If you’re looking for a reason to buy an LTE tablet as opposed to a Wi-Fi-only model, then T-Mobile(s tmus) 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.
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(s t) or Verizon(s vz) 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.