1.) The biggest difference between the two is the addition of 3G wireless capabilities which allow you to stay connected to the Internet while on the go. To use the 3G service you’ll need to sign up for one of two iPad data plans. One plan gives you 250MB for $14.99 while the other is an unlimited monthly plan for $29.99. Both plans are limited to domestic US coverage. You have the option to sign-up for international roaming if you need coverage while traveling abroad, but be careful as international roaming fees can be extremely expensive.
Having 3G wireless also leads to the need for two physical differences when compared to WiFi only models:
- A.) To get a good wireless signal, Apple had to cut out part of the iPad’s aluminum case and replace it with black plastic to improve wireless reception. This change might not look as stylish but makes all the difference in getting a good signal.
- B.) Like an iPhone, the 3G iPad needs a SIM card to identify the device and connect to a cellular network. The iPad has a small door on the side that pops out to reveal a SIM tray where you can insert the micro SIM.
3G Black Plastic Cover & 3G iPad’s micro SIM slot (image from iFixit’s 3G iPad teardown)
2.) Although both iPad versions support location services, only the 3G model has built-in GPS. Both units are able to determine your location based on WiFi triangulation but the 3G model adds a dedicated Broadcom GPS chip which provides a more accurate location fix. The built-in GPS is also able to determine your location even when you are out of range of WiFi signals, for example when you are out in a field using your cool new iPad Star Walk app.
3G iPad’s GPS Chip (image from iFixit’s 3G iPad teardown)