Connect with us


Why Would You (Or Did You) Buy A 3G or 4G Tablet Instead Of Wi-Fi?



Industry analyst Chetan Sharma released a wireless market update report today that reveals, among other things, that consumers overwhelmingly preferred Wi-Fi only tablets to those with mobile broadband capability in 2011. This comes as no shock to us here at GBM.

Wi-Fi tablets are less expensive and don’t come with 2-year agreements and ridiculous termination fees. Plus, customers currently can’t share a data plan between their phone and tablet, meaning they need two data packages. Since it’s no longer possible to buy a smartphone without activating a data plan while on contract, it makes more sense to go Wi-Fi for a tablet and get a mobile hotspot add-on for the phone.

(Read: Do You Really Need a 4G LTE iPad 3?)

Tablet Sales - Wi-Fi vs Mobile Data 3G

Back when the original Samsung Galaxy Tab launched with the major U.S. carriers the reasoning behind the move had a lot to do with distribution and marketing. Samsung wouldn’t have to do it all alone – AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon would put their own muscle behind the tablets. Only months later did we get a Wi-Fi only version.

According to Sharma, that’s not a major consideration. It certainly isn’t for Apple. And notice that the majority of Android and other non-Apple tablets usually launch a Wi-Fi version first and maybe a carrier version after. There are some exceptions, obviously.

The thing that makes me curious is: why would someone buy a 3G or 4G tablet? What kind of people derive benefit from them?

I agree with Kevin C. Tofel of GigaOM that the majority of the mobile data tablets represented in Sharma’s chart are probably iPads. With that tablet there’s no subsidy and no commitment. You can turn data on and off as you choose without penalty.

This option is available for other tablets as well, such as the Galaxy Tab 7.7 at Verizon Wireless, but it means you have to pay a higher price up front ($699 instead of $499). Either way, what makes it worth the extra cost?

Tell us in the comments.



  1. Joe

    03/20/2012 at 1:51 pm

    Until we get family data plans, or at least a data plan that can be shared across devices on a per user basis then I don’t see this trend turning around. $50 per month for smartphone data, plus $50 for a tablet plan (I’m generalizing of course) just doesn’t make any fiscal sense.

  2. Karen Murray

    03/20/2012 at 1:56 pm

    So, I got the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 on contract w/Verizon and went to a basic phone, thus just switching the data from a smartphone to a tablet. I found that using data was uncomfortable for my 50+ year old eyes. Now I am getting more out of my $30/month. However, until  the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the 7.7, I was not able to carry a tablet comfortable in a small purse. BTW, when I switched to the free basic phone (Verizon), I got the 7.7 for $399 vs $499

    • Marco

      06/07/2012 at 7:42 am

      I like your idea very much.

  3. Paul-k

    03/20/2012 at 2:41 pm

    Simplicity & battery life. I don’t have to remember to turn on phone hotspot, and worry about phone battery drain when browsing using iPad. Pay as you go data plans are reasonable value in UK, so not a big deal.

  4. Dabrazaldo74

    03/20/2012 at 4:15 pm

    Its a pain connecting and re-connecting to the mobile hot spot, especially when it keeps timing out when you are idle for 10 minutes. I bought the new iPad specifically to have the 4g capability. Its the best purchase I have made! The extra money is worth less frustration.

  5. sfwrtr

    03/20/2012 at 7:05 pm

    Bought an iPad 2 10 months ago, WiFi 64GB, and realized that about every two months or so it would be incredibly convenient to have had the 3G option when traveling.  Waited for the new iPad and bought 64GB LTE version.  Had I had 3G on the 2, I would not have upgraded.  The screen is pretty nice on the new one, though…

  6. Tim Davies

    03/21/2012 at 9:52 am

    I have an Unlimited ATT iPad Data plan from when the first iPad came out. The ATT 4G Model was a no thought purchase for me.

  7. Remodelmonster

    03/21/2012 at 1:04 pm

    I’m on the verge of taking Verizon up on their deal to upgrade my phone and get the 7.7 for $399. I would consider waiting for a WIFI version, but I’m under the impression that the GPS/Navigation wouldn’t be working properly without the 4G Lte plan.  Am I wrong about this?  I am looking forward to putting a docking station / bracket in my vehicle for the 7.7 and using Google maps and Navigation.

    • K. T. Bradford

      03/21/2012 at 3:52 pm

       GPS works without 4G, but you’ll need Wi-Fi at the beginning of your journey and I suppose it can’t recalculate if it has no data to draw on.

    • Karen

      03/23/2012 at 9:34 am

      You are thinking of doing what I have already done. It’s worked out well for me.

  8. Lee_3

    04/27/2012 at 12:51 pm

    Right now I am on the hunt for a simple and inexpensive 3G
    (or 4G) Android OS tablet that I want to add to my current cell phone plan. The
    reasoning is I want to give it to my Grandma. She lives in a different state
    then me and we don’t see each other that often. She isn’t computer literate and
    therefore does not have a computer or internet access at home. She is also hard
    of hearing and it’s getting worse, she can hardly hear on the phone anymore. I’ve
    looked into e-mail printers for her, but they come with a monthly service plan
    as well and she would be required to buy and replace ink (which she is on a tight
    budget and ink is expensive, not to mention I think she would not trust herself
    to install the ink). With the tablet the only maintenance she has to worry
    about is charging it. I also want to see if I can find and purchase and if I
    can’t then write a program for the tablet that would essentially dummy it down for
    use by my grandma. It would block out the OS and all you would see would be the
    interface for the app (it would be set up that you couldn’t get out of that
    interface easily or accidently). There would need to be large font and only
    access/options to very basic tasks like viewing and sending e-mail, viewing and
    saving pictures, etc. I have a bit more detailed ideas for the app, but you get
    the idea.

  9. Kelly

    07/18/2012 at 1:04 am

    I have a question. I have a galaxy tab 7.7 3G still under contract. If I buy an iPad with 3G capabilities can I switch tablets without penalty? Can someone please let me know. Thanks

    • V

      08/20/2012 at 1:48 pm

      Yes, you can. I had a Galaxy Tab 10.1 under contract and bought a LTE iPad. They switched my contract with no fees. Make sure to test to make sure it works before you leave the store, though. They accidentally botched my switch so I had to go in again and fix it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.