Can I use the iPad in Europe?
January 30, 2010 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Can I use the iPad in Europe?

I live in the US and will be traveling to France for two months, in April and May of this year (2010). If I buy a 3G iPad before I go, what can I use it for in France? GPS? Internet access while out and about or only at home where I have wireless? What kind of service can I get?

And if someone should see it and covet it, at the end of my trip, and I should take pity on them and, say, trade it for something (like cash), what would it do for them in the future?

(Sorry, I just don't understand the connectivity technology, here or in Europe, which is why no matter what I do I can't make my unlocked cell phone work in Europe, to my eternal frustration.)
posted by Capri to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The data plans you'd buy in the US likely won't work internationally (or would charge you a crapload.) But you should able to stick a prepaid SIM with data in that you buy overseas in and get on just fine.
posted by floam at 8:45 AM on January 30, 2010

Unfortunately, a regular SIM won't fit in the iPad. Apple is using the new smaller micro-SIM format, instead of the established mini-SIM standard. You'll need to find a carrier that sells micro-SIMs.
posted by Sfving at 8:53 AM on January 30, 2010

GPS works anywhere on earth.
posted by Mach5 at 9:04 AM on January 30, 2010

Getting your iPad to work in Europe is probably more trouble than it's worth. GPRS from country to country is incredibly expensive and hard to make work.

If you must have an iPad (a used Macbook is cheaper and a whole lot better mobile computing platform), then just buy the WiFi one for now until the wireless issues are sorted out. You would certainly be able to sell off the WiFi version for at least what you paid for it.
posted by uncoy at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2010

You would certainly be able to sell off the WiFi version for at least what you paid for it.

Seconding this, particularly if you sell it in Europe before returning.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:16 AM on January 30, 2010

Your best bet would probably be to get a WiFi-only iPad, then subscribe to a European cell service that can utilize a MiFi 3G-WiFi hotspot thingy.
posted by bengarland at 9:20 AM on January 30, 2010

The wifi-only versions don't have a GPS chip, though, right? I mostly want it for the big GPS screen; I'll be bringing my laptop anyway. I just don't want to use those tiny GPS units that cost 2/3 as much as a full-size iPad.
posted by Capri at 9:39 AM on January 30, 2010

The Apple webpage indicates the GPS is only in the Wifi+3G model. I don't know if that means the Wifi-only version's Maps app will use wifi trajectory to figure out where you are or not. It really is hard to tell months before launch what this means. Often times the tech spec pages on the website will change as we get closer to launch. We will learn a little more when the product clears the FCC licensing and the geek sites reveal the radio/gps/etc details.

If you are buying the iPad mainly for the GPS features I would wait to make a decision about it until it launches (or at least the reviewers get to put them through the paces shortly before launch). It is still 60-90 days away.

A benefit of a GPS-only device is that has the maps built-in so you don't need a wifi/cellular network to see the map. If you've used the iPhone in the middle of nowhere w/o a signal you see the blue dot on a field of nothing. Not really helpful to find your way around.

Apple will sell the product in Europe at or shortly after launch which will mean there will probably be similar 3G data plans from European carries to that you get with AT&T you get in the US. The question is who will start selling micro-SIM prepaid data cards in the various countries and what kind of roaming will the have between countries. It would have to be cheaper than whatever AT&T will offer (AT&T hasn't announced details of its plans yet either but Apple said it is contract free and I wonder if standard international data rates apply. I would also suspect that T-mobile USA will over a mico-SIM card for people to use on its EDGE network).
posted by birdherder at 10:35 AM on January 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also keep in mind you may not be able to even buy an iPad 3G before you leave. If it's shipping in 90 days, you're looking at end of April before it would even ship.

The iPhone 1.0 did not have a GPS chip, but the maps application was still very useful. It would use wireless triangulation to find the location. Note that you'd need an active wifi connection to actually see the maps, however.

As for your unlocked cellphone, it most likely uses a GSM band that europe does not. I had the same issue with an old nokia I took with me to germany.
posted by CharlesV42 at 11:26 AM on January 30, 2010

Depending on UK prices, I'm most likely going to be buying a US one for use in the UK. I'm expecting no issues at all.
posted by bonaldi at 11:43 AM on January 30, 2010

Wow, I didn't realize that the WiFi-only version had no GPS. That's fucking stupid.
posted by bengarland at 12:29 PM on January 30, 2010

the iPad with 3G will work on the following frequencies (from iPad Specs):

UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

as long as you find a micro-SIM card for a carrier that operates on one of those (note: UMTS is 3G, GSM is not), it should work fine. the iPad will be unlocked when they come out and there's no contract with AT&T (per the keynote - these things sometimes change before the device actually comes out). these frequencies cover most places, AFAIK, that use GSM/UMTS.

more pressing is that it's gonna be three months until the iPad actually comes out with the 3G modem in it. it was announced on the 27th, so figure April 27th before it comes out (maybe - who knows if they'll have delays?). granted that, as with most other new Apple products, everyone and their mom will be buying one, it may be hard to get one before you leave. you might want to look at a regular GPS device anyway, as a backup plan. you may also want to look at what's available for GPS apps for iPhone - Google Maps requires a data connection, so if you're in an area with no coverage, it's not going to work. normal GPS apps for iPhone come with built-in maps, just like a regular GPS device.
posted by mrg at 3:02 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks all. Very helpful.
posted by Capri at 8:29 PM on January 31, 2010

Wow, I didn't realize that the WiFi-only version had no GPS. That's fucking stupid.

It's because it uses A-GPS, which requires assistance from the cell network to aid in getting a satellite lock. I'm not sure whether A-GPS degrades gracefully in the absence of a cell network, but if it doesn't, that may explain why they would omit it from the Wi-Fi only version.
posted by Nothlit at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2010

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