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iPad for £199 on contract with Orange and T-Mobile

Tempted by the iPad but put off by the steep cost? Orange and T-Mobile are the first networks to offer the tablet for a lower up-front price, but you have to sign up for a two-year contract.

Orange and T-Mobile are the first networks to announce details of subsidised Apple iPad deals, in a cross-brand fruitsplosion of goodness if you want a lovely tablet but can't bring yourself to pay full whack.

A 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G is available for £199, on a two-year deal at £25 per month for existing Orange and T-Mobile customers. If you're not already on either network it nudges up to £27. A 32GB iPad is £249 up front, and for 64GB it's £349, both on the same two-year contract and £25/£27 tariff.

That bags you 1GB of anytime data per month, and 1GB of what it calls 'quiet time' data, which is between midnight and 4pm. You also get 'unlimited' BT Openzone Wi-Fi, which is subject to 3GB fair usage.

The subsidised prices are a steep discount on full iPad prices. The iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G is £529 for the 16GB version, £599 for 32GB and £699 for 64GB. That adds up to a £330 reduction on the 16GB and £350 on the other two.

But add 24 lots of £25 (that's £600 if you're hard of thinking this cold morning) and you're looking at a hefty £270 or £250 premium over two years. Add another £48 if you're not on either network already. If you pay full price up front, however, you'll need to add a SIM-only deal for your data, which are around £7.50-£10 for 1GB per month. So it works out about even, but with more flexibility with data plans if you pay up-front.

It's a shame 18-month contracts aren't available, considering the speed at which tablets are updated. The iPad 2 will almost certainly arrive next spring, which means if you sign up today you'll probably be stuck with an outdated model for 20 months. But that's a risk you take with any contract deal, whether it's a smart phone or a tablet.

Orange and T-Mobile are now part of the same company, Everything Everywhere, hence the identical deals. 3 has also confirmed it will be offering subsidised iPads, while we imagine Vodafone and O2 have offers up their sleeves too.

We're interested what you think of this deal. Is the long-term contract worth the price of a much cheaper iPad?