Micro-SIM cards for iPad: Will the networks make a killing?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Author: Michael Evans

To buy a wi-fi iPad or wait until mid-May for a 3G model? This is a dilemma that must be facing many prospective buyers. Apple's announcement that 3G deliveries will start on May 7 at least gives people the opportunity to make an informed decision. 

I have decided to buy a wi-fi model with 32GB of storage for a number of reasons. First is that I have an existing data contract with Vodafone costing £15 a month for 3G of data. I've found this adequate for laptop use, so it should be fine for the iPad. I also use a Novatel MiFi mini-router which accepts the Vodafone SIM and creates a small local network for up to five wireless devices. This means I will be able to share one connection with my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. Not that I will always have the three of them with me, but the convenience is clear. 

The new micro-SIM, marginal as it is at the moment, will become a major factor in the planning of all cellular networks from May 7 onwards, even if they don't already have them in stock already. I feel sure we will see a gradual move towards the smaller card, just as we've seen USB-A to cascade down to USB-mini and now to USB-micro. More and more devices will be designed to take the take the new card.

Initially, I fear, the networks will want to make maximum cash out of the iPad's appetite for these new little cards and they will try to ration them to contract holders only. As I understand it, most of the networks will not be selling the iPad direct and will not, therefore, be in a position to offer much in the way of incentive. So a nice long contract in return for a micro-SIM will be attractive to them. I don't hold out much hope of being able to buy a card for, say, £25 and then be able to pay as you use a prepaid credit.

As for the storage capacity, I believe in my case that 32GB should be adequate until I prove otherwise. I have 32GB on the iPhone and still have about 20GB free. I am not likely to want to store lots of movies, so I think I can manage. I also have an eye on selling the wifi model in a few months (perhaps when the second-generation pad arrives?) and at that stage I will be able to make a decision on storage based on experience. And, of course, by that time the 64GB should be cheaper; there may even be a 128GB model on offer.

If I do buy a 3G iPad in the next year it would be good to be able to swap the SIM between the iPad and the MiFi and I am sure there will be a market for adaptors to convert the micro cards to full-size. This is something we've seen with SD cards and I cannot imagine it is impossible with a SIM card. I've searched the net and cannot find any reference so far. On the other hand, by that time I will probably have been able to get a new MiFi with a micro-SIM slot. If you're listening, Novatel, you ought to be thinking of this. And, while you're at it, do increase that battery life from four hours to something approaching the ten hours of the new MacBook Pros. Or, at the very least, make it possible to power the MiFi from the laptop's USB port, something that isn't possible at the moment (you can charge it from the computer's port only when the wifi network is off, strangely enough). 

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