One of the most useful portable computing devices without any doubt is the tablet. For many consumers tablets have replaced laptops and netbooks and for good reasons: tablets are lighter, have batteries that last longer and are easier to use than laptops. Most established electronics manufacturers offer tablets as part of their computer lineup. The consumer electronics tablet segment has experienced exponential growth and there is no sign of slowing down.
While Apple's iPad dominates this segment many great tablet options are offered by Amazon (in their Kindle), ASUS, Acer and others. In many cases two versions of the same device are offered: a Wi-Fi only version and a cellular version. With the exception of the Kindle all other cellular (often referred to as 3G or 4G versions) enabled tablets in addition to being more expensive to purchase require a recurring monthly premium. The kindle cellular while more expensive to purchase offers free cellular access for all Amazon related purchases.
The premium for purchasing a cellular enabled tablet can be hefty! Over $100 for the ipad (in any reiteration) and between sixty and a hundred dollars for the kindle depending on the model. The included image, courtesy Apple.com, shows Apple’s pricing for all versions of the ipad currently for sale.
The price difference between the cellular and Wi-Fi models is well over $100.00 in every instance. While having internet access on the go is valuable having a cellular tablet is not necessary in order to achieve on the go access to the internet. It is hard to find a public place that does not offer Wi-Fi access often for free most anywhere in the United States. For the times that Wi-Fi is not available much cheaper alternatives exist:
1) Most cell phones today that are Internet capable can be configured as “hot spots” supporting up to five Wi-Fi devices allowing them internet access at the same speeds that the 3G and 4G tablets do. Often this is available at no extra costs for plans that include Internet access or for a $10.00 monthly fee which is much cheaper than the recurring monthly bill for a cellular tablet.
2) There are many pay-as-you-go broadband devices that allow five or more internet connections for a cost much lower than the monthly cost for a cellular tablet. Every cellular phone company provides such devices in both 3G and 4G configurations.
Using a cell phone or a pay-as-you-go broadband device to access the internet in addition to saving money for the purchase and operation of the tablet provides another benefit: the tablet is not tied to a specific carrier! It can be moved to any carrier without any difficulty and this flexibility for some might be more important than saving money.
Lastly the Wi-Fi only versions of any tablet brand tend to have longer battery life because they do not have to power a cellular radio. It is hard to find any benefit for the consumer in purchasing a cellular tablet, it is simply a bad purchasing idea.