Buying a Tablet with a 2 Year Contract is a Horrible Idea

Xoom Verizon

2011 is going to be the year of the tablet, and the wireless service providers are looking to cash in big.

A lot of the new tablets coming out have options for 3G and sometimes 4G wireless in addition to WiFi. At the time of purchase, many of these new tablets require you to sign a contract for a 2 year data plan. Either that or pay a lot more up front.

What’s worse is that many of these data plans are based off of cellphone plans. A 1GB data plan is absolutely ridiculous for a tablet, especially at $20 a month like Verizon is offering for the Motorola Xoom. You could eat through 1GB in an afternoon surfing the web and watching some YouTube videos. And then they’ll slam you with overage charges to make it worse.

My advice? Never buy a tablet that requires a contract. It is not a cellphone. WiFi is becoming more widely available all the time so you aren’t going to need 3G most of the time. 3G is too slow to provide a good tablet usage experience anyway. Ever try to watch high quality videos over 3G? Good luck.

And then there’s the fact that tablets are still basically in their infancy. There’s going to be so many advances over the next year in tablet hardware and software that locking yourself into one device for the next 2 years is a horrible idea. What if you pick a brand that’s not going to update the operating system? What if next year a different tablet comes along from a different carrier that’s ten times better and half the price?

If you are going to buy a tablet this year, research wireless provider options first. You really should consider getting a tablet that offers month-to-month data plans instead getting locked in a 2 year wireless contract for something that’s new to the market and can’t even be used to make regular phone calls like a cellphone. That’s just my two-cents.

5 Responses to “Buying a Tablet with a 2 Year Contract is a Horrible Idea”

  1. I own a pay as you go tracfone so I am clueless on this subject. In lieu of a month to month contract I wonder if a pay as you go system will be available at some point for tablets that have 3G built-in capabilities. I believe I can tether my cellphone to my tablet, but I assume I would still need a ISP provider.

    • AT&T has some pay as you go plans for the Galaxy Tab and I’m assuming others. It’s not bad at 2GB for $25 for 30 days or something like that. I don’t know much about tethering. If that’s works, that’s probably the best way to go since most people already have cellphones. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of wireless contracts and have always gone with monthly or pay as you go plans.

  2. If you are going to buy a tablet, think about where you will mostly be using it. If your primary (and secondary) place of use has wi-fi network access, you probably don’tneed cellular 3g/4g access. I’ve seem my iPad-toting friends surfing 3G and it is painfully slow (or maybe I’m just really impatient). If you will use your tablet out of range of a wi-fi network, or where networks are locked down, i.e. school, in a car, etc. then 3G might be worth it to you, but be prepared to pay.

    It may also bear noting that you can get a lot of awfully capable laptops for a lot less than what the new tablets look like they will be going for and some of them don’t even weigh that much more (eg. HP Envy) but can do a lot more because of the more powerful, hardware, not to mention real keyboards and media drives.

    • Good points. Tablets are definitely at a premium price right now (at least the really good ones). Productivity-wise a laptop is much better for the price. I built this entire website with a $399 Acer laptop–definitely couldn’t do that with any tablet. And having used a lot of tablets, WiFi is the way to go and so widespread anymore that a lot of restaurants, schools, hotels, hospitals, etc have free WiFi. That being said, not having 3G is a major pain in a lot of instances because so many apps rely on internet to work. 3G is a much-needed option for a lot of people, but I just don’t see how a 2 year contract is the way to go for anybody, certainly not me.

  3. Perhaps the day will come when they are like laptops…and you don’t need a contract to use them. Like link to the nearest open WiFi.