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Is AT&T a deal breaker for the 3G iPad?

The lesson here is clear: if you're itching to buy the iPad, stick with the version that uses only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Well, we know the details on the long-awaited Apple iPad. Yes, it's pretty and it offers a lot of features, but the required AT&T service for the 3G version is none too thrilling.

Though I've never had a huge problem with AT&T's service on our CNET iPhone, I admit that I don't use it as my primary device. Frequent iPhone users, however, have more nuanced opinions, and I know that they're not imaging their dropped calls and intermittent data connections. Indeed, AT&T service remains the biggest gripe for many iPhone users. And though the AT&T monopoly hasn't stopped the iPhone from becoming hugely popular, I still hear from many CNET readers that they're not buying Apple's handset until they can use it with another carrier.

So the lesson here is clear: if you're itching to buy the iPad, stick with the version that uses only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Think about it: if you're not happy with AT&T now, you shouldn't shell out $629 (and that's for the cheapest option, mind you) for a device that requires the same service. Granted, the reason for the iPhone's reception issues are more complex than just "AT&T sucks," but the problems remain three years after the first iPhone was unveiled. Before I buy, Apple and AT&T need to assure me that I won't have the same experience on the iPad.

Even if AT&T was stellar, I don't love the idea that I have to select just one provider for the 3G-equipped device. The AT&T plans are pretty reasonable--though I'm not sure how a person on the $15 per month option is supposed to keep track of 250MB--but I'd much rather have more options for a wireless provider. T-Mobile isn't really an option since the U.S. iPad is not compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network and T-mobile does not offer a compatible plan. On the upside, it's great that the iPads are unlocked and you don't need a contract (not that AT&T could require one without a service rebate) but I'm always about customer choice. And there doesn't appear to be much here.

So what do you think? Is AT&T a deal breaker? And what the heck is a micro SIM card and why did Apple choose that format? You won't be able to slip a standard SIM card into a micro SIM slot.