Now that we know the iPad 2 will be able to get 3G service from both AT&T and Verizon as well as a few other options, there may be people wondering which is the best choice for them and what the pricing is. Here is a guide to help you with that decision.
iPad 2 Data Plan Pricing And Options
You might be trying to choose which iPad 2 to get but you don’t know all of the options for connecting to 3G services. You might have heard about AT&T, Verizon, and something called a “personal hotspot” but you want to make the best financial choice so here are your iPad 2 3G connectivity pricing and options.
Here is a PDF of all the iPad 2 3G Data plans you can download to follow along with all your options and use it as a worksheet.
iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G Connectivity Pricing
If you will be getting an iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G then you have several options for cellular data pricing.
- Signing up for 3G data from AT&T
- Signing up for 3G data from Verizon
- Using your phone as a personal hotspot
Choose your iPad by carrier.
If you decide on an iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G, be sure to select the model that corresponds with the carrier you’d like to use for 3G service. The iPad model you purchase is specially configured to work with either AT&T or Verizon — not both. So while you don’t have to activate 3G service right away, you should choose your iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G according to the carrier you prefer.
When you decide to activate 3G data service, you can choose the amount of data per month you want to buy — with no long-term contract. So if you have a business trip or vacation approaching, just sign up for the month you’ll be traveling and cancel when you get back.
Option 1: AT&T
AT&T just announced new iPad 2 pricing so read on. Previously, AT&T claimed a slight edge because it could sell an iPad with direct access to its wireless service. And Verizon customers had to use the MiFi option. Here are the monthly iPad 2 data plan pricing options from AT&T:
- $14.99 – 250 megabytes
- $25.00 – 2 gigabytes
- Postpaid option
The postpaid option AT&T just introduced is an option in which you can receive regular AT&T bills for your data usage. There is no contract with this option as there is with their metered plans. AT&T customers on a postpaid plan are charged $10 per 1 gigabyte of data after they go over their initial limit (see above). In contrast, prepaid customers who go over their limit are required to buy an additional 2 gigabytes of data access for $25.
Update: AT&T confirms they will allows “unlimited” data plans to be ported over to iPad 2 if you still have one of the original data plans.
Option 2: Verizon
Verizon’s iPad 2 data plans are completely different. For one thing you do not need a contract for any of their plans so they are all postpaid options. Here are the monthly iPad 2 data plan pricing options from Verizon:
- $20 – 1 gigabyte
- $35 – 3 gigabytes
- $50 – 5 gigabytes
- $80 – 10 gigabytes
The general iPad 2 data plan pricing is pretty straightforward but here is where things get sticky: when you exceed your monthly data limit.
AT&T and Verizon also differ on how they treat customers who exceed their monthly data limits, a plausible risk given the media-consuming capabilities of the iPad 2. For instance, an hour of music a day for a month will get someone to the 1-gigabyte mark, while 35 minutes of streaming video a day for a month will get someone to the 2-gigabyte threshold.
AT&T customers on a postpaid plan are charged $10 per 1 gigabyte of data after they go over their initial limit. Prepaid customers who go over their limit are required to buy an additional 2 gigabytes of data access for $25.
Verizon Wireless customers who pay for 3 gigabytes of data or more will have to pay $10 for 1 gigabyte of data once they go over. For the entry level option, customers will have to pay $20 for the 1 gigabyte of data.
AT&T vs Verizon iPad 2 Data Plans
So let’s take a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say you choose to go with the monthly AT&T iPad 2 data plan of $25 for 2 gigabytes and you actually use 4 gigabytes (and this is very possible). You would pay $25 + $25 = $50. Now let’s say this same thing happens and you are on the postpaid AT&T iPad 2 data plan. Your bill will be $25 + $20 (overage of 2 gb) = $45. In this scenario the postpaid option fits you better.
Now let’s say you choose to go with Verizon’s iPad 2 data plan. And you do the $20 for 1 gigabyte but you actually use the same 4 gigabytes. In this case you would pay $20 + $60 (overage) = $80. Ouch. But let’s say you actually choose the $35 at 3 gigabytes and you use 4 gb, this means you only get charged $10 over so you are at the same price as the AT&T postpaid option.
The verdict here is that the the new AT&T postpaid option may actually be more kind on your wallet and it is about the same as Verizon when you choose Verizon’s iPad 2 data plan of $35/month.
