T-Mobile Drops LTE iPad Prices to WiFi Levels

WiFi tablets have always been the bigger sellers over their LTE counterparts, but T-Mobile is testing the theory that it was only price dictating that decision. The carrier announced Thursday evening it would drop prices on LTE iPads to match the WiFi-only versions.

That's a price drop of up to $130 for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPad. T-Mobile US Inc. says it will also drop prices $10 on any LTE-enabled Android tablets as well. The "uncarrier" is also offering 1.2 GB of free LTE data each month for the rest of the year, as part of its "Operation Tablet Freedom" promotion. When it expires in January of next year, its customers will pay $10 per month if purchased with a postpaid voice plan. (See T-Mobile Zeros In on Tablets.)

Given the significant price delta, consumers have traditonally migrated towards WiFi-only tablets, although sales of the LTE versions have been on the upswing as operators have offered more packages and promotions. What will be most indicative is how often LTE gets used once T-Mobile's customers have to start paying for it, but even $10 per month is cheaper than most of its competitors offer. (See T-Mobile Not Stealing Customers… Yet .)

This is the latest in a long string of shake-ups from T-Mobile in the past year. Earlier in the week, it dropped prices on its lowest-tier "Simple Starter" plan offering unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data for $40 per month. CEO John Legere has promised at least one more rapid-fire change still to come on Monday, so stay tuned to the boisterous CEO's Twitter handle. (See T-Mobile to Pick Up 'Evil' Family Fees, Sprint Launches No-Sharing 'Framily' Plans, AT&T Lures T-Mobile Subs With $450 Promise, Look Inside T-Mobile's 'Uncarrier' Transformation, T-Mobile Kills Contracts, Launches LTE Network, and T-Mobile Zeros In on Tablets.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas 5/13/2014 | 1:53:28 PM
No more tablet discounts Well that was short-lived. The tablet discount promotion is over as of yesterday. The fine print in the release was that it was for a limited-time only, and it looks like that was just one month: http://www.tmonews.com/2014/05/t-mobile-ipad-returns-to-full-price-after-operation-tablet-freedom-discount/
kq4ym 4/14/2014 | 6:57:34 PM
Re: tablet time As a test program T-Mobile will quickly find out if prices are the motivator for sales. I suspect it's true, but getting those monthly charges down seems to be the plan for the month. Even though the data allowances are pretty meager on the newer plans, the consumer will bite and buy when the prices seem to drop, even though they may possibly be surprised when they find the monthly bill pretty close to what they were paying before.
Sarah Thomas 4/14/2014 | 9:26:13 AM
Re: Probably a distraction Well it doesn't report its Q1 earnings until May 1st, so its timing is a little off if that's the case.
Sarah Thomas 4/14/2014 | 9:24:53 AM
Re: tablet time ha, my comment is kind of funny now that we see its latest move is to abolish overage charges...
Sarah Thomas 4/14/2014 | 9:23:58 AM
overage overhaul Ready for move #3? T-Mobile says it today it will do away with all overage charges on its data plans, and it's calling on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to do the same. The release doesn't say what happens when caps are met, however, I'm guessing speeds are throttled way back.

Ariella 4/13/2014 | 10:25:39 PM
Re: tablet time "Plus, tablets are more of a devices that stays in one place unlike a smartphone." @danielcawrey I wonder if there are stats on that. I notice people carrying their tablets around and using them as cameras at museums sometimes. Granted, they're more awkward to use that way than phones, but I suppose they find them light enough to carry with them. 
jabailo 4/13/2014 | 9:06:34 PM
Re: tablet time Well it comes down to the power requirements of the chip and its transmitter.

Remember unlike the short ranges of Wifi, with Wimax or LTE the distances to the network antennas are much longer.   If you use a dongle, typically the device powers it and that will drain a small device like a tablet quickly I would think.  I know it drains my laptop battery a bit faster when it's plugged in.

I've seen very unobstrusive Bluetooth USB dongles that are nearly flush with the edge of the USB port.   That's probably where they should aim, very low power and very streamlined, but again, if you make the antenna surface slim...more power is probably required!

The external hotspot solves the problem of devices that are not LTE/WIMAX ready, but then you also have to carry around (and charge as you note) an extra device.  But again, a device without its own battery is going to be draining the main battery that much more!
Gabriel Brown 4/13/2014 | 1:32:35 PM
Re: tablet time There are plenty of LTE dongles. Some people like them, but I've always found them too much of a hassle. Mainly, it's another device to keep charged, remember, etc.

They are good if you also want to run a laptop over LTE, or for that matter, an older 3G smartphone or WiFi-only tablet over LTE.
jabailo 4/13/2014 | 1:06:41 PM
Re: tablet time Are there dongles or hotspots available for LTE?

I have a USB dongle for my Clear Wimax service (but it requires a device that is RNDIS compatible).   

Ideally you could just plug a really minimal USB dongle in your tablet for wireless broadband.
danielcawrey 4/12/2014 | 5:49:43 PM
Re: tablet time I think that it has always been about price for LTE tablets. Plus, tablets are more of a devices that stays in one place unlike a smartphone. Because of that, for the most part WiFi has usually been enough functionality for connectivity. 

I've always wondered why LTE-enabled tablets were so much more expensive. It only served a niche need. Now, many people have said that T-Mobile's LTE coverage and speed aren't great. But this deal is still a good value, even given some carrier shortcomings. 
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