AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Devices
05:46 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives

New Android tablets from Sony and Samsung hit AT&T and Verizon store shelves this week. But they don't run the latest version of Android and come with expensive contracts.

New Android tablets are hitting AT&T and Verizon's store shelves this week, but the Honeycomb software and contract pricing makes them questionable purchases.

Both tablets run the Honeycomb version of Android, not the latest version of the operating system that's called Ice Cream Sandwich. There was no indication as to when--or if--either would be upgraded to the newest OS.

The Sony P Android tablet will be available from AT&T starting March 4. The 4G tablet will be sold for $399.99 with a two-year service agreement.

The Sony Tablet P is unique for a tablet. It is a sideways clamshell that has two 5.4-inch displays (1024 x 480 pixels) that, when opened, make a larger display -- albeit with a black bar running down the middle. It will have cameras, a customized user interface and can make use of one screen for game controllers.

The P will be PlayStation certified and come with support for DLNA media sharing.

The P will be able to access AT&T's HSPA+ (no, not LTE) 4G network. The Sony Tablet P will also have unfettered access to AT&T's 20,000 Wi-Fi access points in case its HSPA+ network isn't available. That means free Wi-Fi in tons of airports, hotels, convention halls, and restaurants.

To get the subsidized price, you have to agree to a two-year contract. There are two contract options: 3 GB for $35 per month, or 5 GB for $50 per month. That's $840 for mobile broadband over the course of the two year agreement at 3 GB, or $1,200 for 5 GB.

By way of comparison, you can choose to buy the Tablet P outright for $549.99. You won't have to sign a contract, and you'll still have the option of using AT&T's HSPA+ network at month-to-month rates. AT&T's monthly data plans cost $15 for 250 MB, $30 for 3 GB, and $50 for 5 GB. Buying the tablet off contract costs $250 more, but you'll save gobs of cash over the course of the two years and have tons of flexibility with respect to your data options.

[ See our complete Mobile World Congress 2012 coverage, live from the mobile industry's hottest event. ]

If Verizon Wireless is your network of choice, you'll be glad to know that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 reaches stores March 1. It will cost $499.99 with a two-year contract.

This variant of the Galaxy Tab family has a screen that measures 7.7 inches across the diagonal. The Super AMOLED Plus display is particularly impressive because it boasts WXGA resolution, with 1280 x 800 pixels. Samsung says the display offers brighter colors and higher contrast.

The Tab 7.7 has a small footprint, making it more portable than some of its competitors. It is thin at 7.89mm, and weighs in at a mere three-quarters of a pound (12oz). Despite the small size, the Tab 7.7 packs a 1.4-GHz dual-core processor; storage options that range from 8 GB to 32 GB; a 3-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera; and a massive 5100mAh battery.

It will be able to use Verizon's LTE 4G network, though at a cost. Verizon's least-expensive contract option costs $30 per month for 2 GB of data. It also offers 5 GB of data for $50 and 10 GB of data for $80. You're looking at a contract cost of at least $720 over two years. At the moment, the Tab 7.7 isn't yet listed on Verizon's website, so I can't say with certainty if there's an off-contract option available. If there is, it is likely $100 to $200 more than the subsidized tablet.

To me, it is crystal clear that buying a tablet on contract is a financial disaster. The economics just don't add up. It's better to pay more up front for the device and less on a per-month basis. Besides, at the rate new tablets are reaching the market, who wants to hold on to one with an outdated operating system for two years? If purchased off contract, you'll have an easier time selling it or trading it in to upgrade.

This week at Mobile World Congress, nearly a dozen new Android tablets were announced, and most will ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. That sounds like a more delicious dish to me than Honeycomb.

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User Rank: Apprentice
2/29/2012 | 7:17:54 PM
re: AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives
The approach of the tablet manufactures mentioned above really upsets me. Why do they have to align themselves with one carrier or another?
I know, the rational is that these tablet manufactures are attempting to use the same sales model that is used for phones. That is have a telco sell the tablet for a loss, while hijacking users into a 2 year contract with horrendous termination fees. This allows the telcos to make substantial overall profits while providing very little. Why do we (in the USA) let the telcos get away with this?

I wish the tablet manufacturers would remove the telco communications option, reduce the price and promote Wifi connectivity, either at home, in hotspots, or by using tethering with their little brothers - the smart phone. Oh wait - isn't this the hardware model that Amazon and Barnes & Noble promote!

Surely, a telco independent sales model makes these tablets more appealing to a broader set of users. I know I definitely will not be buying one of these tablets as the off-contract cost is ridiculously high, and since I already have a data plan for my cell phone why would I want another for one of these.

I can only conclude that these tablets are so overpriced no one in their right mind would want to buy one. If the price has to be so high,why can't someone come up with a payment plan model where we buy the hardware without being tied to a carrier?
Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
2/29/2012 | 6:53:21 PM
re: AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives
Data plan pricing will continue to keep the U.S. behind other industrialized countries.

"Look at all these wonderful apps! Use them on 3G/4G and keep those dollars rolling in."
User Rank: Apprentice
2/29/2012 | 5:55:49 PM
re: AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives
A couple of suggestions. Tables would show these comparisons much easier. And if you are going to tell us that plan gives you 3GB for $35 in one paragraph, then turning it around to $30 for 3GB in the next one just makes us have to transpose that in our heads to compare. Just keep it the same.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/29/2012 | 5:20:43 PM
re: AT&T, Verizon Android Tablets Have Big Negatives
First, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich are far more similar than they are different. Quick, can you even name three feature diffferences?

Admittedly, probably the most significant tangible difference is the ability to run the Chrome browser under ICS.

The second point I want to take exception to is your flat-out assumption that month-to-month unsubidised is a better deal for everyone than subsidised and under contract. (With the exception that AT&T's rate doesn't make much sence being $5 more per month under contract.)

My experience is that even with month-to-month I end up paying every month in practical reality. So it's better to take the subsidy (provided you aren't paying more under contract- AT&T!?)

If you find that you are no longer using the device, break the contract and pay the ETF. And sell the device if you don't use it.

If you are really buying a new tablet more frequently than every two years then you are really playing someone's planned obsolescence sucker-game. You really need to think about that and admit you are really just a technology surfer. (Fine, but expect to pay the price.)

Another consideration, Verizon offers $20 1GB month-to-month plans without contract. You may need to ask to get this option. (That's what I'm using with my Xoom 4G, and it's all I typically need.)
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