Other 3G Data Plan Considerations: AT&T Vs Verizon
Not All 3G Is The Same
The Verizon network uses CDMA and they are pretty much tapped out for growth right. Verizon is focusing on 4G which will offer greater speeds of up to 8-12MB. This will also require a 4G iPad. AT&T on the other hand has a GSM 3G network and they are still expanding with slated speeds of up to 8MB.
If you are going to be looking for a long-term solution then AT&T is the better choice here because they seem the best bet as far as sticking with 3G and just making it faster.
Traveling The World
If you travel around the world then you will definitely have a much better experience with AT&T’s GSM 3G. Verizon’s CDMA is not as available around the world. However, one thing to keep in mind is roaming charges. Carriers will charge you up to $1 per MB (yes, MB) and that means checking a single website or your Email could cost you a lot of money.
In truth, it’s probably just best to plan on using Wi-Fi if you are traveling to other countries since Wi-Fi is pretty much Universal.
3G Network Coverage
Each company claims better coverage. The coverage is always changing and the best thing to do is check their most current coverage map. Here are those maps:
iPad 2 Wi-Fi Tethering Pricing
Everything above covers the data plan pricing if you were to get an iPad 2 with 3G. If you do not have the iPad 2 with 3G and you choose, instead, to go with the Wi-Fi only option then you can still use 3G provided you have the ability to do what is called “tethering” or a personal hotspot.
A personal hotspot means that your cell phone to provide 3G internet service to your iPad 2. The way it works is that your iPad can connect to your phone via the Wi-Fi connection and once they are “paired up” then your iPad 2 uses the 3G Internet that your phone uses. Cool huh? Well, before getting too excited, guess what? It costs money.
With iOS 4.3 your iPhone 4 will be able to act as a personal hotspot for your iPad 2. If you are an AT&T customer, this will cost you $45/month for their 4GB tethering plan. (funny how we arrive at the same $45 for 4 gb of data). Basically this comes from the fact that if you already have the $25 plan for your iPhone, they add an additional $20 for 2GB more data + tethering. AT&T has confirmed that the tethering plans are not on contract so you can cancel at any time or start it back up at any time.
The Verizon iPhone 4 hotspot plan will cost you an additional $20/month on top of your monthly data plan as well. So it looks like both carriers are making tethering cost an additional $20.
Sprint also offers a hotspot you can use with your EVO phone and your iPad 2 for $29.99 per month (for non iPhone 4 users). Whichever phone you have and whichever provider you have, make sure you ask what their prices are for the “tethering” or personal hotspot plans.
iPad 2 Data Plan Pricing Conclusion
It’s pretty clear that if you are going to use anything other than Wi-Fi, you will be paying money. The question is, which is the better option for you.
It appears that for those using very little 3G services, then AT&T is actually the best option. If you are truly a light user, that is. If you are a moderate user and feel you will go over 250 megabytes (which is VERY EASY to do in about 3 days) then Verizon’s $20 plan is perfect. For heavier users or those that use a lot of 3G, then Verizon definitely offers more options and better pricing overall.
But when you look at all of this in context of tethering, or a personal hotspot, then that surely seems the best direction to go. It’s only $20 more per month and they add it do your current bill so you don’t have to separate accounts to deal with. The other benefit is that it does give you more data per month for your phone so if you happen to not use your iPad with the tethered 3G much that month then you would essentially end up with more for your phone. To me, this is a win-win.
Additionally, if AT&T or Verizon were to upgrade their data networks and you wanted to take advantage of that higher speed then you would just need a different phone and by tethering, your iPad would take advantage of that – thus not needing a new iPad as well.
iPad 2 Data Plan Pricing Summary
If all of the above was a bit confusing (and it sure can be), then here is a final summarized version:
The iPad options:
1. An iPad with 3G + WiFi
This option means that you need to choose a 3G plan because you have the 3G iPad. Now you have two providers to choose from: Verizon or AT&T. Both have differing costs, coverage, plans, and options but AT&T (IMO) is the best. (see above for why).
2. An iPad with Wi-Fi Only
Your only option here is to use “tethering” for 3G connectivity. Now you have to look again at the various providers. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all offer it. With AT&T and Verizon, it will cost an additional $20/month for tethering. This is on top of what you already pay for data. Sprint costs $29.99 for tethering. One thing to keep in mind is that tethering lets you connect several devices at once. So your phone becomes a little hub.
If you have no data plan on your phone currently, then you will need a data plan and that depends entirely on your phone. Without iOS or Android, there may be no option since the smart phones are about the only ones that can offer up tethering. This means a phone upgrade and purchasing your data plan + tethering.