How to Choose an iPad 2 Data Plan

With the unveiling of the iPad 2, the tech world is abuzz with how Apple has made tablet computers such a widely accepted niche device. While the iPad is a wonderful tool in and of itself, its true power comes from being online. And with that, consumers need an iPad data plan that is best for them based on individual needs and budgets.  Choosing the right iPad data plan can be a daunting task. The following are some basic tips to help new owners get the most out of their iPad data plan: Here is a basic WiFI vs 3G iPad cost comparison.  Here are the basic 3G tiered data options below.

AT&T - iPad 3G
$14.99 – 250 megabytes
$25.00 – 2 gigabytes
Postpaid option

Verizon - iPad 3G
$20 – 1 gigabyte
$35 – 3 gigabytes
$50 – 5 gigabytes
$80 – 10 gigabytes

1. For what purposes will the iPad be used? Light users may only need email and some Internet access. Heavier users may have a variety of apps. Or, those who telework may need a combination of tools. If streaming videos and movies is important, then a higher capacity bandwidth (3G) might be needed. 4G data plans are not available yet from Verizon or AT&T and so WiFI will be faster in most cases. For just email or light Internet, a lower 2G could be acceptable.

2. How often and where the iPad be used? If the device is used all day long, the owner would want dependability and consistency with their data services. Casual users might be willing to accept the occasional disconnect or load delay in lieu of higher fees. Measure the amount of time you will want to use the iPad outside of the home or office where might not be available.

3. What is the current usage? If the owner already used a data plan for a different device (a Smartphone for example), was this adequate? Or would more usage come from the iPad? Do you have the ability to how to tether a data plan with your smartphone?

4. What is the budget? Before choosing any data plan, the owner should decide how much money he is willing to pay for the added capacities or services. Are you willing to pay $25 - 80 per month for slow 3G and soon $50-$100 per month for LTE when WiFi is free?

5. How likely would overage charges occur? For both Verizon and AT&T, overage fees can be substantial if the data limits are exceeded.  See the pricing and data limits above.

Also, users should be aware that there are WiFi plans in addition to the 3G, 4G, etc. options. WiFi enables the user to have wireless access when a WiFi network is available. The WiFi + 3G iPad provides the user with both options.

You might ask yourself if you even need a data plan for wireless data. WiFi-only iPads are selling faster than 3G iPads and thus you might save some money being efficient about your usage. If you choose to buy a 3G data plan and can't live with tethering on your phone ask yourself the following questions.

AT&T provided tiered pricing for their data services in 2010. Verizon recently announced that they will be moving away from their unlimited data plans in summer 2011 and will only provide tiered pricing. The tiered approach will make money for the carriers but can be quite a burden for consumers who would need to worry about the substantial overage fees.

As more carriers begin to offer the iPad in the future, the market will adjust according to the competitive pressure. Until then, however, iPad users are left to themselves to make the most out of their iPad data plans.

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