Do I need a data plan for a tablet?
Answer: Tablets are wireless devices. That means they send and receive data over the air without requiring cumbersome cables. But does it also mean you need a cellular data plan in order to access the Internet with an iPad or other tablet? No.
Every single tablet I have ever seen or heard of includes Wi-Fi. That means as long as you can access a Wi-Fi signal that provides an Internet connection, you can use your tablet to access the Internet. Most tablets only include a Wi-Fi chip and do not even provide the option to connect to a cellular network.
Some tablets, however, can connect to cell towers. These tablets have SIM cards, just like cellphones, that allow them to send and receive data over cellular networks. If you use your tablet on the road a lot (which is common for realtors, contractors, and other professionals), a cellular-enabled tablet might make sense.
While tablets with SIM cards provide Internet access from any location in range of a cell tower, they are usually more expensive than their Wi-Fi-only counterparts. Also, just like a smartphone, you'll need to purchase a cellular data plan in order to access cell data. Once you purchase a data plan from a company like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile, the network will recognize your tablet's SIM card and allow you to send and receive data over a cellular connection.
Tablets with SIM cards also have built-in Wi-Fi, which means you can use a Wi-Fi signal whenever one is available. It's typically best to use Wi-Fi instead of cellular data, since most data plans limit the amount of data you can transfer each month. If you go over your data transfer limit, you might receive some expensive overage charges on your monthly bill.
Entered: May 12, 2015 – by Per Christensson
Next Hardware Question: