The best tablet data plans provide you with a convenient mobile internet connection via cell network anytime, anywhere you go. Tablets are lightweight computers sent from heaven. Mine fits in my purse and is bigger than my smartphone, so I don't have to squint while I read.
The best tablet data plans will provide you with a convenient wireless internet connection via cell network anytime, anywhere you go.
In my research, I looked at tablet data plans that offer the best amount of data and flexibility for their cost. Because data usage habits are based on personal preference, I've reviewed a number of the best tablet data plans that cover a variety of budgets and interests.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Tablet Plan
About five percent of internet users throughout the world own a tablet along with 45 percent of Americans. It's hard to find the best tablet internet plans out there, though, if you don't know what to consider. Luckily, I've figured that out for you.
Here are some basics to consider before you decide on a tablet data plan for you:
1. When and where will I be using my device and for what?
It's important to think about when and where you'll be using your tablet the most. For instance, what if I wanted to use my tablet for freelance researching and writing while on a road trip?
My first step would be to determine how much researching and writing I'd be doing to figure out what kind of plan to purchase. I would likely end up needing a solid data plan because I wouldn't be connected to WiFi most of the time.
Determining where you'll be using your tablet will help you decide which tablet plan you should purchase. It will also help save you money.
About 5 percent of internet users throughout the world own a tablet along with 45 percent of Americans.
2. How much data do I need?
Once you figure out where you'll be using your tablet the most each month, you'll have to determine how much data to purchase. These two considerations go hand in hand.
If you know you will only be using the tablet where there's WiFi, you might steer clear of a tablet data plan. If you will need to use it occasionally without WiFi, you might purchase a tablet data plan with a low data cap like 1GB per month.
Many carriers list what you can do with each data amount on their site. Refer to these lists to avoid overage costs when you use more than you've paid for.
For example, Verizon's website explains to consumers what they can do with 4GB of data. It says you can either send 52,000 emails, search 12,000 web-pages, stream video for 12 hours or use 800 hours of navigation per month with 4GB. Keep in mind, however, that tasks like HD video, video calling, HD video recording, and using the FaceTime HD camera will use more data.
If I am an avid emailer, I may consider how many emails per month I usually send. I would compare this amount to the amount of other streaming and web-searching I usually do. This is a good way to figure out what kind of plan you really need.
Related: You can learn more about the best tablets for children with our buyer's guide.
3. Can I use my phone as a mobile hotspot?
Some carriers may enable you to use your cell phone as a mobile hotspot (or you can simply purchase a physical mobile hotspot from the carrier). This option will allow you to share data from your cell phone with your tablet on the go. You may hear this referred to as a "mobile broadband plan", although it doesn't offer true broadband speed (25Mbps).
Keep in mind that not all tablet data plans offer a mobile hotspot option. For example, you'll have separate data plans for each device when you purchase a data plan for your tablet with T-Mobile. This holds true no matter which of the T-Mobile cell phone plans you're on, whether the traditional postpaid mobile option or the Simple Choice plan.
Related: Learn more with our buyer's guide to mobile hotspots.
4. Does every tablet work with a data plan?
If you're looking for a specific type of tablet, you should make sure it offers the data plan you need. Many tablets only function via WiFi and do not work with tablet data plans. As a result, you may not have as many options when you go to buy a tablet. Just as you assess features like internal storage, Retina display, and whether the device has a dual-core or quad-core processor, you should ensure you'll have 4G LTE connectivity.
The Benefits of Data Only Plans
Tablets have become a huge deal in the data marketplace since Apple introduced the first iPad in 2010. In 2015, companies shipped over 46.4 million tablets worldwide. Have you ever wondered why tablets like the Apple iPad mini, iPad air, and Google Nexus are so popular? Here are some reasons you should think about buying a tablet is you're not already.
1. Connect to the Internet no matter where you are
When you purchase a tablet data plan, you don't have to worry about whether you'll be able to use the internet. If you have a job that requires you to work while you travel, a tablet with an internet plan is the perfect option.
2. View documents, movies, books on a larger screen than your phone
People with a tablet data plan spend 50 percent more time on average watching online videos than people with mobile broadband plans. In my experience, tablets are pleasant to stream with and read on compared to my smartphone.
When you buy a tablet data plan, you are instantly and consistently connected to your documents, emails, favorite books, movies and more. Tablets have larger screens than smartphones so you don't have to squint.
3. Tablets are easier to travel with than laptops
Tablets are obviously much easier to travel with than laptops because they're lighter. They're smaller, but they can be used the same way. Some tablets are even convertible. This means your device can be considered a tablet and a computer with a movable keyboard. The Apple iPad mini is even smaller and lighter than others, comes with Apple's signature Retina display, and can still be used with an iPad plan.
4. They have cool features that many laptops don't
On a laptop, the internet doesn't work without WiFi or a hotspot. This is one key feature a tablet data plan has over a laptop. If you need to do research while you travel, purchasing a data plan for your tablet could save your life.
You can also download applications on tablets that work differently on computers. For example, you can download a drawing application on your tablet and draw with a tablet pen or your finger. Many laptops do not have touchscreens, so you would have to use the mouse for this.
Ultimately, tablets are easier to carry and easier to use than laptops. They are more casual and portable with touchscreens and applications instead of mice and software.
Tablet with SIM Card Slot and WiFi
A SIM Card is essential if you're buying a 3G-enabled or 4G LTE tablet, and will determine the kind of data plan your device has. SIM cards come in different sizes. Compatible with smartphones, tablets, and other devices like GPS trackers, most devices are compatible with one type of size, while other mobile devices accept a different size.
