Review of the iPad Air personal hotspot

Took the iPad Air personal hotspot for a spin this morning. Could not have been a more positive experience.

I travel a lot, and frequently find myself without a net connection. Some of what I do can be done on a cellular iPad, but there are many times when I need to work on my laptop. In the past, I’ve turned to personal hotspots from various carriers, but I’ve never been happy with the reliability and the cost is high for the bandwidth you get.

The iPad Air data plan is $50 per month for 5GB of data. My previous data plan was $30 for 3GB and I rarely used more than 500MB. I look at this as paying an extra $20 per month for the hot spot. Not quite right, but close enough. I’m used to paying between $45-$75 per month for other cellular hotspot solutions. On the cost side, this is a bargain, assuming you can live with the 5GB limit. For me, this is not an issue.

Setup is a breeze, far simpler than any hotspot I’ve ever used. On your iPad, go to Settings / Personal Hotspot and tap the switch to turn it on. That’s it. You’ll have the choice of using the hotspot over WiFi, USB (plug the iPad into your computer) or Bluetooth (you’ll be prompted to enable Bluetooth – I did not do that). Your hotspot will come with a default password that is different for each iPad. Tap on the password to change it.

Back on your computer, the iPad WiFi will appear in the list of WiFi networks as the name of your iPad. For me, the iPad appeared as “Dave Mark iPad Air”. I joined the network, typed in the password, and I was in.

The network speed is fast. I ran a benchmark and found the speed to be about 9MB download and 2.25MB upload. Not as fast as FiOS but still pretty zippy. I did not notice any slowdown when sending emails or browsing the web. Obviously, file downloads will be slower, relative to my broadband connection, but that’s to be expected.

I had a friend log in with a Windows machine and her experience was just as positive. She was able to play World of Warcraft and not notice a bit of difference between WoW on broadband and WoW on a hotspot.

Bottom line, the personal hotspot on my iPad Air is a home run. Simply brilliant.

  • SV650

    The hotspot on iOS devices is a great tool. I’ve been using it on my iPhone for years now, and the convenience to have a secure internet connection most places I travel is a major bonus to owning a smartphone. I usually connect it to a power source, as it does drain the battery more rapidly.

  • Brian

    Does this work with all carriers now? I seem to recall that only Verizon allowed the iPad to use the LTE connection as a personal hotspot (in the US anyway).

    • Dave Mark

      I am on AT&T, so I know it works for that one.

    • Adrayven

      T-mobile is only other one that allows prepaid data tethering w/no contract. Sprint and ATT allow it but it has to be on an existing post paid share plan with ATT and Sprint requires it on post paid and charges extra for tethering..

      At least, thats how ATT and Sprint were a year ago.. Might have changed, I’d check with someone with AT&T.. I do know Sprint has not changed.

  • Steve

    The iPad Mini is an even better hotspot, also using it as my phone even 90% of the time. The air is still too big for pockets 🙂

  • Moeskido

    Interesting. I now have an additional question to ask the T-Mobile rep when I call about their free-data-for-life plan.

  • Trippie

    Does the iPad Air’s hotspot differ in some way from the iPhone’s or have you never used the iPhone’s hotspot in the years it’s been out? Honest question. I don’t understand why anyone with an iPhone would ever use any other kind of hotspot. It should be cheaper to add data to an existing plan than to add another device altogether, right?

    • Adrayven

      No, actually. First, battery .. Tethering with iPad gives you insane longevity with the hotspot feature and you can still use your phone to make calls while using iPad as a hotspot.

      The data plans with the iPads are all prepaid.. and adding data is comparable to other post paid plans.. Of course, you can also add them to post paid Share plans on Verizon and AT&T.. but why if you only use it occasionally, no need to, you’re not tied into a contract with it being prepaid.. Use it for a month, then turn off auto-renewal.

      Also, if more than yourself is using it, like the kids or wife, then your phone doesn’t have to stay with them. You can leave the iPad while you go on a run and keep your phone..

      It’s just a ton more flexible..

      • Trippie

        I guess I was more confused by a review now of a 2 year old feature as if it was new. Also, on AT&T iPhone, you can be on a call while tethering.

  • Dayv!

    I have problems with my iPhone 5 going to sleep and dropping the hotspot connection when I’m doing something with only intermittent connectivity demands (e.g. web browsing). Is this a common problem?

  • Owen_Coffin

    I have an unlimited data plan with Verizon. I have an iPhone 5 and have just ordered an iPad Air (WI-FI only). I also have a JBL Charge speaker which is basically a big battery with speakers attached and has a USB port for device charging. I had a text chat with a Verizon rep yesterday who told me that I can hotspot from my iPhone 5 for an additional $20.00 a month and will have unlimited data for both devices as the iPad data use isn’t counted separately. I know the iPhone battery is the weak link, but I plan to use the JBL charge as an extra battery pack. Anyone see any potential problems with this set up?