With the iPad 2, many people are sure to be excited that Apple is offering both AT&T and Verizon versions of the iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G. After all, many out there bemoan the less than desirable 3G service offered by AT&T, so it’s nice that those people can buy an iPad 2 which allows them to opt for Verizon’s 3G service. However, if you are a frequent international traveler like me, you’ll want to make sure you buy the AT&T version of the iPad 2.
While you can buy any iPad 2 and use it on Wi-Fi networks when you land in a specific country, you won’t be able to buy a data plan in most countries if you have the Verizon iPad 2. The reason for this is simple: the AT&T iPad 2 features a GSM chipset, which is the near-universal global standard. The Verizon iPad 2 3G uses a CDMA chipset, which, globally, is nowhere near as universal as GSM.
Of course, I’m assuming that you travel to most places I do, like Europe, Russia, Asia, and South America. If you are going to be traveling to Canada or Mexico a lot, the Verizon iPad 2 will work just fine for you since both those countries have wide CDMA networks. However, for most other parts of the world you’re better off going with the AT&T iPad 2. When I leave the US with my AT&T iPad 2 and land in the UK, I can whip out my iPad and buy a 30-day subscription using one of Apple’s data partners in the UK. If I had a Verizon iPad 2, on the other hand, I’d be out of luck for 3G data service while in the UK. Just something to think about before you let your frustration at AT&T’s service push you into the open arms of the Verizon iPad 2.
NOTE: I’ve called two different Apple stores asking them if the iPad 2 3G model will be unlocked. The first store’s representative said “Yes, absolutely. Just insert a foreign carrier’s SIM when you arrive in the country and you’ll be able to buy local 3G service.” The second store’s representative said, “I don’t think they’ll be unlocked.” However, even if the iPad 2 is shipping locked, it is easy to unlock it and if you are an international traveler, you are still going to want to go with the AT&T iPad 2 because you’ll be able to use it on any GSM network. An unlocked Verizon iPad 2 will not be able to access 3G data networks in most countries because it uses a CDMA chipset.