Yesterday Apple announced that its next generation iPad will include an LTE enabled model for both Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless in the United States, among other features. This was a feature that many people were hoping for, and Apple delivered, even though AT&T seems to now be putting a stranglehold on it.
But here’s the truth, in my opinion … buying a LTE enabled iPad is a waste of money. The same goes for any other 3G or 4G enabled tablet. Why might you ask? Let me outline the top three reasons why buying a 3G/4G enabled tablet is a waste of money in this day and age.
You have to pay for two data plans. When purchasing a 3G or 4G enabled tablet, you don’t get to just “add it on” to your already expensive data plan for your smartphone (assuming you have one). No, instead the carriers expect you to shell out an additional $15 to $50 a month depending on how much data you may use. And you go over that data limit, there’s another $10 to $20 bucks more for additional data you may not use all of.
They generally cost $100 to $200 more than their Wi-Fi only models. Besides the added premium now every month of having to pay for an additional data plan for your tablet, you’re in many cases also shelling out an additional $100 to $200 more for the device up front. Case in point is the iPad, the 16GB Wi-Fi only model costs $499, but add the 3G/4G chip and instantly you are paying $130 more for the device. And by the way, the chip you are paying for only costs manufacturers about $10 to $25 more in added parts. So you are essentially paying a $100 premium up front for 3G or 4G built into the tablet.
Data Caps and Slow Speeds. Depending on your area and the availability of 4G LTE, you may be stuck paying for spotty 4G service, or slow 3G service that makes doing tasks on these devices difficult to do. Imagine trying to upload that 12 megapixel photo you just touched up on iPhoto on your new shiny iPad over a 3G connection. Not only will you be using a lot of your data cap, but you’ll probably be waiting for quite a long time for it to complete.
So what do I do?
The answer is simple … TETHER! If you are a smartphone user, in 99% of cases you can set up a personal hotspot on your smartphone. Use this to give your tablet the 3G or 4G connection anywhere you choose. You’ll save on not paying the up front premium on your tablet, along with not having to worry about paying for an additional data plan.
Now before you start calling me crazy, yes I do realize that tethering may cost you more on your smartphone plan, depending on your carrier on the plan you purchase. And the added cost of tethering on your smartphone plan still is cheaper than having two separate data plans. Let’s break it down using data plans from both AT&T and Verizon for your smartphone that include tethering.
For AT&T customers, tethering is included with the 5GB Data Pro Plan at $50 per month. This allows you to share 5GB of data between your smartphone and your tablet, no individual data caps for each device. This means that you don’t have to worry about losing out on data you didn’t use on your tablet, and paying overages when you go over on your smartphone. The 3GB plan on your smartphone and tablet will cost you $30 per month each, which totals $60 for 6GB of data, but only 3GB for each device. The same $60 could be spent on just your smartphone with the $50 5GB plan and paying $10 more for the extra 1GB only if you go over 5GB. This makes more sense. Why? Here’s a great example. Let’s say you use 4GB on your smartphone this month, and 2GB on your tablet, and you have the 3GB $30 plan on each. Now your bill is $70. You’ll pay $30 for the 3GB on your smartphone plus the extra $10 for the extra gigabyte you used on your smartphone. Then you’ll be paying $30 more for the 3GB plan on your tablet. But you only used 2GB on your tablet. With the current data plans, that extra 1GB you didn’t you on your tablet will be gone forever, and won’t be “rolled over” to cover the 1GB you went over on your smartphone. That is, until AT&T finally offers rollover data. If you had the 5GB $50 plan, you’d only be paying $60 since you used a total of 6GB on both devices, and it’s $10 for the extra 1GB on your 5GB plan. Saves you ten bucks, and you get to use all the data you paid for.
Now with Verizon it’s a little different, but still works out to be cheaper. Verizon currently offer 2GB of data for $30 a month, and for an additional $20 you get 2GB more of data along with the tethering feature. Now we are still 2GB’s short of our data usage, so add $20. Our total is now up to $70, which is $10 more than AT&T, however, consider this … Verizon’s tablet plan is also $30 per month for only 2GB with the tethering feature free. So let’s say you have that, and then a separate smartphone plan with $30 per month, you’re now at $60 for 4GB with tethering. Add $20 for the additional 2GB’s needed and you are now at $80 per month. Again this is $10 more than using your smartphone to tether your tablet.
Let’s face it, you can’t buy a smartphone without a 3G or 4G chip, but you can buy a tablet without it. And you aren’t paying $130 more to have that 3G or 4G chip as you are with the iPad. Also, you don’t have to worry about losing as much unused data while paying more money. Or what if you’re like most people, and never come near using your full data limit each month, and could possibly run both your tablet and smartphone under the price you already pay for just your smartphone. Sure, you have to have your smartphone with you wherever you want to use your tablet, but who doesn’t have their smartphone with them everywhere they go now?
If you break it out over 1 year, the savings of not purchasing a 3G or 4G enabled iPad, using the scenario we outlined earlier and assuming it happens every month, is about $250, or half the cost of your new, fully capable Wi-Fi only 16GB iPad. So do yourself a favor, and not the carriers, save your money and purchase a Wi-Fi only iPad and tether it to your smartphone.
And if you’re still holding on to an unlimited data plan and can’t get tethering, then maybe it’s time to rethink that and realize that having an unlimited data plan is just becoming too limiting.