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Having a Plan

October 26, 2012 - Dave Hecei

It was no surprise when Apple released a smaller iPad during their October press event. This doesn’t mean there were no surprises at this event. During the event at the California Theatre, Apple first introduced an all-new iPad with 9.7-inch Retina display and then showed the all new iPad mini.

The iPad mini has a 7.9-inch standard display, which is still very bright and sharp. The display is essentially the same as the iPad 2, which has 1024 by 768 pixels. Because the display has been slightly shrunk the pixels are packed closer together.

Pricing for the iPad mini starts at $329 with WiFi only and 16GB of storage. This was another surprise to most. Rumors had Apple pricing the iPad mini closer to the 7-inch Android-based tablets. This included models from Amazon and Google, which are priced at $259 with 16GB.

If you are interested in a new iPad, either the new 4th generation iPad or new iPad mini, the big question is to get one with just WiFi or one with LTE 4G cellular data. The LTE version of either iPad allows one access to the Internet practically anywhere, not just where WiFi is available. The LTE version also includes GPS allowing it to perform turn-by-turn navigation along with other GPS functions – Golf Logix anyone.

Going with the LTE iPad does incur a higher cost. Take the base price of the iPad you like and add 130 bucks to it. This is quite a premium for a small device. There are different models for each of the three U.S. carriers. Depending on who you want to buy your cellular data from you need to purchase the proper iPad version. You can choose from the original iPad provider – AT&T, plus Verizon and now Sprint.

Who you choose depends on how much data you need and the monthly fee you’re prepared to pay for. The good news is that iPad data plans are contract free. You use what you want when you need it. If you need it for just a month, you activate it for a month and then turn it off after 30 days.

Pricing for data plans varies with the amount of data you plan to use. Both AT&T and Verizon have similar data plans. AT&T still has the lowest cost plan at $14.99 a month. This might sound great, but it only allows for 250MB of data a month – not gigabytes, megabytes. This plan should not even be considered unless you just need email and you never plan to view any web sites.

The first ‘real’ data plan on AT&T is $30 per month for up to 3GB of data. They also have one for $50/month for 5GB of data. Verizon has a low-end plan for $20/month for 1GB of data. This plan is actually not bad for someone who needs basic connectivity. At 1GB/month there is enough room to do email and basic web surfing and gaming, but not much room for watching video. If you go over the 1GB/month on this plan each additional GB is another $20. Verizon also has plans for 2, 5, and 10GB/month priced at $30, $50, and $80/month. If you go over your allotted data they will charge you $10/GB.

Sprint is available in our area, but no high-speed data. Because of this I won’t go into their plans. If you live in a more metro area and you like Sprint then check out their web site coverage map and data plan pricing.

Deciding between a WiFi only iPad and one with 3G/4G data can be difficult. If you travel around and like to stay connected everywhere you go then having a data plan is a must. If you tend to be a homebody and you are already paying for Internet access there, then a data plan will get wasted. Another factor to consider is your mobile phone. If you have an iPhone, or even an Android model, that can be used as a mobile hotspot, then you could get by with a WiFi only iPad. Then there is the GPS conundrum. If you want to use your iPad for GPS navigation, or other GPS functionality, then you have to get an iPad with 3G/4G data – decisions, decisions.

Bottom line is this. If you think you will use an iPad at home or where WiFi is readily available (coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) then get a WiFi only iPad. If you’re constantly on the go doing things or like to travel, then get the 3G/4G iPad with GPS. Since data plans on the iPad are contract free, you only pay for the months you need data access. Unlike an iPhone where you are locked into a monthly plan for two long years.


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