Here’s Why You Should Buy The Tablet With 4G LTE [OPINION]


When you’re shopping for a tablet, whether for yourself or as a gift, regardless of whether it’s an iPad or one of the many Android tablets available, there’s one particular configuration you should give more consideration to now: the model with embedded 4G LTE cellular connectivity.

You might ask, “But Mike, there’s WiFi everywhere, so why should I pay extra?” – and that’d be a valid question. I’m not proposing that every single tablet buyer pick up the cellular-equipped model. It all depends how you’ll be using it. If it’s for use around the house and you never plan on taking it when you travel, the WiFi-only model is likely sufficient. However, tablets are being built thinner, lighter and more powerful than ever before, just begging to be taken with you. More and more apps empower productivity, entertainment, news, information, and communication, and many of them are fed with data from the Web.

What’s Wrong With Free Public WiFi


One big concern with using publicly accessible WiFi, whether in your local Starbucks, at a conference or event, or in a hotel, is the lack of security. This topic could branch off into a thousand other points, which we could discuss for days on end, but just realize that everything you do with your device on a public WiFi network can be hijacked and viewed by someone else with very little effort. That includes everything from your social network logins to your corporate email to your banking information. A tablet with its own private connection is virtually impossible to snoop.

Another issue I have with free public WiFi is the typical bandwidth / speed limits. Since it’s a shared connection being used by scads of people at the same time, it’s more akin to dial-up than broadband you get at home.

Even in instances where you have to pay to use WiFi, the experience is almost always restricted and still leaves your private information exposed. Just take The Sheraton hotel for example. As a guest, using their WiFi costs $10+ a day, and isn’t any good for streaming content. If you plan on watching videos on YouTube or Netflix, or if you’re having a no pants dance party in your hotel room while blasting some tunes from Spotify, be prepared to spend a chunk of the time you could be rocking your socks off just waiting for your content to buffer, play for 10 seconds, then spend the next minute buffering. It’s maddening. If you want access to WiFi that will let you stream content, that’s $30 bucks. For three hours. Add up the nickel and diming you’ll pay here and there and you’ll likely come out ahead, in the long run, with the LTE tablet.

Explaining the Added Cost of Tablets with 4G LTE

With the iPad, a cellular-equipped model will set you back an extra $129, no matter which size configuration you select. Cellular models are sold without a contract and the devices are unlocked for use around the world with other carriers’ SIM cards. With the Kindle Fire HDX, a cellular-equipped model in either size will cost an extra $100 over the WiFi-only model.

This cost is upfront and part of the purchase price, but it isn’t the only cost. You’ll also have a monthly charge for the data plan, which will vary in amount depending on the carrier you use and the data plan you select. If you have the shared data plan for your smartphone with Verizon or AT&T, adding a tablet is $10 more a month. If T-Mobile has service in your area, you can sign up for 200 MB of free 4G LTE data each month with no strings attached, even if your smartphone is with another carrier. Additionally, you can prepay for data for fairly reasonable rates with any of the big four carriers. 1 GB of 4G LTE on Verizon will cost you $20 a month, for example.

Tethering Your WiFi Tablet to Your Smartphone


My friend Tanner is planning on buying an iPad Air tonight, and we were talking earlier about whether he should get the WiFi-only model or a model with embedded cellular connectivity. His biggest reason for not considering the cellular model was that he tethers to his iPhone. That’s well and good, and for some, it’ll do the trick. However, there are two drawbacks to this.

  1. Battery Drain – If your smartphone is serving as a WiFi hotspot on top of everything else, you should expect the battery to drain much faster than if you weren’t tethering.
  2. Data Usage – Unless you’re one of the lucky few who’ve managed to hang onto your unlimited data plan from the good ol days, your smartphone usage is probably limited by a data cap. Add your tablet data usage into that same cap and you’ll find yourself running out sooner or needing to upgrade to the next tier. That upgrade will cost the same (and in a few cases, more) than a monthly tablet plan.

Buy the LTE Model

Once again, it all comes down to how the kind of tablet user you are. If you’ll be using it outside your house, suck it up and buy the LTE model. I assure you, it’ll be a breath of fresh air every time you realize you don’t have to fiddle with your phone to turn on tethering, then connect your tablet, and it’ll be a great time saver when you don’t have to go hunting down an insecure public WiFi hotspot just to get online.


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  • katie

    HI, Mike. I have a friend selling an ipad 4 g lte ipad. I have no interest in a data plan. Will the ipad work fine without one or must you have one to use the device? Can you just use wi-fi only and not sign up for a plan?

    • Dino

      Yes the ipad with lte will work just fine without a plan or a sim card.

