The iPad as a Personal Hotspot: Over 25 Hours of Continuous Use

Verizon makes the decision of which iPad to buy even more difficult by being the only of the two US carriers to enable the personal hotspot option on the new iPad. For no additional monthly fee on top of your data plan your Verizon LTE iPad can act as a wireless hotspot, allowing up to five other devices to use its cellular connection over WiFi (2.4GHz only, unfortunately) or Bluetooth. One device can use the hotspot via the iPad's USB dock cable.

If you don't already have the personal hotspot option in the initial settings page, you'll need to go to general settings, then network, and activate personal hotspot there. Once you've done so you'll see a new item for personal hotspot in the default settings page.

You must remain on the personal hotspot settings page for the iPad's SSID to be visible to nearby devices. Once you leave the settings page, the iPad stops broadcasting its personal hotspot SSID.

In general the iPad's personal hotspot seems to be better behaved than similar options under Android. I've noticed all too often that Android hotspots will either stop routing traffic after an extended period of use, requiring either cycling the radio states on the hotspot device itself or in some cases a full reset of the hardware. The iPad wasn't immune to this sort of behavior, it just seemed to happen less than on the Android tablets and smartphones that I've tested. In one test it took only a few hours before I had to reset the iPad to make its hotspot work properly again, while in another case it was only after 24 hours of continuous use that the feature began misbehaving. Overall I am very pleased with the Verizon iPad as a personal hotspot, the bigger issue is the cost of the data that you're sharing with all of those devices.

As I mentioned in our Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE review, these LTE tablets make great hotspots simply because you are pairing smartphone modems with gigantic (for a smartphone) batteries. The end result is if you have to treat your LTE tablet as a true hotspot (screen off and all), you get great battery life. The new iPad takes this idea to a completely new level since its battery is now squarely in the laptop-sized category, but its LTE modem is still designed to run on a < 6Wh smartphone battery.

Our standard hotspot battery life test involves running four copies of our web browsing battery life test and playing a 128Kbps internet radio stream on a laptop tethered via WiFi to the hotspot being tested. While peak download speeds during this test can reach as high as 1MB/s, remember that these web browsing battery life scripts include significant idle time to simulate reading a web page. The average data transferred over the duration of the test amounts to around 25KB/s if you take into account idle periods.

With the Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE I tried something different—letting the tethered notebook download at full speed using the Tab's LTE connection. On the new iPad, after nearly an hour of downloads at well over 1MB/s I saw no drop in the battery percentage indicator—it was stuck at 100%. Not wanting to upset Verizon too much, I needed to find a good balance between a realistic workload and something that wasn't going to make me rack up over a hundred GB in overages.

If our standard hotspot test averages around 25KB/s of transfers, I figured doubling it couldn't hurt. I downloaded a sufficiently large file at a constant 50KB/s on a laptop tethered over WiFi to the new iPad to see how long it would last. The result was astounding: 25.3 hours on a single charge

WiFi Hotspot Battery Life Time

I used up over 4.5GB during this period—almost the entire amount that my $50/month plan gave me, all without having to plug the iPad in to recharge it. That's the beauty of using a 42.5Wh battery to drive a cellular modem that can last a couple of hours on a tenth of that capacity. If you want to use the new iPad as a personal hotspot, you'll likely run out of data before you run out of battery life.

It's a real shame that AT&T decided against enabling personal hotspot on its version of the LTE iPad. It's for this reason alone that I'd recommend the Verizon version, assuming that you're planning on using your iPad in an area where Verizon has LTE coverage of course.

The Most Tangible Feature: LTE Support The Camera, It's Much Improved
POST A COMMENT

233 Comments

View All Comments

  • JasperJanssen - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    The iPad uses the same battery technology as the iPhone and the MacBook Air — flat LiPo cells. As owner of all three (iPad 1, 3, iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, MacBook Air 13" mid-2011) I can tell you that yes, this is fine. The absolute least degradation of your battery capacity would be to leave it around 70% full and never use the device.

    Second best is to not let it drain down too far, say not under 20-30%. Third best from a capacity standpoint but by far the best in user experience is to not worry about it. All of my devices (iPhone in front, of course) drain to under thirty percent on a regular basis. The one I've had and used longest, the iPad (1st gen), hasn't had a perceptible decrease in battery life after two years, although I admit I haven't run actual tests. 

    If you do manage to use it so much the battery gets tired, a replacement out of warranty from Apple costs only $99+shipping, slightly more than DIY but a lot less hassle. Currently that service is available for all iPhones including the 2G, so not very likely to be unavailable during the useful life of an iPad.
    Reply
  • evolucion8 - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I love your articles and site, I wish I could say the same thing to your forums, most admins there are just doing their own whatever it feels like, threating and offending people with private messages and turning your forums into a monkey sling cr*p fest. Reply
  • sunilt - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Which application you used for downloading with constant speed?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now