Fortunately, many service providers offer SIM cards with a cutout feature, meaning that you can choose the size you need for your SIM card. There are standard, micro, and nano SIM cards, which all perform the same function but operate at different sizes.
All tablets can connect to WiFi, so there are no issues if you're within the range of a network you can connect to, such as your home, school or work internet. If you plan to use your tablet out of range of a WiFi network, then a data plan is for you. Consider which tablets have SIM card slots and what size the SIM card is before you buy.
Important Things to Know
You should always learn a little more about what you're buying before you commit. Here are some basic principles regarding tablets and their data that you should know before you make a purchase.
In 2015, companies shipped over 46.4 million tablets worldwide.
Megabytes and Gigabytes
- Megabytes and gigabytes are units of measurement used to measure your monthly allowance of data. There is also a smaller measurement called kilobytes.
- A megabyte is made up of 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte is made up of 1,024 megabytes.
- The most popular phone and tablet data plans usually offered by carriers include 1GB, 2GB, or 5GB.
Pro Tip: You may want an unlimited plan if you engage in a lot of data-hungry activities like video calling, HD video recording, or using the FaceTime HD camera.
You'll want to watch your usage, however, because your tablet data may count against your monthly allowance for high-speed data. For instance, this is the case with the AT&T unlimited plan that lets you connect an unlimited number of devices.
4G and LTE Data
- 4G stands for fourth-generation. 4G is the fourth generation of technology related to mobile-data.
- LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. 4G LTE connectivity is the quickest version of the 4G network.
- The different between 4G networks and 4G LTE networks is simple: download speed. You can download at a rate of 5 to 12 megabits per second with the advanced LTE network. 4G only offers download speeds of 3 to 8 megabits per second.
Keep Track of Your Data
- You can avoid overage fees by keeping track of your data each month. First, you should know how much data you're paying for each month. Then, determine when your bill cycle begins and when it ends.
- Once you know this information, you can download an application to manage your data tracking. All you have to do is type in the information about your billing cycle and data allowances. Then you can monitor your data usage and even receive alerts when your monthly allowance is running low.
iPads Have Built-in Tracking
- If you have purchased an Apple iPad tablet, you have built-in tracking. Go to your settings and look for cellular data usage. This will tell you how much data you have left on your iPad plan.
- On the first day of your bill cycle, go to the bottom of the page and click reset statistics to monitor the month's usage. It will only be useful if you remember to check it regularly.
Convertible vs. Hybrid Tablets
- Convertible laptop tablets are a little thicker and heavier than hybrid tablets because the keyboard doesn't detach from the screen. You would simply fold the keyboard over for tablet mode.
- Hybrid tablets have a screen that completely detaches from the keyboard. This makes hybrids lighter and possibly easier to travel with than laptop tablets.
Prepaid Tablet Data Plans
- When you purchase a prepaid tablet data plan, you agree to a certain amount of data per month. You then prepay wireless data charges every month before your data is used, just as with prepaid cell phone plans.
- Prepaid plans often don't require a credit check. Many of the best tablet plan providers in this article also offer options (including prepaid cell phone plans) that do not require a contract.
- Keep in mind that there may be different data overage charges for prepaid plans than for postpaid mobile data plans. Always ask your carrier about the details of your plan compared to other plans.
- You can prepay wireless service on any type of tablet, whether you choose to go with an iPad plan for your iPad air or an Android tablet like the Google Nexus.
Postpaid Tablet Data Plans
- With a postpaid tablet data plan, the data charge of your choice will show up on your normal wireless account bill.
- Although the plans don't necessarily offer cheaper options, you may prefer to pay after you've used your data instead of before.
- If you choose to go with a postpaid tablet plan, you will likely have to do a credit check. You also may have to agree to a contract of some sort.
After inspecting the web for features, price comparisons, and reviews, I came up with the five best tablet data plans listed above.
The Most Reliable Service
If you are looking for the most reliable tablet data plan, I would go with Verizon. Although they are more expensive, their connection can be counted on. I have had their data service on my iPhone for years and have never experienced issues, other than the price.
The Cheapest Option
If you're looking for a cheap plan, I would definitely go with the T-Mobile mobile internet plan. Since I'm a traveler, it makes me happy that they offer free data usage in Mexico and Canada. My current Verizon data phone plan does not do that.
T-Mobile is a cheap data service with a more reliable connection than providers like MetroPCS. The company offers flexibility as well, as you can add a mobile internet plan to your T-Mobile ONE wireless account, or to your Simple Choice plan. Just like T-Mobile cell phone plans, their affordable and practical tablet options are hard to pass up.
Which Tablet Data Plan Will You Choose?
All in all, I have no doubt that my list exemplifies the best tablet plans you can get for a decent price. Take your pick and tell me about your experience in the comments.
Conclusively, tablets are portable, lightweight computers. They are more convenient than a laptop and bigger than a smartphone. If you choose to purchase a tablet data plan, you will have a connection wherever you decide to go. The best data plan will allow you to email, stream movies, read, draw, research and much more whenever and wherever you can imagine.
If you are thinking about purchasing one of the best tablet data plans listed above, you may want to read about the best cell phone plans. When you add a tablet data plan to an existing cell phone plan, it could save you a lot of money.
You may also want to check out our guide on the best bring your own phone plans. It will tell you more about which carriers offer the best bring your own device options for cell phones and tablets. Bring your own device options are offered by every one of the best tablet data plan providers listed above. They are often a cheaper alternative to buying a brand new phone from a carrier.