updated 10:45 am EST, Fri March 12, 2010
Reduces dependence on stores, desktops
Having finally begun US preorders of the iPad, Apple is also providing more concrete details on the signup process for AT&T carrier service. Unlike the iPhone, people who buy a 3G-ready iPad will be able to subscribe without going to a store. The option is located under a Cellular Data menu under Settings.
A form is provided to choose the level of service, whether 250MB or unlimited, and then enter data for a Visa, Discover, MasterCard or American Express credit card. Once the basic signup is complete, people also have the option of changing or expanding their plan, for instance by adding extra data or an international option. For the 250MB plan a monitoring system is enabled, generating alerts as 20, 10 and finally 0 percent of the data cap remain. iPad owners will also be able to track ongoing usage, or cancel data until it is needed again.
The scheme creates an unusual burden for Apple in that it may have to customize the iPad firmware for every region in which it will be sold, in order to cope with different carrier plans and credit cards. At the same time this makes the iPad more practical as a computer, since it can already be used without regularly syncing to iTunes on a desktop or notebook system.