Network coverage – find the best for iPad

iPad_March27_AThe most popular tablet, for now, is Apple’s iPad. It’s hard to go somewhere and not see someone carrying one around these days. One of the reasons for its continued success is that some models can connect to data networks, providing users with Internet access pretty much anywhere. A problem with this is that not all wireless providers offer the same level of coverage. So, how do you tell if your local area is covered? Or if there will be coverage when you travel?

Here’s two ways you can figure out the areas covered by various wireless providers so you can get the most out of your data connection on your iPad.

Within the USA
If you live in the US, you can install an app called Coverage. This app is a map of the United States that shows the network coverage of the major network providers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

When you install and open the app, you will be presented with a map and a panel where you can search for cities or your current location. You can also select which networks to show. The map covers all of the US including Hawaii, Alaska, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which makes it ideal for business users who travel throughout the US.

Because this app doesn’t require an Internet connection, the data isn’t 100% accurate, but from tests, it looks to be accurate enough for most users. USD$2.99 from iTunes.

Rest of the world
If you aren’t in the US, don’t worry. Check out OpenSignal, a website that keeps an up-to-date map of wireless coverage around the world. You can search for 2G, 3G and 4G signal strength using an address or by selecting a country and city.

The map displays what OpenSignal calls a heat map – it’s the signal strength in the area you are looking at. It will also show the NetworkRank based on the strongest signal of the providers. For example, select Sydney as your city and Australia as your country, and zoom into North Sydney. You’ll see that the map is covered in a haze that goes from blue to red. Blue indicates weak signal strength, while red represents strong. You’ll also notice that Telstra Mobile is the strongest provider in this area.

This site can help you pinpoint which carrier to go with, based on your local area. It is also a good way to see if your provider has signal where you may be travelling.

A word of warning
If you do have a data plan for your iPad, and plan to be traveling outside of your current location, it would be a good idea to consult the map or OpenSignal before you leave. There have been many stories of iPad users leaving their data plan on while traveling out of state or country, and receiving shockingly high mobile bills.

This is because if you leave your iPad connected to Data, it will connect to any compatible network e.g., AT&T users in the US will automatically connect to Rogers Wireless if they go to Canada. This is commonly referred to as roaming, and many networks charge extra for this. When traveling, it may be a good idea to just turn off your iPad’s data connection.

You can turn your data connection off by:

  1. Opening your iPad’s Settings app by pressing the icon with the gears.
  2. Tapping on Cellular Data which will be located on the right-hand menu bar.
  3. Sliding the bar beside Cellular Data to Off.

If you are looking to integrate the iPad into your business, and would like help setting it up, please contact us today.

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