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New Zippy Fast 4G iPad Burns Through AT&T/Verizon Usage Allowances in Hours

The new 4G LTE-equipped Apple iPad you picked up late last week may be burning a hole in your wallet more than you think.  Across the country, consumers are reporting shock and surprise when they discover the new, faster mobile broadband-equipped tablet is capable of blowing through AT&T and Verizon Wireless’ monthly usage caps in a matter of hours.

The culprits: online video and giant-sized app downloads.

Online video on a usage-limited mobile broadband plan simply does not last long on Apple’s newest sensation.  A Wall Street Journal article found one new iPad owner discouraged after a two hour basketball game completely obliterated his 3GB usage allowance provided by AT&T.  With $10/GB overlimit fees just around the corner, AT&T is set to earn enormous data fees from customers who use their iPads to stream video.

The Wall Street Journal reports the newest iPad has been out for less than a week and buyers are already burning through their monthly data allowances on usage capped 4G mobile plans.  (3 minutes)

USA Today tech columnist Edward Baig also blew through his allowance in less than one day:

Less than 24 hours after purchasing the Verizon Wireless version of the iPad + 4G — and choosing a $30, 2GB monthly data plan from Verizon — I was shocked by the notification on my iPad’s screen: “There is no data remaining on your current plan.”

My remaining options for the month included changing to a $50 5GB data plan or an $80 10GB plan. (AT&T offers a 250MB plan for $14.99; 3GB for $30; and 5GB for $50.)

[…] In my case, I wasn’t watching video. What nailed me, I think, is that I was wirelessly downloading a number of the apps that I had already purchased for my older iPad onto the latest model. Those apps were made available through Apple’s iCloud.

To help avoid just this situation, the new iPad has a 50MB per app download limit on 4G. Anything over that, and you’re directed to Wi-Fi. (The over-the-air download limit on 3G-capable iPads was 20MB.) But that’s a per-app limit, and all those smaller-sized apps I was moving to the new iPad collectively added up.

Storing anything on Apple’s iCloud service or other backup storage sites like Dropbox can prove costly when relying on 4G service from AT&T and Verizon.  That’s on top of Apple’s premium price for 4G-equipped iPads, which start at $629 (comparable Wi-Fi only models are priced at $499 and above).  As a result, consumers are shutting off the wireless mobile feature they paid $130 extra to receive.

“All the advantages of the iPad device are completely neutralized by [AT&T’s] two gigabyte data limit,” Steve Wells told the Journal.

Some customers are upgrading their mobile data plans to 5GB for $50 a month, offered by both AT&T and Verizon.  Others are learning to stick to Wi-Fi.  According to a study conducted by the consulting firm Chetan Sharma, nearly 90% of tablets bought in the United States are Wi-Fi only models.  The added cost for mobile-equipped tablets and the expensive data plans that accompany them are largely responsible.

Consumer Advice:

  1. You can still leverage 4G mobile broadband speeds on a cheaper Wi-Fi-only equipped iPad if your smartphone supports the “mobile hotspot” feature. When activated, your phone becomes a Wi-Fi hotspot your iPad can connect to for wireless data. If you have an unlimited mobile hotspot plan from Verizon Wireless (now difficult to obtain unless you are grandfathered on an unlimited data plan), you are not subject to Verizon’s usage limits for mobile devices.
  2. Rely as much as possible on Wi-Fi, especially for file downloads or streamed content. Since the iPad can seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and expensive mobile data service, protect yourself by shutting off Cellular Data within the settings menu when you don’t absolutely need to use it.
  3. Turn off LTE service when not needed. 4G consumes battery life faster and its speeds encourage the kind of increased usage that can exhaust your allowance.
  4. Monitor how much data you’ve used from the settings menu. Web browsing and e-mail will not consume a lot.  Online video and giant app downloads will.

[Thanks to our regular readers Scott and Earl for sending in several stories reporting on this.]

Apple iPad in the News:

Joe Brown, editor-in-chief at Gizmodo.com, talks about Apple Inc.’s new iPad, the outlook for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire and the tablet market. Brown speaks with Jon Erlichman on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.” (6 minutes)

Shelly Palmer talks about the record-breaking sales numbers of the new Apple iPad. He discusses what is great and not so great about the new tablet on New York’s WNYW-TV.  (4 minutes)

Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, talks about the magazine’s temperature test of Apple Inc.’s new iPad. The newest iPad runs “significantly hotter” than the earlier model when conducting processor-intensive tasks such as playing graphics-heavy games, Consumer Reports said on its website.  (9 minutes)

It’s the hottest item in the tech world – literally. WFXT in Boston also takes a look at how other tablet manufacturers are doing in competition with Apple.  (4 minutes)

Currently there are 13 comments on this Article:

  1. jr says:

    A sleek new paperweight

    • Earl says:

      A sleek new $629.00 paperweight, everybody on Wall Street should have one.

    • John Howard says:

      I finally signed up last night after a week of using the thing with Wi-Fi only. I was curious what the speed would be like.

