Is AT&T's 250MB iPad 3G Plan for you? Probably not.

Your iPad Wi-Fi + 3G came yesterday and you're thinking 250MB sounds pretty good for $14.99. Problem is we're talking about 30 days. The other problem is, whether you like the title or not, you are an early adopter. A technophile. Gadget-prone and Internet savvy. You pre-ordered an iPad, after all.

Apple iPad 3G ATT Carrier

Breaking down 250MB is pretty simple. It's not a lot of data. Not anymore, at least. 174 floppy disks sounds like plenty of space, until you compute that it only fills up 38% of a 74 minute CD-R. In the interest of science, I've averaged my iPhone data usage over the recent months in anticipation of the iPad 3G.

The result? 300MB per month. Of course, there are a few differences between the iPhone and the iPad. Many mobile sites are optimized for the iPhone and use much less bandwidth. All data plans on the iPhone are unlimited, which means the iPad may find itself connected to Wi-Fi networks more often. It may be worth the extra few minutes to get that password or sign on to the coffee shop network if there's a limit looming or you want a faster connection.

Unfortunately for bandwidth caps, the other main difference is the larger iPad screen along with the multitude of streaming video and audio options. It's simply much more appealing to watch a YouTube video on the iPad, even if it's quickly eating up your quota. Can you resist Google Maps, app and music downloading, and video watching when limited to a 3G connection? The answer will be personal.

I'll bet for many users the answer will be no. AT&T is doing us (and Apple) a service by offering a contract-free data plan. This may even reduce my dissatisfaction with the lack of options, but a two-tiered approach smacks of the AT&T text plans. The lower plan is too little, which encourages us to upgrade to the higher plan, which costs too much. 200 texts is cheap (5 bucks) but not nearly enough. Next in line you get 1500 for $15. Going over the smaller plan ends up costing more than $15 in a hurry. Now that I have the larger text plan, have I ever come close to hitting 1500 texts?

I'll let you guess the answer. AT&T is counting on users to re-up their 250MB plan more than once. Maybe if 250MB lasts 20 days then you're getting one over on them. After all, that gives you 40 days of 3G data for $29.98. Ten extra days for a penny less.

Email and light web browsing could make this possible, just don't download any attachments. For traveling internationally, AT&T is offering roaming data plans for the iPad that work in 80 countries. At the prices they're asking it makes the unlimited domestic plan look like a steal. Try 20MB for $24.99. The highest you can go is $199.99 for 200MB over 30 days. Sticker shock?

One month of unlimited data at $29.99 equates to a dollar a day. You probably pay more for your daily coffee. In a pinch, the 250MB plan for $14.99 could make sense, but if you anticipate using 3G on the iPad for any length of time, get ready to sign up for the unlimited plan.

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