  • Porridge

    Hi Mike.
    It’s worth pointing out to your readers and followers that 3G, 4G or LTE does not necessarily mean that the tablet can also be used as a Cellphone or even Receive or Send SMS messages.
    Google Nexus 7 (2nd Generation) LTE, while being the chart-topping device in most reviews, DOES NOT give this Big Smartphone capability. It is Data Only…. for Web and mail basically.

  • Miguel

    Battery Drain: You need to compare 4G LTE Vs.Tethering. Tethering Vs. not tethering is a bad comparison.
    When you go on 4G LTE, unless you have unlimited data, you’re probably not streaming a lot of music, and certainly nothing more than the occasional YouTube clip. Besides, you think tethering is a battery hog? 4G LTE is a battery hog too!!
    I cannot think of one time in the past year of travel that I’ve ever said “man am I glad I have 4G LTE on my iPad.”
    I’d love to hear anyone else who has tethering enabled on their phone, knows how to use it, and can give me a valid reason to just use the onboard LTE on their tablet?

    • Misha

      Because… When you’re tethering, you’re using your 4G LTE, AND you’re creating a WiFi hotspot! There is no physical way that tethering uses the same amount of energy as just LTE, simply because they both use LTE. If on the other hand you mean having two devices, one uses WiFi, the other uses LTE to tether up a WiFi hotspot, then that’s a whole other issue, I don’t have enough information to compate WiFi vs LTE drain. Either way, your connectivity to the network will then rely solely on the battery lifespan of your tethering device which still has to connect to 4G LTE and prop up a WiFi hotspot. It works for short periods of time, but I’d be surprised if you could watch a single movie in that period of time. Personally I’m fooling for a device that would be easy to use as a laptop with low processing power but efficient use of networking, and compact enough to be used as a phone.

  • Don

    I have grandfathered international data plan for my smartphone. Need advice on finding an unlocked tablet or computer to which I can move my micro sim and it work.

  • Owen_Coffin

    I wish I’d done more research and found your post. I made the mistake of buying a WI-FI only iPad. I didn’t realize how good I’d had it with my old original iPad which had 3G. Now I have apps that won’t work. I won’t ever be able to find it with the Find My IPhone app. Star gazing apps don’t work. Navigation apps don’t work. I HATE IT!

    My adult son has an unlimited data plan that I pay for. That line is going to be mine come January first 2015. I’m going to get rid of this WI-FI only iPad and get a new 4G and I’ll have unlimited data on it. It’s going to cost me but I can’t stand this much longer.

  • BigAKGuy

    Is it possible to add a 4G modem to a WIFI only non-Windows tablet? If so, what would you suggest?

  • Wino

    One other nice aspect of the LTE version is that the GPS works in a mapping application without a cellular connection unlike the wifi only models. This is true for Apple products but I am unsure about other manufacturers.

  • phylliscoppolino

    This was the absolute best explanation on this subject that I’ve read. Thank you so much! I’ll be following you everywhere (but not in a stalking way, of course o_O) Problem is – my carrier, T-lying, cheating, incompetent-Mobile, doesn’t even carry the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, the other carriers are worse, researching/buying this tablet is giving me migraines, and my daughter talked me out of 4G because I rarely leave my house. But your reasoning is still good to know.

  • tom

    To futurist techies: this would be my ideal phone/tablet that can access 1.satellite
    Network anywhere on earth for mainly voice /texting and hopefully data network (wifi that is free) with 2. [ 4g, lte, xlte, 3g, sms] and downward compatible for foreign countries that use the old style newtorks available sim unlocked for travel in a tablet format minimum size 7inch diag or larger with OS android preferred for senior eyes but if microsoft can improve their windows beyond 8.1 with office tools – it would be useful. Apple products are ok but not sure about their OS like UNIX use to be for the wise. Imagine a wearable and flexable keyboard with mouse-pointer capabilities to wear on ones arm with bluetooth communication and a head wearable glasses display – bluetooth linked and microphone/headset with stereo audio with swing out display so one can see the world around oneself besides the display. Long lasting batteries or one that can charge via solar wearable or powered by body heat or extra wearable batteries charge when one walks/thermal bicouples in clothing. My thought for the day – thr – 12/19/2014 usa

  • paul

    That will mean i have to get another simcard for the tablet if i get the 4 g version and yuse my cell phone also? right wrong ?

  • Capthall

    I have a new iPAD Mini. – w/o LTE, what I want is access to GPS for highway navigation. I can buy Garmin GPS antenna which communicates w/iPAD by Bluetooth. Will this work. W/ o WI – FI?

  • Steven Bryant

    I’m saving for a nvidia shield tablet for gaming but most importantly for emulation on the go so I don’t need 4g plus I can’t afford to pay extra.