We waited a long time and read countless rumors about the iPad Mini until it was finally announced, and we waited even longer for the LTE version to become available. Well Folks, today the 4G LTE models of the iPad Mini have gone on sale at Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T retail locations. The ultimate portable tablet offered by Apple just got even better with 4G LTE capability. Now, if you purchase a 4G model, what carrier do you choose? Here’s a breakdown of each of the three choices and how they all stack up against one another.
First off, you need to choose which model suits your needs, with models starting at $459.00 for the 16 GB all the way up to $659.00 for the 32 GB and 64 GB models. At the moment, AT&T is offering $100.00 off any 4G model if you sign up for a 2-year data contract with them. That offering is very enticing, especially since that brings the price down to the WiFi model’s price point – but what else does that 2-year contract offer?
Even though most people who purchase the 4G LTE iPad Mini will probably just tie their tablet to their current cell carrier, you don’t have to, and it’s important to look at all your options. Let’s take a look at the monthly no-contract obligation offerings from each carrier.
MONTHLY DATA PLANS:
Verizon’s plan is the most superior choice in the $20 per month range, but AT&T offers the most data for your dollar at $30, and Sprint holds the title for the best no-contract per-dollar data in the $50 and up category. There are a couple of other things to consider as well. At the moment, Sprint is waiving the connection fee for new cellular-equipped tablets, while Verizon isn’t charging activation, re-connection or overage fees for prepaid tablets.
The values start to cloud a bit if you’re considering adding your 4G LTE iPad mini to an existing data plan, however Verizon and AT&T will let you add tablets to a shared data plan for just $10 per month. If you can skim some off of your monthly usage, you might not even need to increase your data pool. If you do decide to go big or go home with your data plan choice for your new iPad mini, Verizon is the better deal.
Both AT&T and Verizon offer similar prices at 4GB of data per month and below, but if you need to feed your life-long movie collection daily, then Verizon’s tiered structure adds 2GB to your plan for an additional $10. ($80 for 6GB, $90 for 8GB, etc.) AT&T doesn’t offer as many data tiers, and it charges more for its 6GB and 10GB tiers than Verizon.
4G LTE COVERAGE:
Verizon: Very fast speeds in currently 440 cities, locals being added daily and claims by mid 2013 every customer will have 4G LTE service.
AT&T: Essentially the second largest 4G network hoping to reach 200 million customers by the end of 2013.
Sprint: This is where you need to be careful, due to the very limited 4G service Sprint offers. Only offering 32 metropolitan areas with 4G LTE service, expecting to reach 125 markets in the future.
Essentially the showdown ends with Sprint being a great option for 3 GB and up prepaid plans, but you need to research the coverage of each in your area. AT&T stays competitive, but with Verizon’s extensive network of coverage and speeds combined with their $20 1 GB prepaid offer they are hard to beat. The flexibility on their shared data pricing also makes them even harder to contend with, and in my opinion Verizon is the number one carrier option for a 4G LTE iPad Mini.