I made a post a while back about picking a data plan for a tablet with cellular radio. Some things happened early November, namely the release of the iPad Air. Well, in conjunction, both AT&T and T-Mobile rolled out new data plans that may be of some interest. Unlike typical post paid smartphone plans, data plans on US carriers are not that bad. So it’s great to see more choices.
First, AT&T. In addition to their regular plans, AT&T added two new plans. First one is 250MB for $5 that is good for one day. You may think WTF? However, this is actually not bad for travelers/tourists that may only need a day’s worth of data plan, and they don’t have to shell out $15 (which was the price for 250MB that is good for 1 month). The second plan is the one that is more interesting. $25 for 1GB that is good for 3 months. Why is this great? This allows you to have a secondary plan that will only cost you $8.33 a month, and you get 1GB total data. It is very useful when you occasionally bring your tablet with you on the go once in a while, and you want more than 200MB data per month (more on this later). What is even better, you can sign up for any of the data plans on your tablet (iPad, Nexus 7, etc), and then put the SIM on your smartphone, and voila, smartphone with only data plan. 🙂 I tried this on my HTC One and it works fine, with LTE to boot. Of course, there is a risk AT&T may do something, but so far things are working okay.
I did get into a snafu in activating the plan. It has been a while since I renew the plan on my AT&T account. A quick call to AT&T reprovisioned the SIM (assigned a different number than the old one) and I was good to go.
Next, T-Mobile. T-Mobile is doing something more aggressive. 200MB per month for FREE! Yes, free, as in no payment at all. Sounds good, right? Well, there’s a catch, and I spent hours with T-Mobile support (figured it out myself eventually).
The T-Mobile plan is automatic. If you have an existing prepaid mobile broadband data plan with T-Mobile, you will automatically get the plan, ie. if you don’t renew your plan, you will automatically get the 200MB per month for free.
So, what’s the catch again? Well, here’s my story. I got a T-Mobile SIM that I use on and off for data plan when I need it. I want to test this plan out, so I inserted the SIM on my iPad. Well, it did not work. Every time I tried going to any website, I got redirected to my T-Mobile site. If I tried logging in with my account information, it got stuck in a page saying the site is down. Now, I thought this would be as easy as T-Mobile re-provisioning my SIM just like my issue with AT&T, right? Nope. I called T-Mobile, the rep was quite baffled as everything was shown to be okay on their end, and decided to put in a temporary pass so at least it would work. Well, it did work for a couple of days, then it’s back to square one when the pass expired. Called T-Mobile again, wasted 1 hour being transferred multiple times and having to re-tell the story again and again, and the final rep pretended that she could not hear me and disconnected me. Some of the reps did not even know about the plan. Even funnier, one did not even know what an iPad is (he kept referring it as my phone, and one time he asked which manufacturer made the iPad, and whether it’s a T-Mobile or non-T-Mobile iPad. Seriously. Note that all iPads are unlocked so this should not even be questioned). Resetting the connection, rebooting the iPad, nothing.
I decided to go to a local T-Mobile store. The guy checked out my account, changed to a new SIM, still no go. My account showed that my device is my Nexus 7. When I activated that SIM for the first time, I did it on my Nexus 7. Well, guess what. Apparently the SIM is locked to whatever device it was originally activated from. I put the SIM into my Nexus 7, and it works. What a load of crap. I tried putting the SIM into my Nexus 4, and I got a voice mail saying that my service has been restricted. So yeah, T-Mobile doesn’t want you to switch your SIM around different devices. If you want data plan on a different tablet, you have to get a new SIM and activate it in that tablet. Also, you cannot use this trick to get a data only plan on your smartphone (similarly, T-Mobile does not allow you to use a SIM with a smartphone plan on a tablet).
Well, there you go. Newer options to get data plan on your tablet. If you don’t need to switch devices and 200MB per month is fine, the 200MB T-Mobile plan is great. However, once you need flexibility, you need to pay up. If you need a good amount of data on your tablet, AT&T’s 1GB for $25 for 3 months is not such a bad deal. If you don’t need it for that long, Verizon is better as they give you 1GB for $20. If you need a smartphone plan with a good amount of data, T-Mobile’s own $30 a month is still the best deal, giving you 5GB of 4G data. None of the tablet data plans can match that.
Hopefully my experience may be useful to others. 🙂