The woe of travelling with an iPad, internationally

My partner recently went on a trip to the UK. She brought her Windows (name redacted) laptop and the iPad. We had done some research on the use of pay-as-you-go data micro sims and found out that either Orange (link to Orange iPad plans here) or O2 (link to O2 iPad plans here) would be fine as each had (free!) micro sims you could get at their shops specifically for the iPad. On arrival she duly went to an O2 shop and got the micro sim. On inserting it she found to her dismay that she needed to connect it to iTunes to download some O2 settings (see O2’s weblink here) which then would be transferred to the iPad – must be the O2 specific settings UI or something. She had, at this point, already transferred her library to the Mac Mini and was syncing to that, and decided that it would be better not to perturb anything by syncing the iPad to iTunes on that Windows laptop.

Morals of the story:

  1. Inserting a micro sim does not mean that you’ll get immediate connection

  2. In most cases you’ll need a portable Mac with your iTunes library

  3. There are some carriers which have over the air activation, but you’ll have to look for them

I am dumbstruck at how difficult it is to just take the iPad out of the country and get data access via cellular networks. We almost take ubiquitous data access here in the US for granted.

On another note, Katie Floyd and David Sparks over at the Mac Power Users podcast (Episode #36) talked about Katie’s recent travel to Blog World Expo with just her iPad.

One important fact I took away was that she brought along her Airport Express! This is precisely what I did on our driving trip along Route 66 – and it came in handy once in a hotel which had just the RJ-45 ethernet connector in the wall. I’ll need to get another as the one we have is now serving double duty as a wireless extender and audio streamer.

Re: the iPad, overseas travel, and cellular data – Apple, carriers, can we do better? Over the air activation, really, pretty please...