There is no denying that the iPad is a transformative multimedia device. As a member of my firm’s Technology Committee I have had the pleasure of putting the iPad through its paces to determine whether it can be a useful litigation tool in addition to being a really cool toy. While it does come up short in a number of areas, I have enthusiastically adopted the iPad to my practice and highly recommend it to those who are willing to take the time to learn the “work arounds” necessary to deal with the design quirks of the device.
My iPad is the 32 GB WiFi only version that retails for $599.00 (16 GB $499.00, 64 GB $699). While WiFi only may be acceptable for some uses, it is not, in my opinion, suitable for litigation purposes. Why? because without an Internet connection, the iPad becomes little more than a curious paperweight. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but most of the features I use require internet access and I need it all the time (database access, research tools, email, calendar, etc.).
My internet solution is a MiFi card from Virgin Mobile (Sprint) that retails for $149.00 at BestBuy and RadioShack. For those not familiar with MiFi, it is a small device about the size of a deck of cards but on 1/3 as thick (see details in subsequent post). It is a personal WiFi hot spot that can allow up to 5 devices to securely connect and access the Internet. Battery life is about 4 hours but you can also plug it in. I went with the Virgin Mobile version because their plan does not require any contract and has unlimited access for $40.00 per month.
Verizon sells the iPad and uses a similar MiFi card for its service which allows users to purchase 1GB of data for $20, 3GB of data for $35, or 5GB for $50. Users on the 1GB plan are charged $20 for each extra gigabyte they consume, while those on the 3GB and 5GB pay a $10 overage charge per gigabyte. This is a special price for iPad bundled devices and requires a service contract. If you just buy the MiFi card from Verizon the month costs are higher. Verizon offers three iPad-MiFi bundles: the 16GB iPad plus MiFi for $629.99; the 32GB plus MiFi for $729.99; and the 64GB plus MiFi for $829.99.
You can also buy the 3G versions of the iPad which cost about $130.00 more. These iPads have the internet capability built into the iPad itself. AT&T is currently the only provider for this 3G service, but 3G iPads can be purchased from other vendors than AT&. Verizon’s bundle prices are the same as what you would pay for the iPad with integrated AT&T 3G. But Apple and AT&T offer a choice of two service plans: 250MB a month for $14.99 or 2GB month for $25.
The choice of which plan is right for you comes down to how much data you anticpate that you will use and whether you want to carry around a separate MiFi Card. I went with the MiFI becasue it allows me to share the internet connection with my tech savvy wife and kids on long car trips, etc. It could also prove useful for the same reasons in court (e.g., you can share the connection with colleagues, WiFi enabled printers, laptops, etc.). I anticipated that I would download videos and use streaming applications, so the unlimited data plan seemed to make sense to me (although the first month I used less than 3 GB of data).
In my next blog, I will discuss the pros and cons of the iPad as compared to a laptop, which is the litigator’s standard.