Subsidized iPad Could Actually Save You Hundreds

softbank

Japan’s Softbank mobile network provider is now offering (Google translation) Apple’s iPad to subscribers free with a two-year service agreement. Japan is the second country to offer subsidized pricing for Apple’s popular tablet, after Orange and T-Mobile announced its plans for the U.K. last week.

Softbank will give you the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model iPad for free, so long as you sign up for a two-year 3G data plan, which will cost you around $55 per month. It also looks like that data plan provides unlimited usage, too. Not a bad deal, considering I had to pay full price for my iPad and still have to pay more than $35 a month for 5GB of usage.

In fact, if I do the math, my plan plus the price of the original iPad purchase (here in Canada) comes to $1607.27, while the Softbank deal works out to only $1344. That’s a savings of $263.27, provided I renew my data plan every month for two years, which I almost definitely will.

The deal starts Dec. 3, and is only a limited time offer extending until Feb. 28, 2011. If I still lived in Japan, I’d definitely go this route instead of buying directly from Apple. Especially considering that last time I checked, cancellation charges for exiting a contract early weren’t at all severe when dealing with Japanese network operators.

Orange and T-Mobile also recently revealed their specific subsidized device pricing plans, with the Wi-Fi + 3G model available for £199 (~$309 U.S.) on a £27 (~$42 U.S.) per month plan over two years. That plan gets you 1GB of anytime usage, plus an extra 1GB between 4 PM and midnight. Grand total: $1317 U.S. Again, better than what I paid, though you do get less data.

Compare that to what you can get in the U.S. with Verizon, data plans start at $20 for 1GB of data and run up to $80 for 10GB. With those deals, you’re also buying the Wi-Fi only version, remember, and a Verizon MiFi. The entry-level bundle will cost you $629 for a 16GB iPad. With the entry-level data package, your two-year total comes to just $1109. But if you’re a heavy user, that goes up quickly to $1920 for the closest to unlimited offered by Verizon. Softbank’s deal, by contrast, will save you $576.

Of course, Verizon also has the advantage of providing a MiFi in the bargain, which you can use with your smartphone and notebook, too. The iPad with 3G built-in can’t share it’s connection at all. Still, if you’re looking for a single-device connected everywhere solution, a MiFi might not be among your top priorities. In fact, it could hinder your overall portable, since you have to account for two devices instead of one.

Personally, I’d opt for a subsidized deal if something similar were offered here in North America, even given the possible advantage of a Verizon MiFi and the freedom of not being locked in. These packages look appealing to anyone else?

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