There is nothing worse than commuting on the train, being stuck in an airport, or just landing in a dreaded WiFi-less zone and not having access to the Internet.
Luckily cellular providers, which offer more widespread coverage than WiFi, have rolled out data plans that you can subscribe to so that you stay connected even when your tablet hits a pocket with no WiFi coverage. “I’m a sales channel manager for a tech company, so I always have to be online — checking work email and responding,” says Matthew Petrosian of San Jose, CA. “Even in Silicon Valley there can be WiFi dead spots. I’ve had to add more data to my plan so I can access my devices when I’m working off site.”
Here are three common tablet-user scenarios, and the device and cellular service data plan that could be right for you:
User No. 1: The road warrior. You travel for work — a lot — and the truth is your tablet has basically replaced your laptop when it comes to managing your inbox, texting coworkers, and reading business articles.
Tablet style: The Android OS — like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S — is super light so it doesn’t add bulk to your travel load.
Data plan: If you’re mostly only texting, emailing, or using your tablet for GPS in your rental car, you could get away with a 6GB per month data plan.
Budget: Approximately $60 per month
User No. 2: The mega streamer. You also travel a lot, but you’re the type who has ditched your TV and now play all your favorite shows via your tablet as well — not to mention your music and podcast libraries.
Tablet style: The Apple iPad Air will fit in with your desktop and smartphone eco-system. You’ll learn to love the retina display and maximum battery life that gives you up to nine hours of surfing the web, watching video, or listening to music using cellular data network.
Data plan: You probably have your bases covered at home with WiFi, but when you’re on the move and consuming media and downloads, consider a 10GB plan, which allows you to use apps, play games, listen to tunes and stream an episode of your favorite comedy without worrying you’ll go over your data limit.
Budget: Approximately $100 per month
User No. 3: The sticky fingers club. Your kids are the real on-the-go tablet users in your crew. Your car is a mobile entertainment center, with kids using tablets on the way to and from school, watching a video or two while you run errands, and staying occupied while you transport them to games and activities on the weekends.
Tablet style: The LG G Pad is for you. You’ll love the ability to set up separate accounts for each kid, and it has a USB port if someone needs to transfer their homework from a thumb drive to the tablet for last minute cramming in the car.
Data plan: Again, if you’re mostly using WiFi at home, you’ll have a bit of padding. However, for mobile usage consider a 20GB plan for an entire family, which allows you to use your other cellular data devices while ensuring your kids can stream to their hearts’ desire when you’re traveling to and fro.
Budget: Approximately $140 per month
No matter what type of user you are, if you have more than one device in your life, or family, consider a shared plan. As with any plan, monitor your usage and increase or decrease your data plan based on your own usage patterns. And make sure to sign up for your carrier’s text alerts when you’re close to using all of your data allowance.
Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and Wired.com. He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.