My first tablet was the Acer Iconia A500, followed by an iPad 2, then an 8 GB 2012 Nexus 7 that I pre-ordered. I sold this tablet on and bought a 32 GB model, then upgraded this to the 3G Nexus 7 2012! I resisted the 2013 Nexus 7 for just three months and now carry my LTE model much everywhere. I’ve found a data-enabled tablet to be a great compromise between my larger tablet and a smartphone. However, tablet data plans tend to be expensive compared with smartphones. The news that Straight Talk are launching “bring your own tablet” plans to the US market is welcome because ultimately more competition should, eventually, push prices down. Unfortunately, Straight Talk’s plans are not as competitive as we’d like. For $15 a month, customers can get 1 GB of data moving up to 5 GB for $50 a month. These aren’t the worse rates (but I’ll come on to tablet data plans in a little but) but they’re not as keen as we might expect. T-Mobile USA’s $50 plan provides customers with 7 GB of monthly data, which is great if you have the coverage. Of course, Straight Talk’s GSM partner networks should give you better coverage than just T-Mobile USA.
Straight Talk is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, representing a partnership between TracFone and Walmart. ‘Phone plans are available with both CDMA and GSM, but currently Straight Talk do not offer CDMA tablet plans. The GSM service uses either AT&T or T-Mobile USA’s network and the CDMA side uses either Verizon or Sprint. Plans range from the $30 to $60; the popular unlimited plan is $45 a month, which includes unlimited minutes, text messages and data (however, speeds are throttled once you go beyond 3 GB). For the tablet service, these need to be GSM devices that are both unlocked and operate on the 850 MHz and 1,900 MHz (in other words, be compatible with T-Mobile USA or AT&T) in order to be compatible. Straight Talk’s website clearly says that phablets are excluded from these deals, which is a shame.
I’m surprised at how expensive tablet plans data plans across the world. Perhaps it’s because carriers assume that anybody able to buy a data-enabled tablet is able to afford higher data rates? Or perhaps it’s because they fear the amount of data we might use if we were to permanently stop using WiFi? My UK carrier gives me 10 GB of data for $24 a month and this includes free data roaming in the USA. Another entrant into the tablet data market is a good thing, but I would hope for lower prices. Let us know what you think in the comments below.