iPad 2 Wireless Data Plans – AT&T and Verizon Compared

Posted 10 March 2011 by

iPad 2 Wireless Data Plan Options

Comparison of AT&T and Verizon Wireless Monthly 3G Data Plans


Apple’s new iPad 2 will be available this Friday and many new and existing iPad owners are trying to figure out which 3G wireless data plan they should pick.  Unlike the choices available when the first generation iPad launched last April, US customers will have several different data plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless to choose from this time around. With these new choices comes the question, “Which one is best for me?”  We’ve broken down all the important information to help you make an informed decision.

If you’re looking for the least expensive data plan for your iPad, then AT&T has you covered.  The company offers a 250 MB plan for only $14.99.  The least expensive Verizon Wireless plan is $20 but includes 1 GB of data, nearly four times as much as AT&T for only $5 more.

Low Usage User

So is 250 MB of data enough?  Well, that of course depends on how you plan to use your iPad.  The two questions you need to ask yourself are, “How will I use my iPad?” and “Where will I use my iPad?” Lets tackle the “where” part first.

If you use your iPad primarily at home or somewhere you have access to free WiFi, then you won’t be using the 3G wireless option very often.  WiFi will be the main way you stay connected and you’ll more than likely only use 3G wireless while you’re out running errands or traveling.  So, now that we know your main connection method is WiFi, let’s look at how much data your usage style will consume.

If you’re a heavy apps user, love surfing the web or watching video content and your primary method for connecting to the Internet is via your 3G data plan, you’ll definitely want a plan bigger than 250 MB.  However, if you connect mainly via WiFi or you only use the Internet to occasionally send an e-mail or check a website, then 250 MB should be more than enough for you.

It really comes down to how often you plan to use the Internet while away from WiFi.  For most casual users, 250MB is a good place to start and then move up if you see you’re consuming more data.

High Usage User

If you’re someone that uses your iPad for business, travels frequently, enjoys web videos or is a heavy e-mail and web user, then chances are you’ll want a plan that gives you at least 2GB worth of data.  AT&T’s 2GB plan will cost you $25 or you can opt for Verizon’s 3GB plan which will set you back $35.  These two plans are great options for heavy web and e-mail users, but might not be enough for hardcore video fans who like to watch TV while on the road and away from an open WiFi hot spot.

If you need 2-3 GB of data, the AT&T plan may be the better option.  The AT&T plan allows you to pick the 2GB option and if you creep up to 3GB, simply pay a $10 overage fee for the additional 1 GB in data.  With Verizon, you’ll have to pay for the full 3GB even if you only use 1 or 2 GB.  The AT&T plan gives you a little more flexibility and can also help you save some money each month.

Once you go over 4GB of data, Verizon’s data plans become the much better option.  For example, let’s say you are a heavy user and use 10GB a month.  With Verizon you can pick the 10 GB plan for $80, whereas with AT&T you’d spend $115 for the same amount of data.

Coverage

We’ve all heard the stories of wireless networks and their dreaded dropped calls but that is not an issue when it comes to data plans.  Both carriers have separate voice and data networks, UMTS / HSDPA for AT&T and EVDO Rev A for Verizon, so dropped calls really don’t apply when choosing the best data network.  Coverage for both carriers is roughly the same for most urban areas, but you should check the AT&T and Verizon websites to determine the coverage for your location.

Given decent coverage, the difference will come down to how much wireless spectrum (i.e. bandwidth) each carrier has available in your area as this will greatly impact your network speed. While AT&T claims to have the fastest network, your mileage may vary, so be sure to check with friends who already have the AT&T or Verizon Wireless service and see what their experience has been.

Conclusion

For most people the choice will come down to how much data you need and who has the best price.  The good thing with both carriers is that they don’t lock you into a long term contract which allows you to give the plans a try and see which one is best for you.  You can also easily increase, decrease or even drop your data plan from month-to-month as your usage varies.  This is a great option for college students who might need data plans during the semester but will only use WiFi when they are back home during holidays.

Both companies provide easy access to your online usage so you can monitor the data you’ve been using and adjust accordingly.  AT&T and Verizon Wireless have tried to make getting online with your iPad 2 as easy as possible, so go ahead and enjoy all the fun of untethered Internet access wherever you might go with your shiny new iPad 2.

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