The best iPad carrier for you

The new iPad is available on several carriers, two of which include 4G LTE. Here's the lowdown on the pros and cons about those two networks.

As Apple's first 4G LTE-compatible device, the new iPad has a lot riding on its wings. And because it costs a pretty penny, it makes sense to consider every issue--including which 4G network is right for you .

Whether you know it or not, no two carriers are exactly alike. The same goes for AT&T and Verizon. Although both offer 4G and international roaming (but not on 4G LTE bands ), there are different caveats and benefits to each, making for two different iPad experiences. Read on if you want to know what these two companies have to offer (or not) for Apple's new tablet.

AT&T


AT&T's 4G and 4G LTE markets AT&T

Pros: For people who know they won't use a lot of data or will be connected to Wi-Fi most of the time, AT&T offers the cheapest plan at $14.99 for 250MB of data a month. That's great for people who want to conserve their data use or want a cheaper option. Furthermore, AT&T's $30 3GB data plan costs the same price as Verizon's 2GB data plan. And its budding LTE service hasn't experienced any outages so far.

Cons: Although AT&T is planning on offering a personal hot-spot feature for the new iPad, it is currently unavailable . And as I wrote previously, AT&T's 4G LTE coverage is nascent--it's barely been three months since CNET in San Francisco got coverage. In addition to the Bay Area, only about 27 other markets and 74 million Americans are covered by AT&T's 4G LTE (if you count HSPA+ technology, the number jumps to 250 million). Sure, the company does have plans to expand to several other cities in the next few months, so if you're willing to wait, by all means. But if you're not living in any of these already established or future-LTE cities, AT&T's network will mean diddly-squat to you. Furthermore, AT&T's plans goes from 250MB to 3GB with nothing in between, and its largest offering is 5GB, whereas Verizon's goes up to 8GB. The carrier also hasn't confirmed whether you can unlock its iPad's SIM for international use. Lastly, if you buy an iPad from AT&T and wish to return it, you have 14 days to do so and will be charged a 10 percent restocking fee.

Verizon


Verizon Wireless' 4G markets Verizon Wireless

Pros: Verizon is by far the leader in 4G LTE coverage; it confirmed that all its upcoming smartphones will run on 4G LTE, the company has more than seven times the number of 4G LTE cities compared with AT&T, and its 4G LTE network reaches 200 million Americans. Future plans to expand its coverage for a total of 400 markets means that wherever you are, Verizon is more likely to land on your market. Furthermore, you can sign up for a 10GB data plan for $80 (AT&T's max is just 5GB). The new iPad on Verizon will also offer hot-spot capabilities at no additional cost, so you can tether up to five other devices to your data connection. If you travel internationally, Verizon has confirmed that two weeks after the new iPad's launch this Friday, you can get your SIM unlocked and put in another foreign SIM in order to use your tablet globally.

Cons: Being the frontrunner of the 4G race does come with certain stipulations--like network jamming and many , many , outages , for example. Also, Verizon's plan doesn't include a cheaper 250MB option and it charges $30 a month for its 2GB a month data plan. For the same price on AT&T, you get one extra gigabyte a month. It also does not offer anything between 2GB and 5GB, whereas AT&T has a 3GB option. Lastly, Verizon still includes the same 14-day window for returning your tablet, but it will charge you a flat $70 restocking fee.

In short
As with many decisions, everything "depends." What is a pro or con for one may not affect you as much as others. If you don't need hot-spot tethering, plan on staying in one of the country's more populated cities, and use a lot of Wi-Fi, feel free to go with AT&T. But if you need a lot of data, want more 4G LTE coverage, and are familiar with the accolades that surround Verizon, it may be best to get the new iPad on Big Red.

About the author

Lynn La is CNET's associate editor for cell phone and smartphone news and reviews. Prior to coming to CNET, she wrote for the Sacramento Bee and was a staff editor at Macworld. In addition to covering technology, she has reported on health, science, and politics.

 

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