AT&T vs. Verizon: Which iPad Should You Get?

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has created a feeding frenzy over the new third generation iPad. Techies, Apple enthusiasts, and the media have been counting down the days until its big release. Now that iPads have hit the shelves, consumers are flooding Apple stores around the country to get to the device before it’s sold out. But even if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a brand new iPad, which network will you choose  – Verizon (NYSE:VZ) or AT&T (NYSE:T)?

In one corner of the ring we have Verizon packing an LTE 4G network and in the other corner we have AT&T also packing a LTE 4G network. They may seem like identical services, but anyone who’s ever had a dropped call knows that all networks are not made equal. Let’s see how Verizon and AT&T compare in terms of speed, coverage, and price:

As for speed, Verizon and AT&T’s networks are the same, megabit per megabit. AT&T’s LTE networks are still relatively free of customers in some markets, but in other markets AT&T’s 4G networks are limited to 10 MHz of frequency bandwidth, meaning they are a bit undersized. Other AT&T cities and all of Verizon’s networks pack a full 20 MHz. However, if you happen to live in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, San Juan, or Puerto Rico, Verizon’s networks will be twice as fast in those markets.

In terms of coverage, Verizon packs a bigger punch. The iPad will have LTE covering more than 200 million people in every major and minor market. Verizon plans to cover 260 million people, and is only 30 million short of covering the entire iPad market. AT&T covers 74 million people in 28 cities, and is aiming to cover half that market in the coming months.

Even though both carriers are selling the new 4G iPad for about $130 more than the Wi-Fi-only equivalents, AT&T is the heavier contender for a less costly monthly data plan. AT&T has a mid-tier plan that offers 3GB for $30, compared to Verizon’s 2 GB for the same price. The extra gigabyte can go a long way for a tablet. However, Verizon’s 10GB plan for $80 is more attractive for heavy volume users when compared to AT&T’s 10GB plan for $100. AT&T has a 250 MB plan that runs as low at $15. Both operators charge $10 per gigabyte if users go over their monthly allotment.

LTE’s faster speeds will rip through plans like tissue paper, so expect to spend lots of time using Wi-Fi. An extra point goes to Verizon for allowing users to tether other Wi-Fi devices to the iPad’s 4G connection at no extra charge. AT&T doesn’t allow users to take advantage of hotspot capabilities in the iPad. The company might require users to sign up for an additional tether bucket as it does with AT&T smartphones.

Unless you want to avoid an expensive data plan, it looks like Verizon is the winner, at least for now. But as carriers continue to make advances in 4G and build their networks, who knows who will be on top six months from now? Either way, the nation’s two largest carriers are helping Apple bring a little something extra to iPad users, so really, aren’t we all winners?

To contact the reporter on this story: Diallah Haidar at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com

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