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How do the three tethering options for the iPad compare in the following areas:

  • Range
  • Security
  • Speed
  • Power usage (both laptop and iPad)

I'm mainly looking for the difference between WiFi and Bluetooth, as USB is pretty obvious except for the speed category.

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  • And I guess one other advantage to WiFi is that you can connect multiple devices, which is not true for USB, though I can't speak to Bluetooth.
    – Tim
    Jun 20, 2012 at 22:49

2 Answers 2

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Range

  1. Wifi is the best
  2. Bluetooth shorter
  3. USB length of cable (there are 10' USB cables for iPad)

Security

  1. USB is the best assuming you have decent physical security
  2. Wifi is pretty good if you use WPA2
  3. Bluetooth is the lowest probably

Speed (usually all better than your 3G speeds so a moot point for 3G)

  1. USB is the fastest @ 480 Mbps for USB 2.0
  2. 802.11n tops out @ 150 Mbps
  3. Bluetooth is by far the slowest @ ~3 Mbps

Power Usage

  1. USB is the most power efficient, however the iPad will try to charge off your laptop
  2. Wifi and Bluetooth are less power efficient than USB but I don't know how they compare

Bottom Line: USB is the best if range isn't an issue, If distance is needed use Wifi with WPA2

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  • Brief,but accurate.
    – iMom0
    Jun 20, 2012 at 0:47
  • How secure is bluetooth? Can simply anyone in range connect to my hotspot?
    – Pacerier
    Mar 15, 2014 at 11:40
  • Is the slow speed for Bluetooth still accurate as of 2018? i.e. iPhone X with Bluetooth 5.0 ? Apr 2, 2018 at 15:04
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I just did some speed benchmarks using all three methods. Using WiFi and USB gave around 8.75 Mbps, which were extremely close to the result of doing the same speed test on the phone itself beforehand, but Bluetooth was much slower, at around 0.5 Mbps. The difference was very noticeable when browsing.

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  • +1 I like using Bluetooth, but will probably do much less after reading this. Mar 7, 2013 at 18:23
  • My benchmarks were much closer (done using free internet speed tests though). 2.5 Mbps for wifi and half of that for bluetooth.
    – Pacerier
    Mar 15, 2014 at 11:42
  • @Pacerier That's interesting. Do you know if your devices support Bluetooth 4.0? I can't remember whether I was testing with a Bluetooth 2.1 or 4.0 device (I really should have mentioned that in the post.) Mar 15, 2014 at 15:46
  • @JonColverson, hmm how do you check the version?
    – Pacerier
    Mar 17, 2014 at 18:56
  • @Pacerier Looking up the specs for your model on Wikipedia is the best way I know of. :) Mar 17, 2014 at 22:58

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