12:03 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

On Tablets And Tablet Data Plans

Pricing schemes for tablets have quickly become as complicated as pricing for mobile phones. Here's a quick primer on the current landscape and how the total cost of ownership breaks down.

U.S. Cellular

Like Sprint and T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular is offering the Tab unsubsidized and subsidized at the $600 and $400 price points, respectively. TCO of the Tab with U.S. Cellular can be as little as $600 assuming you rely on free Wi-Fi for 24 months.

As for data plans, U.S. Cellular is charging $15 for 200MB per month or $55 for 5GB per month. Those prices require contracts, and allow consumers to purchase the Tab at the subsidized sale price. Breaking out the calculator, that means TCO over two years is $760 ($400 + 24x$15) or a more painful $1720 ($400 + 24x$55) if you choose the 5GB plan.

U.S. Cellular doesn't offer the iPad, and it doesn't offer a hotspot creating device, either. iPad options with U.S. Cellular are pretty much nil.

Verizon Wireless

Last up, we have Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless is also offering the Samsung Galaxy Tab for $400 subsidized and $600 unsubsidized. As with all the others, the unsubsidized price leads to a very low TCO, as there is no data plan requirement. Toss in a 3G data plan, however, and things add up fast.

For the Galaxy Tab, Verizon is offering 1GB for $20 per month. That's all. If you exceed 1GB in a month, Verizon will charge you a flat fee of $10 for another gigabyte's worth of access. In other words, $20 buys 1GB, $30 buys 2GB, $40 buys 3GB, $50 buys 4GB, and $60 buys 5GB (same as Verizon's unlimited data plan pricing).

Total cost of ownership ranges from a respectable $880 ($400 + 24x$20) all the way up to a budget-crushing $1840.

Verizon Wireless is selling the Apple iPad, too. Rather than sell the 3G version, however, it is only selling the Wi-Fi version -- bundled with its MiFi device -- for a total out-of-pocket expense of $630 at the cash register. The MiFi requires a data plan of its own. Those data plans cost $20 for 1GB, $35 for 3GB, $50 for 5GB and, yes, $80 for 10GB of data. Each plan will automatically incur an additional charge of $10 if you exceed the stated maximum. (If you breach 10GB of mobile data in a month, you're a maniac, plan and simple.)

TCO of the iPad with a MiFi on Verizon's network runs the gamut, depending on the storage of the iPad and the data package. The lowest price is $1110 ($630 + 24x$20) and the highest is soul-destroying $2750 ($830 + 24x$80).

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