iPad mini iPad mini + Cellular: Which carrier is the best choice for me?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by Stormybot, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Stormybot macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    So I am looking at picking up an iPad mini that is capable of cellular data. I won't always need cellular data, but I want to get one that is capable of it for those times when I need to travel. I don't want to set it up on an ongoing plan because most of the time, it will be at home on WiFi.

    Right now, I have Sprint as my iPhone 5 carrier. I read that Sprint has some discount on tablet data plans if you already have a phone with them. However, I am not sure if that only applies to ongoing data plans. I just want to activate it for a month on the few months when I will need it. Can anyone confirm that the discounted plans are available for those that just want to activate it once in a while?

    Now, I am not completely certain that I will go with Sprint because, well, Sprint's data speeds are so slow and there is no LTE yet in my area (Los Angeles).

    So also in the mix of possibilities is an AT&T or Verizon iPad mini. Even if AT&T 4G were not in my area, there 3G speeds are far superior to Sprint's.

    So I guess I have a few questions.

    Which carrier would you recommend I get and why?

    Is it pretty simple to activate data access and cancel it? I was reading that some people were saying that you have to get a new sim if you don't use a data plan on your Verizon iPad for more than 5 months.

    Any time I need a data plan, I want to get at least 1 GB for the month. Which carrier do you think would be the best bang for my buck? From what I can find on their sites (correct me if you know I am incorrect), the following are the cheapest plans for a minimum of 1GB:

    AT&T for 3 GB: $30 (probably too expensive so they may be out)
    Verizon for 1 GB: $20
    Sprint for 1 GB: $15 (if you already have a smartphone with them ... but I am not sure if this is valid the way I want to use it ... plus, their speeds are so much slower)

    Before I buy, I will also go to the Apple Store and ask them as well as stop at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. But any insight you all can give would be appreciated.
  2. cardfan macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2012
    Get a Verizon one as they have the best LTE coverage by far and you're only going to be using it when you travel supposedly. FWIW, unless you have a data sharing plan, it doesn't matter what carrier you're using for your phone.

    I'd question whether you need it though. A wifi version is cheaper. Just use your phone to tether for the few times you'd need it.
  3. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2008
    Also if you ever plan to travel internationally, all the iPad minis are compatible with GSM frequencies around the world (don't let anyone tell you AT&T is needed for this). And the Verizon LTE frequencies are compatible with Asia and Europe while the AT&T LTE frequencies are only compatible with Canada.
  4. ziggo macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2008
    I'd say look at the coverage maps for Verizon and AT&T and see which carrier has the stronger LTE network in your area. I've owned an AT&T equipped iPad 1 and a Verizon equipped iPad 2, I skipped getting a cellular equipped iPad 3 and went with WiFi only as my main area of living doesn't have LTE, but I'll be getting an AT&T cellular iPad mini this go around as I've found that AT&T's 3G is much much faster than my Sprint 3G service and Verizon's as well in my area (Georgia) but everyone's coverage experience is different from City to City, State to State.....
  5. jonfarr macrumors 6502a


    Jun 29, 2012
    I only did ATT because our business had a shared data plan allowing me to get facetime over LTE and a mobile hotspot. If it would have been a personal plan, I would have gone Verizon simply because you dont have to be on a shared plan to get facetime over LTE or use mobile hotspot.

    I have no experience with sprint, so I cannot comment.
  6. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    I have the $15/month sprint plan and just received a notice today that seems to imply I'm locked into a two year plan. I have to call them tomorrow and if they're like "yup, that's the deal" I'll likely use my opt out time and return this for a Verizon model.


    Also, I specifically asked the dude at the store if it was a commitment and he said no and showed me the blanks in the expiration date to prove his case.

    Anyway, I'm into the sprint price but don't want a commitment, and yeah the service is pretty not good.
  7. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    I would've said Verizon but the problem is that you have to buy a new Sim every time after 5 months or so. But verizon has Personal Hotspot which I'm not sure AT&T has, and they have 1Gb for 20$
  8. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    Let me know what they tell you. Hopefully that is just a mistake. Yeah, Sprint's data speeds are so slow compared to AT&T and, I am assuming, Verizon (from what I have heard). I think that I am leaning toward the Verizon one.


