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Budget Tech Gift Idea for Grads, Dads, or Anyone!

May 9, 2012

Graduation is coming up for a number of seniors, and so is Father’s Day. Many want a laptop and/or a cell phone with unlimited text and internet. This might be a problem for you if you have a tight budget, but I might have the perfect solution.

iPad 2 and New iPad 3 with Kensington and Logitech Keyboards

A growing trend is to ditch the idea of buying a laptop and get a tablet, which can save some money. A 16GB iPad 2 Wi-Fi model is a superior tablet for only $399, offering a nice 9.7″ display. You can get this locally at Creative Computing or Radio Shack. Purchase the camera connection kit (third-party version for as little as $3.99 on ebay), and you can use it to transfer photos from an SD card, and attach any USB device like a card reader or a keyboard you may already have in your home, making it easier to type. You can alternatively purchase a third-party bluetooth keyboard with case for $30 – $100, and turn the iPad into a netbook-like device. The Kensington or Logitech models are good choices.

The bonus of buying a tablet over a laptop is the cost of software. There are hundreds of free business, utility, and productivity apps for tablets, and the paid apps are a fraction of the cost of Mac or PC software. Storage is also not much of a problem thanks to cloud computing. The free Drop Box or Box apps among others, allow easy access to files in a cloud via wi-fi.

The LG Optimus V (Android 2.2) is available from Virgin Mobile for $129.99 without a contract, and you only pay $35/month for 300 minutes talk time and unlimited web, text, and email. This is one of the best deals out there. It gets even better, because you can download a free app to do something amazing that’s worth about $20/month!

Quick Settings Android App

The Android app Quick Settings (version will allow you to make some hidden features on the Optimus V visible without rooting (hacking) your phone. One of the hidden features worth noting is the Wi-Fi hotspot. Making this visible allows tethering, enabling your mobile phone to provide wi-fi to your other mobile devices via 3G. This will turn an iPad wi-fi model into an iPad 3G with NO monthly charges. It’s not 4G LTE, but the savings are fantastic!

Quick Settings is only compatible with certain Android phones. Once you download it, here’s how to activate your personal hotspot:

  1. Press your phone’s ‘Menu’ button, then tap ‘Customize’.
  2. Scroll down to ‘Hidden Settings’ until you see ‘Wi-Fi hotspot’. Drag it up to the ‘Visible Settings’ section.
  3. Tap the ‘Back’ button to return to the main screen.
  4. Now you’ll see the Wi-Fi hotspot option. Tap the ‘Off ‘ button to turn it on. Now you’ve activated the wi-fi hotspot.
  5. Go to your iPad. Tap ‘Settings’, then “Wi-Fi”. You should see a network named ‘AndroidAP’. Select it and you’re ready to connect to the internet, check email, stream video, etc. This can also be used with other mobile devices or a laptop. Always turn off the hotspot once you’re done.

The Wi-Fi hotspot is not supported in Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). Use the app Quicker Free as a substitute that might work in ICS or other Android phones.

There is a limit of 2.5GB of data per month. If you go over that amount, your data speed will be reduced to 256 kbps for the remainder of the month. This could mean longer loading times of streaming video, and slower download or upload times. FYI, 2.5GB is equivalent to 400,000 webpage views, 20 hours of streaming video, 91 hours of streaming music, or 90,000 emails without attachments. If available, always use free wi-fi as your first option.

This is a great solution for anyone, as long as you’re fine with 3G speeds. You only pay $35/month for what others would pay up to $100/month for just the smartphone with tethering, or $110/month for a smartphone and a 3G iPad 2 with 2-3 GB of monthly data. That’s a savings of up to $900/year PLUS an extra $130 for not having the 3G model! Virgin Mobile doesn’t support tethering, so use this tip at your own discretion. I haven’t heard of anyone having issues with this yet.

This works anywhere you get a data signal. The Princeton area is great, as well as many other areas across the U.S., but there are dead zones. Check the Virgin Mobile coverage map to make sure you pick up data before making a purchase.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2012 11:14 PM

    This is fantastic! Thanks so much for the clear step-by-step directions!

    • shutterbuggeek permalink*
      May 14, 2012 8:15 AM

      Thanks Lucy! Hopefully, this works for you.

      • Luke permalink
        June 11, 2013 12:55 AM


        Do you have a source for where you obtained or calculated the statement:

        “FYI, 2.5GB is equivalent to 400,000 webpage views, 20 hours of streaming video, 91 hours of streaming music, or 90,000 emails without attachments.”

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