terms of data usage.
The bottom-line to it all is that the inclusion of 3/4G in a tablet (or any device) nowadays is not all that important. WiFi is definitely important. If you need the 3/4G flexibility of “anytime/anywhere”, you have choice (which is always the best way to go) while not shelling out additional upfront costs and being locked in with one carrier.
eReaders also come up here with things like Amazon’s Kindle or B&N’s 3G Nook. These are a bit different in that users are not paying monthly for that signal and that is because the only thing the 3G is being used for is the download of a ebook. eBooks are typically small in file size and place a very low burden on cellular networks. This “tide is turning” as well, and we are seeing better ereaders come out without including the 3G signal and being WiFi-only to give lower cost to the customer. Again, the user now has choice with things like a MiFi box.
What are you thoughts?