New Apple iPad Verizon Data Plans: Confusing, Expensive and Limiting

Ready to use that new Apple iPad? Sure hope you signed up for a data plan before you left the store. Otherwise Verizon’s Apple iPad data plans will confuse and stun. Our Madison Andrews gets a full-sized mobile migraine as she tries to figure out what plan to choose. Let us know what you decide.

Verizon iPad 3 Data Plans

Net neutrality? Please. Take a look at where Verizon’s data plans for the new Apple iPad — aka the Apple iPad 3 or third generation Apple iPad — are going. They’re too expensive and limiting — and unnecessarily complicated.

If you do opt for a data plan over just WiFi, beware. You’ve got an incredibly complicated list of expensive options to consider. Plans range from $20 to $80 for one-month, non-recurring plans to $30 to $80 for recurring plans. Here’s  what Verizon offers on its site.

Verizon iPad 3 Data Plans

So I spoke to my local Verizon sales rep here in Austin.. The main difference between plans, he said, is that a non-recurring one comes without strings attached — no activation fees, no overage charges — and you’re able to set it up post-purchase. When you reach your data limit, Verizon will simply cancel your service. Game over.

With a recurring plan, you get the convenience of monthly, automatic billing. If you do go over your allowance, Verizon charges you $10 for each GB consumed over your plan. Ouch.

Both plans allow you to connect up to five devices with a mobile hotspot. If you already have a phone on the Verizon network, that allows you to create the hotspot, too, but then you’re stuck at the 3G level.

Our exec ed Joy Ma talked to her Verizon rep in San Mateo, California. She got the same information — but with a twist. The rep said tablets are typically used for email and, in the Silicon Valley area of California, the 5GB plan is most popular. The 10 GB plan, the rep said, is as close to an unlimited plan as Verizon offers.

My rep in Austin, though, told me the average user only needs 1  to 2GB. Our Todd Moore adds an interesting perspective to the discussion in his excellent 411 podcast. He points out that, because of the new hi-res HD Apple iPad display, games are going to take a lot more firewire.

Considering that the Apple iPad also is an entertainment device, that 2GB isn’t going to cut it. Streaming video and music — those bandwidth hogs — would blow you out of that plan. Chances are at home or at the cafe you will automatically connect to WiFi. Todd Moore says he’s going to avoid data plans altogether.

Whatever you do, do not use the plan internationally, if you do opt for it. Your roaming charges will be astronomical.

Just connect to local Wifi and keep that tablet powered down when you are not using it. Don’t even turn it on until you are in range of WiFi. Keeping WiFi and location-based services turned off will save battery life — and, ideally, keep you from hitting the data wall.

About the author

Madison Andrews

10 Comments

  • -ette ! ha..ugh Dude-ette.. fingers, faster than brain.. *facepalm*

    Still awesome!

    -CGP

  • What’s so confusing? Did you go to a public school or something? “Derp, reed-en iz hard”

  • @MasterRanger:

    Why, yes. I did.

    I agree that the plans are not literally incomprehensible. What interests me is the reason behind offering so much variety — the Austin, TX rep I spoke to said that Verizon wanted to meet the unique demands of individual consumers. Because it loves them sooo much.

    It seems more likely that the menu — lengthier than, say, AT&T’s, which offers three plans with no long-term contract: 250 MB @ $14.99/mo, 3 GB @ $30/mo, 5 GB @ $50/mo — is intended to encourage underestimation of data usage. If I were trying to be thrifty, I’d probably start off with a one-month 1-2 GB plan. What happens when I go over my limit and lose connection? I call up my local Verizon sales rep.

    It’s an easy up-sell at that point — go for a month-to-month plan, he says. It’s the same price, you don’t have to renew each month, and you’ll never suffer the inconvenience of spontaneous disconnection. And if you ever do go over your data limit, it’s only $10 per extra GB.

    So I resolve to keep a close eye on my data usage and avoid the overage fees. Meanwhile, Verizon stands to make 10, 20, 30 extra dollars per month from a customer who could have just purchased more data in the first place.

    Ex: I buy 2 GB for $30/mo but end up using 5 GB. My monthly bill comes out to $60. Had I purchased 5GB to begin with, I’d have paid $50.

    It’s an attempt to squeeze more money out of customers who aren’t familiar with a new device and don’t have a good idea of how much data they’re going to use yet. After dropping $700, $30/mo appears much more attractive than $50, even if it is an unrealistic estimate of data needs…and Verizon’s got a few months to profit until consumers figure that out.

  • @Ant:

    Ha! That response was probably too dense. Guess I felt the need to stick up for public ed!

    I mean, it’s not a groundbreaking tactic, but still worth pointing out to consumers, I think. Virgin Mobile has similar no-contract plans (I’m thinking of PayLo in particular). Their Talk and Text plan includes one month of 1500 minutes + messages and 30 MB of web access for $30.

    They’re great for, say, your grandma, who’s not going to use the service much anyway. But if you’re just trying to save money, these plans will sucker punch your bank account. The T+T plan, for example, charges $1.50/MB (!!) for additional web access. Virgin’s up front about this — they also offer a $10 top-up option for additional usage and allow you to check your balance from your phone up to 5 times a day for free.

    Still, Virgin, Verizon, et al. obviously know how to tap into a market that wants to pay less. Hopefully those thrifty consumers are also smart enough to track their MB’s.

  • For me, the most astonishing thing here is that after all these years, Apple still hasn’t come up with a provider willing to market an Apple-style data plan. You don’t buy an Apple to save money or because it gives you the option to choose from a hundred different ways of doing something–you buy it because you trust the company to have come up with the best way to do everything. (No, I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, but I appreciate why someone else might want to do so.) But when you look at the available data plans for iPhones or iPads, there is no “best way” — every single option has built-in traps. What’s “best” when your choices are to either go month-to-month and risk having your service cut off if you go over your limit, or to sign up for a recurring plan and find yourself paying ridiculous overage charges for going over your contracted usage level. A menu full of bad choices is something you’d expect to find with Windows or Android — it’s certainly not what drives anyone to pay dollar for an Apple device.

    It’s astonishing that with all of its clout, Apple hasn’t managed to convince a carrier to provide a true, Apple-style data plan. How about an $8 per GB flat rate (with a 2.5 GB per month minimum)? That would make sense. That would be simple. That’s what I’d expect to see for an Apple device. So why hasn’t it happened?