Sunday, October 4, 2015

The burning iPad decision: Verizon or AT&T? (Amended)

Readers have been hounding me with the question - which new iPad with wireless 4G connectivity is the "better" buying choice - the one working on Verizon's or AT&T's network?

The burning iPad decision: Verizon or AT&T? (Amended)


Readers have been hounding me with this question: "Which new iPad with wireless 4G connectivity is the better buying choice  - the one working on Verizon's or AT&T's network?"

Let's consider.

Signal Reach: Verizon has been building out its 4G LTE network for more than a year, so now has a much bigger national "footprint" covering more than 200 million potential customers. AT&T is newer to the world of 4G LTE, now claiming access to 74 million potential users. Travel a lot?   Advantage: Verizon.

Signal Quality: Testers have found AT&T's 4G LTE network  to run slightly faster on downloads - say 18 Mbps (megabits per second)  versus 17 Mbps for Verizon.  Both are  faster than you're probably getting on your home internet connection. Sending stuff upstream, Verizon's wireless network shows a slight advantage - say, 13 Mbps versus 12 Mbps. But let us not overlook that there are many more available mobile devices and customers out there  working  with Verizon's LTE  than on AT&T's variant. So the latter's system is not being taxed nearly as heavily.  Also  consider -  Verizon has locked up  the most robust available frequencies (former UHF TV channels) which better  pierce and penetrate the concrete and steel walls of high-rise office buildings. Advantage: Verizon.

Pricing: Both systems allow you to sign up for single month's of service - great to deploy when  going on a vacation and want to stay in touch from the shore, mountains or wherever.  No activation or cancellation fees are involved in these month-to-month plans. But if you don't remember to send a "cancel" notice by the 30th, both services will automatically roll over your subscription.

AT&T  seemingly has the more attractive deals at the low end, starting with a $14.99 monthly fee that buys 250 Megabytes, sufficient for a little bit of daily light emailing back and forth with friends - then  bumping up to a generous 3 GB (gigabytes) for $30 offer and 5GB for a $50 bill.

Verizon has a 1 GB for $20 deal,  which to my way of thinking is actually more desirable than AT&T's opener  because V's delivers  4 times the data for a mere $5 more. There has been discussion (erroneous) that this option is only available to prior iPad 2 owners. Cause of the confusion?   When you go looking for the deal at Verizon's own site it doesn't come up without some digging (thanks, Ryan.)   Verizon would rather get you on board with its 2 GB offering for $30 -  on the stingy side relative to the competition. Verizon then matches AT&T at the 5 GB for $50 price point. With this clarified (I hope) information, I'm giving Advantage: Verizon.

 Mobile Hotspot: At the product introduction Apple said both versions of the new iPad could be used as a mobile hotspot - serving as a data network connection for as many as five devices (laptop computers, portable videogame systems) wirelessly linked  to the tablet via Wi-Fi. But at present, only Verizon is actually delivering on this promise. Advantage: Verizon. 

International Roaming: In the past, only AT&T-connected iPads could be used in Europe, with a swap out of the SIM card. With the new iPads, both varieties have on-board multi-format communications chips that work abroad, defaulting to 3G and with swap-out SIM cards where necessary. Advantage: Tie.

Bottom Line:  Is there really a choice here? The only reason to not go with Verizon is if you already have your mobile phone on the system  and want to improve  odds for communications coverage in the hinterlands. 

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