Imagine being able to connect to the Internet from anywhere. Check your e-mail at the beach, watch a video while in a waiting room, run your business from the golf course or entertain your children in the backseat as you drive across the country. With a 4G LTE connected device or mobile broadband, you can do all this and more without having to worry about finding a Wi-Fi hotspot. Use this guide to help you determine the right connected device for your lifestyle.
How 4G LTE Devices Work
Most of the time, you need to be within a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to the Internet. However, connected devices let you access the Internet using the cellular network your cell phone uses, such as 4G or 4G LTE. These networks can offer high-speed Internet on the devices you love, and the 4G LTE network has an incredibly fast connection.
There are a variety of choices for 4G LTE connected devices. A standalone device, such as a laptop or tablet, connects directly to the 4G LTE as your smartphone would. A mobile broadband device creates its own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect multiple devices simultaneously. No matter which you choose, your 4G LTE device can access all your favorite websites and applications from anywhere. Plus, you can bundle your new device with your current cell phone service provider for one monthly bill.
The Right Connection for You
There are a variety of 4G LTE options to choose from. Before you select a specific 4G LTE device, you must choose how you wish to connect to the 4G LTE network.
Mobile broadband and smartphone hotspots
A mobile broadband device works as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. Small enough to fit in your pocket or briefcase, you can connect up to five Wi-Fi capable devices to the Internet. If you aren't ready to replace your current non-4G LTE Wi-Fi device, or if you work on assignment and need a flexible Internet connection, a mobile broadband device is a great option for you. They also work well if you live somewhere without reliable broadband internet.
Another way to access the Internet while on the go is to use your smartphone as a hotspot. Smartphones have the ability to share their data connections with other devices. This feature makes a smartphone hotspot superb if you're vacationing and need brief Internet access for a laptop, e-reader or tablet. Check with your carrier to see if your smartphone is already enabled, or if you have to activate it separately.
4G LTE tablets and laptops
Perhaps you travel to work or school by public transit and want to make your commute more productive, or you travel a lot with small children and need options to keep them entertained. Maybe you have a small business and need a lightweight, easy to carry point-of-sale. If so, you're in the market for a connected tablet. With its portability, large touchscreen and connection to 4G LTE, a connected tablet is the perfect device for those looking to have quick, reliable access to the Internet without having to seek out a hotspot.
If you need a more powerful device to complete all your computing needs while on the go, a laptop is for you. Great for a business person who travels frequently, or a small business owner with a need to access files anywhere, 4G LTE connected laptops allow you the functionality you're used to in your laptop with the freedom of a constantly accessible network.
- Learn more about 4G LTE laptops
Considerations Before You Buy
Using your smartphone as a hotspot is another option. If you aren't sure if your tablet or laptop is connected, stop into a Best Buy store and ask a Mobile Specialist for help.
Number of devices you'd like to connect
If you want to connect more than one device simultaneously, you need a hotspot that is capable of that connection. Many connected devices can turn into hotspots that allow multiple connections, while mobile broadband is a standalone device. Make sure to check speed and the number of devices you'll be able to connect if you have a specific need.
The screen size of a device can impact the amount of work you can do at once. While a smartphone may be sufficient for reading and replying to e-mails, it can be difficult to navigate complex websites, or edit a database. Tablets give you bigger screens for web browsing, but if you'll be using your device for visually intensive work, such as editing spreadsheets, photos, or using side-by-side programs, a laptop may be a better option.
Think about the type of work your device will be used for. Heavy computing or data analysis may require a laptop with a stronger processor than a smartphone or tablet. If using your device for streaming data or checking social media, a tablet will work for you.
Postpaid and No-Contract Plans
Postpaid (contract) plans
A postpaid or contract plan is a service agreement that lasts a specified amount of time (usually two years) and carries a penalty for terminating the contract early. A major benefit of using a postpaid plan is that your new connected device may be cheaper. The carrier often will subsidize your new tablet or laptop if you sign up for a one or two year contract.
If you already have a plan with a wireless provider such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T or Sprint, there are options to add a connected device to your cell phone plan. A shared data plan makes it easy and affordable to add a laptop, tablet or mobile broadband device to your bill. If you don't already have a postpaid plan, you can get one exclusively for the connected device you'd like 4G LTE access on.
No-contract or prepaid data plans are also available for connected devices, with a pay-as-you-go option.
Pre-paying for your data makes it easy to keep track of your budget and data usage. Because you aren't locked into a long-term contract, you have the ability to pay for your connected device only when you need to. For example, if you know you'll be traveling, you could activate your tablet's data connection.
Because you'll need to pay the entire cost for the device, it may be more expensive upfront than if you purchase a postpaid plan. Popular pay-as-you-go carriers include Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile. Cricket Wireless, NET10 Wireless and more.
Once you've decided on a no-contract or postpaid option for your connected device, you'll need to choose a carrier. There are three key factors to consider: your planned monthly data budget, coverage area and the device selection for that carrier.
It's important you plan ahead for your connected device budget. You should think about how many devices you would like to add to the plan and how much data you will be using.
Tiered data plans from Verizon Wireless and AT&T allow you to pay a set rate based on how much data you expect to use, with modest overage fees if you exceed your limit. These are great if you use data sparingly, or for emergencies. Paying the modest fee works well for people who use their connected device once a year while on vacation or some other occasion where they may only need more data one month of the year.
However, if you plan on streaming a lot of video or downloading large files off the Internet, unlimited data could be important to you. An unlimited plan essentially allows you as much data as you want to use at no extra charge. Many no-contract carriers offer unlimited monthly data plans. Sprint also offers an unlimited postpaid plan.
It's important to choose a carrier that has strong coverage in the area you would like to use the device. Carriers generally provide coverage maps displaying their service areas, but you should also ask your friends, family and co-workers about their own experiences.
Product availability can make a huge difference in selecting a carrier. Certain devices may be tied to a specific carrier, while others are available through multiple carriers. If you know you want a certain laptop or tablet, make sure it's available with your carrier or a carrier with good coverage in your area.
Before you start using your new device, you'll need to activate it. This involves connecting with your carrier and getting your service started. If you're buying your device in store, our Mobile Specialists will gladly get you all set up to "walk out working." If you're buying online you can bring your device into your nearest Best Buy for help with activation.
Shop Online or In Store
Find a wide variety of connected devices at BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a wide selection of the latest connected devices, many of which are available to compare. Plus, our friendly Mobile Specialists are available to answer questions, provide advice on data plans, and help activate your new device.