Will data pricing affect your tablet purchase?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| June 13, 2011

When you’re looking to buy your next phone, the price of the device is probably one of the biggest parts of the total purchase. After all, how much you’re going to drop in that moment may make or break the purchase entirely. Thankfully, though, the prices of our next smartphone can usually be guessed even before the device lands on store shelves. But when it comes to tablets, there’s still some margin for guesswork as to the overall price of the device (or what the carriers will charge for the signing of a new contract). Unfortunately, the current data price plan offerings for the tablets available now may not be the best bet for customers looking to buy a slate, and it looks like Sprint is looking to change things up. But, if these new prices are the real deal, is Sprint heading in the right direction?

While the price of the device may be one of the most important aspects of a purchase, if not the most important, the price plan it’s tied to is also very important. Especially for someone who is signing a new yearly contract. How much they’re going to be spending every month to get the features they want is something a future subscriber (or current one) has to weigh carefully. It seems that for tablets the plan is even more important, and the carriers are paying more attention to this. In fact, if Sprint’s change-up in price plan is any indicator, then perhaps tablet sales aren’t as stellar as some may believe.

But if tablet sales can be altered for the better, will it really come down to how much people are paying per month versus the out-right cost of the device? Apparently Sprint thinks it will indeed come down to the latter, as the company is looking to change up their tablet pricing. However, these new prices reflect 4G-enabled tablets, and don’t seem to touch on the already available tablets. And while nothing has been confirmed quite yet, it looks like the new plans will launch alongside the HTC EVO View 4G.

It breaks down like this: for $20 per month you get access to 1GB of 3G data per month, but you don’t get any 4G-connectivity at all. From there, it takes a pretty big leap to $45 per month for 3GB of 3G data and unlimited 4G data. And then we’ve got $60 for 5GB of 3G data; and finally $90 per month for 10GB of 3G data. The latter two plans include unlimited 4G data connectivity, and all of the plans are measured at $.05 per MB for any overages. There’s no denying that the plans are expensive, but the tantalizing addition of unlimited 4G might make potential customers take a second look.

But with these high-cost monthly plans, will Sprint reduce the cost of the tablets they are tied to? Or will the pricing for these slates remain the same? Or, perhaps more importantly, will it matter if the pricing for the tablets themselves decreases (or increases) with monthly plan prices like this? Truth be told, I think if these plans launch as they are, then there’s a real chance that people start picking up more tablets. But, that’s dependent on whether or not these customers are in a 4G-enabled location. After all, that unlimited data aspect is almost too good to pass up, especially with the fall-back of 3G available. If the unlimited 4G data wasn’t provided in the majority of the plans, I don’t think these would fly at all.

Of course, customers are liable to pay anything as long as they believe they are getting a good deal for the money they are putting down. But, as we look at the plans above, the question still stands: will these prices be what bring more customers to the tablet market? Or will they push people in the other direction? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Products mentioned