Here’s why cellular-connected tablets are a horrible idea

In January of 2012 something magical happened: executives from Asus and Google got together and began work on a project that would change the face of mobile computing. Apple had released the first iPad two years earlier and OEMs had followed suit with tablets powered by Android shortly thereafter. All the options – both Apple and Android – were relatively costly. What Asus and Google did changed the industry. Those two powerhouses came together and built a tablet with very respectable specifications and a price that couldn’t be matched.

nexus-75This strategy pushed the prices of tablets across the industry down and accelerated the adoption of the tablet form factor.

Unlike laptop computers that were built to be slimmed down desktop computers with standalone apps, tablets were essentially upsized phones that relied on a data connection for their full utility to be realized.

Virtually every tablet came with WiFi onboard, but back in 2012 WiFi wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now. Even today, WiFi still is not everywhere. Many corporate offices still hesitate to deploy WiFi to their employees for fear of what content could be delivered or requested via the corporate Internet connection. Why not make a cellular-connected tablet?

After the WiFi version of the original Nexus 7 was released, an HSPA version of the tablet was offered. It was more expensive and required the purchase of an additional monthly subscription to a cellular provider to unlock its potential. More recently, follow-up version of the Nexus 7 was released, with optional LTE-connectability. Having passed on the previous HSPA Nexus 7, this time around I waited to get the LTE version of the Nexus 7.

That was a mistake

Sad man on phoneUnlike other reviewers, I try and buy my own hardware. I bought my own Nexus 6 with money out of my own pocket. Similarly, my Nexus 5, Nexus 4, and both Nexus 7’s were self-funded. Why? Doing so helps me be more appreciative of the device, and makes sure my articles are written from a perspective closer to yours, because I am an end-user, not just a reviewer.

After the 2013 Nexus 7 was released I waited for the LTE version to come out… and waited. Then waited some more. When it was finally released I paid a premium cost to buy it.

Plan incompatibilities

sim_hlMy original thought was that whenever I needed to get some work done on my tablet that I’d just pop the SIM out of my smartphone, slide it into my tablet, and get to work. Unfortunately, even though my smartphone and Nexus 7 had exactly the same screen resolution and very similar specifications, T-Mobile required that I purchase a separate data plan for the tablet. I couldn’t use bits from a smartphone data plan, or (heaven forbid) use any of my “unlimited” smartphone data in a tablet. Apparently “tablet data” is somehow “different” than smartphone data.

I tried to argue this point with several T-Mobile employees, even going as far as saying the plan I had would be under-used in the Nexus 7 since the tablet couldn’t send texts or make phone calls like my smartphone could. That logic fell on deaf ears.

Oh well, since I was unwilling to buy another plan when I already had “unlimited data” at my disposal, I just resigned myself to the fact that I’d waited longer and spent more money on a device that would give me no extra features, and moved on with life.

Delayed updates

android-lollipopDespite having paid more for the LTE Nexus 7, updates have been significantly slower than updates for the WiFi version of the tablet. Talk about adding insult to injury!

Now that Android 5.0 Lollipop is out and updates have been rolling out to older Nexi (even the original Nexus 7), you’d imagine that I’d already be enjoying the latest OS on my LTE Nexus 7. You’d be wrong.

Android Lollipop has been out for two months. The update for the LTE Nexus 7 and HSPA Nexus 7 are still nowhere in sight.

To recap, the flagship tablet from Google that’s supposed to serve as an example of “how it’s supposed to be done” to other OEMs come in two varieties: cellular-connectable and WiFi only. You had to wait for the former to be released, it cost more at purchase, it requires a separate data plan to make it worthwhile, and it gets updates much later than the latter (if at all?). Put simply, it’s not worth the extra time, extra money, extra subscription, and extra frustrations to purchase a cellular-connected tablet over the WiFi equivalent. Cellular-connected tablets are a horrible idea.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.