I eagerly embraced iPad 3G, hoping to shed the weight of my laptop when traveling to China. Sadly, my conclusion is, iPad doesn’t quite replace my laptop, maybe because I haven’t done enough to unleash its power.
1. High Roaming charges does not justify turning on the 3G data roaming. I alread travel with an iphone, for which I was paying $50/month for 50MB of data roaming, and this was sufficient to address my basic email needs. So I decided not to turn on Data roaming for the ipad. Now, Ipad all come unlocked, so there maybe a cheaper local solution. In China, you can buy a cheap 3G phone card for $30 and have it cut to fit into the ipad. There are professionals at stores like Guomei Electronics who can help cut the phone card for free.
2. Without data roaming, the wireless function is not as easy to use even in 5 star hotels. I tried a few, and surprisingly, the best place to use my ipad is at Songsam Lodge in Shangrila, Yunnan. From all 25 rooms of the lodge, you can get strong wireless signal. One morning, after my jog at an altitude of 10,000 ft, I came back and pleasantly found out I was able to make a SKYPE call to the US from my ipad!
Then I upgraded to try out the Songtsam Retreat, which is under the Accor Hotels. The rooms are beautifully done, but each room comes with only a cable for Ethernet connection. I quickly moved back downhill to Songsam Lodge for the wireless.
Then I tested a series of Chinese five star hotels in Baoshan and Tengchong. Guanfang Hotels are luxuriously furnished that I couldn’t believe they were located in these remote unknown towns in Yunnan. However, they both came with Ethernet connection, and no wireless. (can’t believe they don’t have a website either).
Hotel G in Beijing is the latest designer boutique hotel. Wireless is offered in every room, but my Ipad could not pick up the signal, and after 20 minutes I gave up.
Regent Hotel in Beijing is one of the hidden secrets of Beijing. Great location, the biggest gym among Beijing hotels, and yet fairly affordable prices. There is wireless in the lobby as well as the executive lounge. But, again, I couldn’t make it work either on my iphone or my ipad. There is one release of liability page the ipad keeps pulling up, but couldn’t bypass it to access the free wireless internet. As I was about to give up, they called in an IT specialist to help me. He inputted the IP address on my ipad, and voila, there it is.
3. Multimedia functions not tested. If anyone’s taking large files of photos and videos, test the capabilities of downloading your stuff onto your Ipad at home. It’s a more universal rather than China specific issue, which I didn’t test.
Overall, I’d say the best part of using an ipad in China is the “WOW” effect of using an ipad in public. Other than that, unless I figure out to fit a local 3G sim card in the ipad, I won’t travel with it again to China.