AT&T vs. Verizon: Choosing the best iPad 2 data plan

AT&T vs. Verizon: Choosing the best iPad 2 data plan

While both carriers offer 3G data options, the two are not created equal

by Emily Price on March 16, 2011


Both Verizon and AT&T are offering a 3G version of the iPad. While both can transfer data to your iPad at the same speed, in theory, there are some pretty big differences between the two when it comes to paying for that data.

Gotcha covered
Before you make a decision between AT&T or Verizon, take a look at the coverage maps for both carriers and make sure that the carrier you choose offers coverage where you need it. While both carriers probably offer similar service in major cities, some areas may only have decent coverage from one or the other.

Ask your local friends what mobile phone carrier they use. If all your friends who use Verizon are getting bad service, then chances are you'll also get bad service on your iPad. Likewise, if there are places in your town where no one can get service on AT&T, you're not going to be able to get service on your AT&T iPad in those places, either.

Netbook

Making cents
The right carrier for you will depend greatly on how much you plan on using your iPad and whether or not you exceed the allowed data usage with the plan you select.

AT&T alternatives
AT&T offers both prepaid and postpaid data options for the iPad. Prepaid plan are paid in advance, and when they run out, they require you to purchase another plan, so you'll never go "over" on data. Postpaid plans are charged monthly after you use data, so you can go over the amount of data offered in the plan you select and pay overage fees, rather than have to buy a whole new plan to keep surfing.

Both options offer a 250MB plan for $14.99 and a 2GB data plan for $25. If you choose the 250MB plan, then you will be charged for an additional 250MB plan ($14.99) for each 250MB of data you use. Prepaid 2GB data customers will also automatically be charged for another 2GB data plan ($25) when they go over their initial 2GB allotment. Postpaid customers, however, will only be charged $10 for each additional GB of data they use in a month.

Prepaid or postpaid?
If you think you're going use 2GB of data in a month's time or less, then you're going to get the same deal whether you select the prepaid or postpaid option from AT&T. If you think your data use may run a little higher than 2GB, however, then you're better off selecting a postpaid data plan from AT&T and only paying for the data that you use, rather than being forced into another 2GB plan.

Verizon alternatives
Verizon only offers prepaid data plans for the iPad, but with several more options than AT&T. A 1GB plan on Verizon is $20, with each additional GB of data running an additional $20. What that means is if you were to use 2GB of data on a 1GB plan, you'd be paying Verizon $40. If you know you're going to use a good deal of data, Verizon offers 3GB for $35, 5GB for $50, and 10GB for $80, with overages only costing $10 per GB on those plans.

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Which is best?
The plan that's best for you depends on how you plan on using your iPad. Customers who are going to use over 1GB of data ? but not a ton more ? each month are probably best-suited for a postpaid 2GB AT&T plan. Those who plan on using a lot of data, however, could save some cash by purchasing Verizon's 10GB plan for $80.

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