iPad available at Verizon on Oct. 28, sort of
My first thought when I saw this was: "Wow, Verizon will have the iPad in two weeks." The iPhone rumors must be true." Not so fast.
Verizon won't have the iPad on their network in two weeks, they'll just be selling the WiFi-only version bundled with a Verizon MiFi mobile 3G hotspot device with special pricing. You can use your iPad that way now if you buy a MiFi (actually, that's what I do), so what's the big deal?
Well, the monthly plans look reasonable and you don't have to sign a contract, so that's pretty attractive and similar to the month-to-month plans AT&T offers for the iPad. The bundle prices are 16GB for $629, 32GB for $729 and $64GB for $829. They'll also be selling WiFi-only iPads without a bundled MiFi for $130 off those prices ($499, $599 and $699). So basically, you're paying $130 for a MiFi and the right to use the special, bundled data plans. Unless you don't plan on using your iPad on the go, that doesn't seem like a very good deal to me. Let's do some comparisons.
Currently a MiFi costs $269.99 without a contract and $99.99 with a 2-year commitment, with an automatic online discount showing the MiFi is free with a new contract. A 5GB monthly plan costs $59.99. Verizon already has pay-as-you-go plans for the MiFi, with $50 a month getting you 1GB of data and $80 getting you 5GB.
Pricing on the the Verizon iPad bundled data plans for the MiFi are much better, with $20 for 1GB, $35 for 3GB and $50 for 5GB and no contract. And the advantage of using the MiFi instead of built-in 3G is you also can use it with your phone, your laptop, etc...up to five devices.
AT&T's monthly data pricing for iPads with built-in 3G is $14.99 for 250MB and $25 for 2GB. If you exceed the allotted amount in one month, you have the option buy another allotment or wait until the end of the month. Using the instant allotment method on the AT&T plans 1GB of data would be $59.96 and 4GB would be $50. This makes the Verizon iPad plans look pretty competitive and attractive. Both the AT&T and Verizon plans also include access to WiFi Hotspots.
If you already have a MiFi, can you buy an iPad at Verizon and take advantage of the special data pricing? Nope. According to the Verizon iPad FAQ that pricing is only good for people who buy the MiFi bundled with the iPad.
So this is sort of a head-scratcher. I guess if you want to pay $130 upfront for a MiFi and the option to use it with your iPad on Verizon's network without a contract it's a fair deal. And at $50 for 5GB a month it's actually $10 cheaper a month than the normal 5GB plan and you always have the option to pay less if you you less. Once you get a MiFi however, and realize how convenient it is to use with your other devices, you'll want the 5GB plan.
The one downside I see is when buying a WiFi-only iPad you lock yourself in to that choice. If Verizon actually gets the iPad later with 3G or 4G built-in, you'll have to take the upgrade path to get that functionality.