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Summary:

There are two big barriers to wider LTE tablet adoption: the higher cost of a slate with 4G radios and the monthly data fees necessary to connect it. T-Mobile is eliminating both obstacles.

iPad mini vs ipad air
photo: Apple

If you’re looking for a reason to buy an LTE tablet as opposed to a Wi-Fi-only model, then T-Mobile just provided that push. The carrier is expanding its free data plan on tablets from a mere 200 MBs to 1.2 MBs for the rest of the year, and it’s promised to sell 4G tablets for the same price as their Wi-Fi only equivalents.

The promotion begins Saturday — as do the new $40 entry-level smartphone plans T-Mobile announced Wednesday — and is only available to customers who subscribe to a T-Mobile Simple Choice smartphone plan. It’s also only good for new tablet purchases. But despite those restrictions, it’s still quite a deal.

Typically a tablet with cellular radios costs $100 to $130 more than the Wi-Fi equivalent. For instance, the 16GB iPad mini costs $299 with Wi-Fi only and $529 with LTE and 3G connectivity. T-Mobile listed the specific prices it will charge for only two slates, the 16GB iPad Air ($499) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 ($200), though it said the discounts will go as high as $130. We should see the full list on Saturday.

GALAXY TAB 3 8.0 GOLD BROWN

The LTE version of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 will cost $200 under T-Mobile’s new offer

Getting 1.2 GBs of monthly data for free is nothing to scoff at. Given the richer multimedia experience a tablet offers over a smartphone, you easily could consume far more than 1.2 GBs in month. But the plan is more than enough for web-surfing, social networking and email – pretty much anything apart from video and large file downloads. T-Mobile’s 200 MB offer was good for maintaining baseline connectivity, but this offer could make your tablet truly useful as a mobile device. At the end of the year, the free data plan reverts back to 200 MBs so you won’t lose mobile connectivity entirely.

This promotion isn’t just tailored to bring in more tablet customers. I suspect T-Mobile’s real aim is to lure in more core smartphone users. To take full advantage of the deal you need to be a smartphone subscriber with T-Mobile (otherwise you have to buy a baseline data plan), so tablet users on AT&T or Verizon attracted by the offer’s allure would likely bring their smartphone service to T-Mobile as well.

Though Verizon and AT&T are more expensive than T-Mobile, they both offer shared data plans that appeal to consumers with multiple devices. T-Mobile’s offer isn’t a shared data plan, but it offers a plenty big incentive for multi-device users to switch.

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  1. i wonder what t-mobile is willing to consider a tablet. for example could a ‘phablet’ be placed on this plan for data only usage. or perhaps even a regular sized smartphone. no talk & text of course.

    i would consider buying one of the large dual SIM phones from china if i could put two SIMs(one in each sim slot) in for a total of 2.4 free GB each month.

  2. I think for this approach to really take off we need to see one of two things:

    1. More tablets with LTE built-in (because we all know carriers despise tethering and not everybody wants to carry a mobile hotspot in their pocket)
    2. Data plans that don’t differentiate devices (because if I can have unlimited data on my android smartphone, why not have the same on an android tablet)

    Mobile broadband in the US will always suck until carriers find another cash cow.

    1. You betcha. I actually feel sorry for you guys. Your coverage and options actually seem worse than in Australia. You cant use the special rate iPad sims in any thing else though, as the charges will go back up and it doesn’t allow normal phone calls. At least tethering still works.

  3. This deal doesn’t exactly work like that. You have to sign up for a 1GB plan which is free through the end of the year. After that, the discount ends and you pay $10/month for the 1GB. The 200MB is always there for free. But if customers disconnect the 1GB data plan, they have to pay off the balance of what remains on their installment plan.

  4. T mobile can offer whatever they like since it’s flaky network results in evry little actual connections or data availability. Too bad the AT&t guy couldn’t get their sim to work in my gsm pad when I toured the states recently.

  5. Sebastian Riera Sunday, April 13, 2014

    I’m deffintely gonna go fetch a new tab!! but, does anyone know if i could activate a note pro 12″ on t-mo?

    I know that a lot of devices that work on verizon have been working on t-mo but would they let me have free data even if i buy the device somewhere else? (Am i asking the uncarrier for too much?)

    also, dont wanna be THAT guy but theres a typo above^^

    GB right?

    just provided that push. The carrier is expanding its free data plan on tablets from a mere 200 MBs to 1.2 MBs for the rest of the year, and it’s promised to sell 4G tablets for the same price as their Wi-Fi

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