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How to Make the $499 iPad 3G Compatible (Thanks, Verizon!)

Verizon ipad

Verizon won't be getting any action from Apple's iPad directly but, bless 'em, they're trying to make good of the matter and push 3G wireless dongles on users who've bought Wi-Fi only versions. Thing is, they've probably got the right idea.

The guys at Engadget have been "leaked" an internal memo from Verizon on the matter. And it's so desperately hopeful it's almost cute. Until you remember that this is a multi-billion-dollar market that this company is desperately sticking claws into so it don't lose its grip on the market. Check out the screenshot above to see what I mean.

"Apple introduces the iPad—an opportunity for VZW" and "Sounds great, but isn't iPad exclusive to AT&T?" being the most priceless phrases in there. The document is otherwise straightforward, and merely lists the key hardware and contractual features we already know about Apple's wonder device. But the intention is obvious: It's clear that many iPad buyers will opt for the lower-priced versions lacking 3G chips inside since they're $130 cheaper. Apple's already explained that you won't be able to tether the tablets to iPhones to exploit that device's 3G powers, so if you're ever to use a Wi-Fi only iPad while mobile, you'll need a different solution.

Verizon 3GWhich is where Verizon sees itself fitting right in. It'll be offering a specialized version of its battery-powered 3G units that, when powered on, grab Verizon's 3G signal from its nationwide network and converts it to a local Wi-Fi signal your iPad can pick up. Meaning people who opted for the low-end iPad can hook up to mobile broadband just like the more cash-rich folk who buy a 3G iPad.

The trick in all this is pricing, of course. Verizon will have to sell the dongle for less than the $130 premium Apple's charging for a 3G-enabled iPad, and it'll have to be super-smart about the way it charges for access to mobile data too, since we know that in the U.S. at least, AT&T's opting for a European-style "opt-in, opt-out" non-contract payment model. And this AT&T option is a smart move, which will certainly appeal to people who're not interested in yet another two year 3G contract.

But Verizon, for all its "cuteness" on this issue, has tapped what's likely to be a very lucrative revenue vein, and it's one that'll be replicated elsewhere around the World. It's partly because of the nature of the iPad itself, as a half-smartphone, half-PC device. For me, this will make it invaluable when I'm mobile and need to write. But I already use a 7.2 mbps 3G datastick for my laptop, and I don't need to duplicate that functionality in a 3G-enabled iPad. I'm certain I'll be looking for a similar solution to Verizon's here where I live. And I'm 100% sure I won't be alone in this. Which makes me wonder...while Apple's clearly sticking with its AT&T exclusivity, is the Wi-Fi-only iPad a way to subtly tap the other 3G providers in the U.S. who don't suffer from AT&T's sucky reliability image?

[Via Engadget]

To read more news like this, possibly on your iPad in a month, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.