Are you looking for the best tablet plans? If you're one of the 45 percent of Americans who use these handy portable devices you know how hard it is to find a reliable and affordable mobile internet plan.
The wireless industry has undergone a lot of change over the past few years. I'm going to show you how those changes are to your benefit when shopping for a data-only tablet or iPhone plan.
In This Guide
Key Considerations When Choosing a Tablet Plan
Here are some basics to consider before you decide on the right tablet data plan for you:
1. Where will I be using my device and for what?
Are you typically around WiFi when you use your tablet or is most of your use on the road? If you have frequent access to a WiFi network then you don't need to pay for a large data bucket.
What do you do on your device? Activities like HD video streaming or video calling using Facetime HD require a lot more data than say, email or instant messaging.
About 45 percent of Americans own tablets.
2. How much data do I need?
You may not need as much data as you think. Wireless carriers do a good job of convincing us that unlimited data plans are a necessity. In reality most people don't need endless amounts.
Use our handy data usage calculator to determine your actual needs. This way you can choose a plan that allows you to only pay for what you actually use. Think of it like cable TV - why pay for 300 channels when you only watch five?
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). This option will allow you to share data from your cell phone with your tablet on the go.
Keep in mind that not all carriers let you share data this way, so be sure to read the fine print.
Related: Learn more with our buyer's guide to mobile hotspots.
4. Does every tablet work with a data plan?
If you're shopping for a tablet keep in mind that many devices only function via WiFi and do not work with tablet data plans. 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.
This holds true not only for Android but for Apple products as well. You can choose a device that's compatible with iPad plans or with WiFi only.
5. How is the network coverage where you live or travel?
While the four major wireless networks are very similar in terms of coverage, there are small differences that could impact your service depending on where you are.
Use our cell coverage maps to determine who has the best service in the areas where you live or frequently travel.
Consider MVNOs For the Biggest Savings
Mobile Virtual Network Operators - MVNOs - are smaller wireless carriers that offer discounted service on the major networks.
Benefits of MVNOs include:
- Nationwide 4G LTE coverage on the big four cellular networks
- Cheaper prices because MVNOs have lower overhead than the big guys
- Custom plans so you only pay for what you need
- No contracts, credit checks or overage charges
- Simple online sign-up process
- High customer support ratings
Best Tablet Plan For Light Users (under 1GB)
If you mostly use your iPad or Android tablet when connected to Wifi but still want access on the go, Tello tablet plans are a great deal. You can buy as little as 500 MB of data and you can add more any time you need to.
Tello uses Sprint so you'll have the best luck with their cheap tablet plans if you have a Sprint device.
Best Tablet Plans For Average Usage (2-5GB)
We also like Tello for moderate use. If you spend some of your tablet time on WiFi and some on the go, Tello tablet and iPad plans are a very affordable option.
Best Unlimited Tablet Plans
What if you use your tablet for business or travel and need all the data you can get? US Mobile data only plans are the way to go. You can choose from three different data speeds. This makes it easy to customize your plan according to your favorite online activities.
US Mobile unlimited data only plans run on the Verizon network. This means most Verizon compatible devices will work, however you should check with the carrier first to make sure.
Advantages of Bringing Your Own Device
Tablets and iPads can cost up to $1000. The most economical choice is to bring your own device to your new carrier. Benefits of keeping your own tablet include:
- Avoiding monthly device payments or a large upfront outlay
- Getting the most out of your tablet's lifespan instead of creating more e-waste
- Keeping all of your data like photos and passwords rather than having to transfer everything to a new device
If you bring your Apple iPad or Android tablet to a new carrier you'll need to make sure that it's unlocked from your current carrier.
Great Ways to Save on Your Next iPad
What if your tablet is on its last legs but you're trying to be budget conscious? No problem - buy a used iPad and save over 50% off retail.
You can also sell your old tablet and pick up a few bucks to put toward the new one. Be sure to compare offers so you get the best deal.
There are plenty of options when it comes to finding the right data only tablet plan. Not only that but the same carriers that bring you great prices on data plans also offer prepaid cell phone plans at amazing rates. Calculate your data needs, decide which network is best for you, then enjoy your savings!