The big unanswered question from our announcement of the “Ridiculously Awesome” Millenicom iPad Mini deal – would the iPads be locked to T-Mobile or not? Millenicom expected that they would be, though my research lead me to expect that like other iPad’s the devices from Millenicom would actually be unlocked.
Our Retina iPad Mini arrived this evening, and we’ve been testing it with every SIM (the tiny card that identifies a phone or tablet to the subscribed wireless network) we have in the house.
It works with every SIM we threw at it!
And despite what we had been told to expect, the T-Mobile plan activated on the SIM even supports Personal Hotspot tethering!
Here are some quick testing notes:
The SIM that comes from Millenicom pre-installed in the Retina iPad is activated on T-Mobile’s network, and provides for FREE service until March 1st, 2014. The plan provides for 6.5GB LTE data, unlimited “non-LTE” service, and unlimited international 2G data (in over 100 countries!).
I do not yet know whether the “unlimited non-LTE service” includes T-Mobile’s fast 4G network, or whether it drops back to the much slower 2G network when you have reached your monthly limit. If it includes unlimited 4G, this is incredibly awesome. And even if not, this is still superb – at the very least you’ll still be able to get at email until your monthly account reset rolls around.
Millenicom has posted some more details of what happens come March:[quote_box_center]What happens after March 1, 2014?
You will automatically be subscribed to the $59.99 6.5GB, unlimited non-LTE service plan with unlimited International service in over 100 countries worldwide. You can change to the 500MB service plan for $19.99 per month. For customers using other service plans with Millenicom you can chose the 500MB LTE with unlimited international service for $10.00 per month.
Special Note: If you ordered one of these iPads based on our pre-announcement, be sure to notify Millenicom of your decision by March 1. We were not aware when we posted of the automatic subscription to the $59.99 plan.[/quote_box_center]
T-Mobile’s coverage area is dwarfed by Verizon and AT&T, but even considering the network limitations this option is too good to ignore as a secondary connection, and we’ll be keeping an eye on coverage as we travel to see how viable T-Mobile may be as a primary nomadic companion.
But an even bigger surprise for us was discovering that Personal Hotspot works perfectly on the Millenicom / T-Mobile SIM included with the iPad, and we were able to create a hotspot to get our laptops online with the free data too. Total Score, considering Millenicom had told us upfront that personal hotspot would not work.
And BTW – we also tested the Millenicom / T-Mobile SIM in Cherie’s older AT&T iPad Mini. It worked, though here in Austin we are only getting LTE on the Retina Mini, and the older Mini is only getting 4G. I am a bit surprised by this.
We’ll test further in other places around town.
Next up, we tried the grandfathered unlimited AT&T SIM from Cherie’s old iPad Mini.
And… It worked great in the Millenicom Retina Mini – instantly connecting with LTE!
With this SIM we have unlimited Netflix streaming, and access to AT&T’s network.
I also tried the SIM from my AT&T iPhone 5, and to my surprise that worked as well – connecting to LTE just fine. Of course it was incapable of making any voice calls, but FaceTime and Skype worked fine. If you have one of the ‘unlimited’ AT&T iPhone plans however, do not expect it to work – as that plan never included shareable data with other devices.
So check ‘works with AT&T service’ off the testing list. Another Score!
Verizon (Millenicom Hotspot SIM)
The next test was the SIM from our Millenicom 20GB Hotspot plan, which is actually a Verizon LTE SIM that came shipped with a Novatel 4620LE Jetpack Device. But because the 4620 device has some firmware issues that make it frustrating to use, we have been running the SIM card in our iPad 3rd generation instead, and using Personal Hotspot from there to make a WiFi hotspot. It’s been working great, but we were curious if the T-Mobile iPad would be able to take over that role.
The iPad 3 and the Millenicom Novatel MiFi Hotspot use a “Micro” sized SIM card, and the iPad Mini’s use a “Nano” sized SIM card. We used a SIM cutting tool ($8.88 on Amazon) to cut the Verizon SIM down to nano-size, popped it into the Retina iPad Mini, and… Verizon LTE with Personal Hotspot enabled!!!
This Retina iPad Mini actually makes for the perfect device to use with the Millenicom Hotspot plan when the 4620 is flaking out. Score, Score, Score!
[quote_center]Note: The Retina iPad Mini is compatible with Verizon LTE radio frequencies. The non-Retina iPad Mini being offered by T-Mobile / Millenicom has a different radio, and is NOT Verizon (or Sprint) compatible at all. If you want to transplant a Verizon SIM, keep this in mind![/quote_center]
We do not have a Sprint account or SIM to test with, but we have heard reports that even though all iPads seem to be fully unlocked as shipped from Apple, Sprint at the network level is blocking cellular activation of any iPad that they do not sell pre-activated.
If anyone has any luck trying a Sprint SIM, please post here.
Universal & Unlocked – Yeehaw!
So it seem that the Retina iPad Mini via Millenicom really is indeed fully unlocked – you can use it on any network that you have a valid activated SIM card for. And of course – the T-Mobile plans that Millenicom are offering are pretty awesome too.
It is just great to have so many options to pop in whatever SIM works in your current location – and no painful contracts either. And because the iPads offered are the cellular version, you get a true GPS chipset to enable better navigation. The only downside of this offer is that the iPad Minis offered is in the 16GB size.
This offer is now officially available on Millenicom’s website. If you haven’t checked it out yet I suggest you act fast – they told us this was “limited” but we have no idea how quickly they will run out of iPad Minis to sell.
The price is too good to ignore – this is better than any “Black Friday” iPad deal I have seen anywhere, not even factoring in the free T-Mobile data service until March!
Now… I have to figure out how to make due with just 16GB of storage on my iPad now!
Disclosure: We have absolutely no affiliation with Millenicom and have nothing to gain by posting this review, we’re just happy long term customers who have become trusted enthusiasts. We usually purchase our own equipment from them and pay for our own service, though as a thank you for getting the word out about this offer, Millenicom surprised us by ‘neglecting’ to charge us for the Retina iPad Mini they shipped us, though we did not ask for this nor expect it when we first placed our order. Thank you Millenicom!
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