    So if I do not use it for 5 months, I will have to get a new sim? I am reading mixed stories. Some say that if you have an ongoing plan and cancel it and do not use it for 5 months, then you need a new sim. And that if you just use the pre paid month option, that this is not the case. Others are saying that this is the case for both options.
  9. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    ok so this is what Sprint said:
    -i AM in a contract. they don't offer the ad-hoc "turn on/off" data plan (at least not for what i'm doing, not sure about the other stuff)
    - there is no work-discount on the plan, it's for main line of service only; $15 is $15.
    - there is a $40 (incl. tax) activation fee on the account for adding this data plan (i got them to credit a portion back, they implied they could've waived the whole thing if i wasn't strapped to a work discount plan)
    - if i go over my 1gig, i have the abilility to *upgrade* on a monthly basis to the $35 plan. for example, jan-through-march i'm paying $15/month, april I go way over 1gig and at 5cent/kb i see i would run up a $50 charge: they'll let me upgrade to $35/mo plan for april and then go back to the $15/mo.

    so now i'm weighing my options between this one or hopping onto a VZ device/plan for $5 extra a month and getting 4G right now. I gotta see
    - what the incremental cost is for overages
    - if it'll be a contract with them too
    - if so, decide it it's worth $60 extra a year at the base for better/faster service.

    if anyone else does that math, let me know. i've got until Saturday to decide.
  10. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    Let me know what you learn (since you are going to find out anyways). I would appreciate it. The Best Buy in my area is out of cellular version iPad minis right now anyways (I have a Best Buy gift card I want to use) so I have a little time. Although, they said they may get some sometime this week.

    From what it sounds like, according to the info you got from Sprint, they may be out for me too then if they do not allow you to buy a monthly plan here and there when needed. If Sprint really does not allow that and Verizon does, I may just go with them ... assuming I don't have to get a new sim every 5 months just to use it.
  11. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    first, i THINK its only the $15/1g existing sub. plan that locks you in. that im not gonna double check though. pretty sure i'm sticking with sprint regardless. they're still the cheapest and i foresee great 4g being a recipe for temptation and running up my costs. this way i'll just use it as needed and cuss at it.

    but fyi according to a verizon rep the vz prepaid plans are $20/1gig, if you go over within that month you get shut down or have to buy another $20/gig (or $30 for 2 if you go way over, etc)- you get your choice once a month of what youll ideally use. not sure if im being clear.

    Or you can get into a month by month share anything plan thats $40/4gigs.
  12. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    ha so i was in a mall when i posted that, walked into a Verizon shop and almost pulled the trigger on a white 16g they had there. reason being, the rep told me a different story than above.

    first, he said you CAN upgrade your plan midstream- like i can go from a 1gig $20 to a 2 gig $30 in the same month no problem, i dont have to buy another $20 1gig.

    then he said something that made me think he was just looking for the sale, which is that you can upgrade from $20 1 gig to a $40 4 gig within the same month. like jump pricing structure in the same month. can someone w/a verizon plan for data only chime in on how this works? nobody seems to know for sure
  13. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    Interesting information. If true, that sounds really good.
  14. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012

    Just hung up with Sprint after calling for a second time. Talked to another rep that said "you shouldn't have been sent that contract agreement letter or locked into a contract for that plan"

    After about 20 mins of him dotting his I's checking and double checking he said that there is definitely no reason I should have been sent that and they're looking into it.

    The iPads brand new to Sprint so it seems like there might be some issues they're working out, but he said they'll correct it officially and if I ever want to cancel he gave me a reference number and emailed me a confirmation of our conversation guaranteeing me there would be no ETF and I'm not locked into this plan.

    So there you go on that. It's a good thing everyone seems to think they need a cell phone because between Verizon and Sprint nobody really knows what's going on.

    I honestly don't even feel confident relaying this as their official policy, only "that's what they told me, maybe it goes for you too?"

    Also this is their pricing page. No mention of a contract, although it DOES say the "offer ends 3/7/2013" so now I have another question (after I hung up): does that mean I'll be pushed to another plan on 3/7/13, or only if i give up my plan and re-up? Because $35/month is too much.

  15. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    Here's the email I just sent them. I'm sure they hate me.

    Thank you, you were very helpful
    I do have one additional question now. Or possibly 3 or 4.
    1. The plan page says "offer ends 3/7/2012". This presents the question: on 3/7/2012 will I be pushed to a different data plan, or will I keep my 1g/$15 for as long as my service goes uninterrupted?
    2. If I exceed 1g, do I have the ability to upgrade to the $35/month plan for that month, or do I have to pay the overage charges?
    3. If I AM able to upgrade to a $35/month plan for one month, and that happens after 3/7/12, will that make me lose my 1g/$15 option completely or will I be able to go back to that the next month?
    4. If I can keep my 1g/$15 for as long as my service is uninterrupted, does that include device swaps and eventual upgrades?

    This all seems very complicated, but these are the questions I hope to have answered before my return date on Saturday in the event I'm going to choose a more favorable plan.

    To be honest $5 extra a month for a clearer, and standard Verizon plan of $20/1gig would definitely be the better value if there's not much flexibility in my questions above.

    Thanks again, hope to hear from you soon, sorry if I'm being a pain in the neck.
  16. KeepCalmPeople macrumors 65816


    Sep 5, 2012
    San Francisco Bay Area, California
    If that is the postpaid contract it sounds about right - they'll prorate the monthly charge based on where you are in your billing cycle.

