Monday, May 3, 2010

Setup iPad Wi-Fi + 3G with AT&T Cellular Data Plans

The wonderful new iPad Wi-Fi + 3G are being sold like hotcakes and one question people are still asking is how to set up their magical new device with the not-so-magical AT&T and their cellular data plan.  Here is a brief overview:

To set up your iPad Wi-Fi + 3G to use AT&T’s cellular network, assuming you have already set up the iPad itself, go to your iPad’s Settings app and select Cellular Data from the list to the left (as seen in Image 1).

Image 1:  "View Account" takes you to Image 2 (if you've already set up your account, otherwise it gives you a screen where you choose login info, enter a CC number, and pick an initial plan). The "View Account" is also how you set up your account the first time.

Image 2:  Log in using the credentials you selected when you signed up.

Image 3:  You can see your stats and choose to modify plans. Clicking "Add Data or Change Plan" takes you to image 4.

Image 4:  You can see the plan options.

You can upgrade if you think you need more time or downgrade your plan if you think that you’re not using 250 MB in a month (reset your data stats monthly to track usage).

An important thing to consider with the 250 MB plan is that if you are going to be watching a couple of videos a week or downloading content via 3G and not over the Wi-Fi  you will reach your data cap before your 30 days are up.  You will receive a message from AT&T when you’ve passed 80%, 90% and then at 100% of your data cap.  You can then renew for another 250 MB for 30 days, or which ever comes first.


Jerry said...

I thought the 250MB plan might be enough but, in 3 days, I've already pulled down 50MB. Granted, I've been playing with the iPad like crazy since I just got it--but mostly with apps that don't use a ton of traffic--and mostly at home with WiFi. So, I'm pretty sure I'll burn through 250MB in a jiff once I start using it on Caltrain.

Kevin Bomberry said...

Hey Jerry, I was just going over the numbers for average data transfer rates of H.264* movies and if you're watching say 720 x 480 @ 30 fps with Baseline Profile, that's still 10,000 kbit/sec and 12,500, 30,000 and 40,000 kbit/sec for High Profile, High 10 Profile and High 4:2:2 Profile or High 4:4:4 Predictive Profile, respectively.

That is to say an average 30 min video with H.264 (BP) will be about 22 MB and up to 72 MB for the higher profiles.

As the iPad is a content consuming monster I can see how the average user would quickly go through the 250 MB data plan quickly. To know more I'd have to see what ABC, Netflix and the rest are encoding their content as (I'll assume that's it's the former - Baseline Profile for H.264).

The question becomes, will consumers go through 500 MB in a months in turn prompting the upgrade to AT&T's Unlimited Data plan (which probably maxes out at 5 GB/mo.)...

It will be interesting to see what type of consumer backlash there will be, if any, in a month or so when people start to talk about having to upgrade to the Unlimited Plan because they keep going over their transfer quota.

*More information on the H.264 codec can be found at Wikipedia.