      Well… I signed up and immediately checked the usage — I had already use 1Mb JUST BY SIGNING UP!! Another excursion to lunch and during the course of 15 minutes of web surfing, I chewed up another 28 Mb.

      At this rate, I expect to run out of bandwidth by the end of next week. And I’m not even getting my mail on the iPad right now, still on my phone.

  2. JAMES says:

    What a joke 4g This is our old analog tv spectrum. It was ours tax payers.. Then sold out to these big companies to screw us with no unlimited data packages and unreasonable fees!!! So much for us broadband 🙁

    • This is a very true point. The airwaves were a public resource until the government saw auctioning them off as a potential goldmine. But it’s actually just a tax, because pricing for the services that result includes the financial costs carriers paid for the airwaves. It’s much the same with business taxation, which is why I believe they should pay a fair share, but soaking them will only cost consumers more in the end.

      At this point, I’d prefer the government assigning frequencies to different carriers with the agreement they would share cell towers and facilities, avoid excessive redundancy, and price access fairly.

      I don’t have a big problem with well-regulated monopolies/duopolies or a real “free market.” I do have a problem with unregulated monopolies/duopolies or the phony “free market” we have with telecom today where practical limits on wired/wireless infrastructure, Wall Street, and provider collusion guarantee most Americans have two serious choices for telecom services — a phone/wireless company and the local cable operator.

      Google is probably the only disruptive national market player we have left, should they decide to build fiber to the home in other cities. They have sufficient financial resources to do their own thing and believe that broadband should be cheap and plentiful (and makes them a boatload of money when they can sell advertising on it). Local community-owned broadband can also make an enormous difference where it exists.

      Everyone else seems to be in the broadband shortage business, pitching overpriced service and complaining whenever customers “use too much” of it.

  3. Tim says:

    Can I get a “Hey I would never blow through my cap. I don’t mind caps.”? Famous last words…

    Meanwhile, data shows that usage is growing exponentially. Carriers are salivating over the amount of return they will get with people going over their extremely low data caps.

    • Anyone who says caps won’t affect them either don’t use the Internet for much more than web browsing or email, don’t have kids (or grandkids) or haven’t been the victim of the great Limbo Dance carriers love (where the caps are gradually LOWERED).

      I am committed to never doing any serious business with AT&T, the one company that specifically talks up the incredible financial opportunity they see from tablet mobile data. They don’t care if the money comes from consumers or the content producers, so long as they keep getting paid.

      I have had an iPad for a year now and find I either use it with Wi-Fi, or my unlimited Verizon mobile hotspot feature on my 4G phone. My friends love it too, because they all pile on my connection because Verizon’s 4G is actually 4G, and I’ve seen their 3G network outperform Sprint’s “4G” Clear service.

  4. Chuck says:


    It’s not only your wallet you should be concerned with burning, other than that and money, I’d be more concerned with the new iPad burning PEOPLE period, the processor heat over from the GPU is ridiculous!

    Those things are the hottest item on the market. It’ll get so hot they’ll have to start calling it the kindle fire!

    • I have the iPad 2 and am quite happy with it when it works. I saw the new iPad in an Apple store here in Rochester and was blown away by the display, but I can imagine the extra weight and heat would make it un-fun to hold.

      Giving Apple another $500+ a year after my last $500 would also not be fun. I have also my first iPad 2 fail when opening the box (after standing in line at Best Buy opening day). It was DOA. Then, my second just died about a week ago two weeks before the warranty expired.

      I think I will learn the lesson Apple teaches me: don’t be the first to acquire something they release until they’ve worked the bugs out at the slave labor camp they call their manufacturing facilities in China.

      Sometimes I have to wonder if Apple’s choice in manufacturing is the 21st century equivalent of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

    • Smith6612 says:

      The heat the iPad 3 is nothing compared to what I can make a laptop create with OCCT or games. Almost double of what the iPad 3 can possibly make. The design of the iPad 3, not only due to speed but due to cooling concerns directly sends the heat to the shell, hence the warmth. Not stating the obvious though!

  5. jordan says:

    To all the fools who bought one of these:

    1.You should of known better !
    2.You now own a very expensive paper weight
    3.You knew you had a Capped and Throttled Account to begin with
    4.I have no sympathy for anyone who supports the Greed Of Telcos.

  6. Smith6612 says:

    Heh. Article is more proof on why I won’t get mobile data. Companies don’t get the picture and they also don’t seem to have confidence in their network. I always tell people don’t fall for the cap, and I hate seeing those same people fall for it and then give warnings to people on their plans to not use it too much. Oops 🙂

    As far as the iPad goes, I always tell people to just get the Wi-Fi model. You save money and Wi-Fi can be found practically anywhere. If you really need access it never hurts to perhaps ask for a Wi-Fi key.

  7. Rob says:

    I plan on getting the new Asus Tranformer Pad when it comes out next quarter. This only convinces me I need to purchase the wi-fi only version. These cell phone companies are ripping people off.

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