    I can speak to Verizon's prepaid data plan - my wife has the Verizon LTE iPad 3. If you pay $20 for 1GB of data, and you realize you will get through the data in less than a month, all you can do is add another 'chunk' of data to start when your current data runs out.

    Example: Today I buy 1GB for $20. The data will expire in a month i.e. December 29th for this example. On December 10th I realize I will burn through my data by December 19th, 10 days early. I can go and add another 1GB for $20 or 2GB for $30, and that data will activate with a one month expiration when either:
    A) My current data allocation is used up.
    B) My current data allocation expires (December 29th).

    Hope that helps. It is possible that Verizon customer service will make other changes if you call them - the above is what you can do directly from the iPad.
    We once added 5GB for $50 accidentally (first time we had renewed) and called Verizon to have them change it to 1GB/$20.
  17. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    Thanks yeah that makes perfect sense and was what I originally thought. The Verizon store guy was just saying whatever to get me to buy.

    If Sprint answers these questions to my favor (if at all) I'm gonna stick with them but otherwise I'm leaning pretty heavily with Verizon's $20 plan just because I don't want to be stuck with a $35 plan as my only viable option come March when this existing customer promo expires.
  18. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    Yeah, I think I am too. But I know if I go in and ask them (or any carrier), they will just tell me what they need to in order to make sure I go with them. Which makes me think that going to the Apple Store and asking them may be better. However, I don't know that they will have as much insight as each carrier. I may go to the Apple Store, see what they say, and then go to AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to see what they say.
  19. davideotape, Nov 30, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012

    davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    OK AGAIN!!

    Sprint: YES, today's answer is that the $15 is DEFINITELY a 2 year contract offer and you can choose to take advantage of it until 3/7/13 ($200 ETF).
    BUT WE ALSO OFFER $20/2gigs wifi hotspot that you can activate on your phone!!! and that is NO COMMITMENT, one month turn it on, next month turn it off, who cares? it's a big party!

    so with that knowledge, which may change given the time of day, the color shirt I'm wearing or the current weather in Cincinatti, I'm either going to:
    a: swap this thing for 32gig wifi only and try out the wifi hotspot once in awhile.
    b: swap this thing out even trade for a Verizon 16g and then have the option to play with the Sprint hotspot one month, Verizon prepaid the next.

    won't know until I get into the store to return it.

    that was way harder than it had to be.
  20. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    Traded it in for the Verizon one. Wow is lte fast! Maybe if it ever comes to sprint I'll jump to the hotspot for an extra gig but this is good for now.

    Very pleased.
  21. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    I asked at the Apple Store today. The rep told me that every carrier is a non-commitment agreement and that the special pricing for existing customers with Sprint, as you pointed out, are likely for those signing up to a contract. He also said that he had not heard of any issue with having to swap out or reset your sim with Verizon if you do the non-commitment plans. So I will probably go with Verizon as well.

    I'll probably get mine in the next couple of days or so. Please let me know what you think of yours on Verizon as opposed to Sprint (other than what you have already said). I was intrigued by what you said about the $20 hot spot with Sprint since my iPhone 5 is with them. But I really don't need 2 GB. 1 GB should do and Verizon has the $20 plan which won't have the super slow speeds of Sprint. So I think that sold me.
  22. Lord Flashheart macrumors regular

    Lord Flashheart

    Apr 10, 2007
    Cardiff by the Sea, CA
    If Verizon and ATT LTE coverage is the same in your area, which would you recommend?
  23. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    Verizon seems like the way to go. 2 things that haven't been noted but I like (if I understand correctly):
    - you can use your ipad as the wifi hotspot for no additional charge to the prepaid plan.

    - your month start date resets when you buy a new prepaid data chunk (as long as your old data chunk ran out). For example, if I buy 1gig on March 2 and use it all up by the15th, if I buy another 1gig the month resets and I now have until April 15th to use that, not just the rest of my original month (or April 2nd)

    If someone can verify I have that right please do. I'm only on day one of being a Verizon customer at all.

    Data is super fast and works great. Moving from sprint to this, strictly speaking about data, is like upgrading from a bicycle with a flat tire to a brand new Ducati
  24. Stormybot thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 19, 2004
    Say you buy 1 GB and use that up 15 days in. Can you upgrade and pay the difference to the next higher plan and get more data for that cycle or do you have to buy a new plan altogether?
  25. davideotape macrumors 6502

    Nov 16, 2012
    you would have to buy another $20/1 gigs-- BUT that month would start the day you purchase the new plan. the cycle restarts to day one. so you can opt for $30/2 gigs for a full month if you think you're going to go over 1gig rather quickly.

    and if you go a full month without using the full 1gig (or whatever you purchased), your usage expired so you have to buy a new plan.

    make sense?

    also, again someone who's vetted in Verizon usage step in if i'm saying anything wrong. this is how i understand it anyway.

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