If you're in the U.S. it's probably not so easy deciding which carrier is best for your iPad or iPad mini needs, AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint. Price is always a huge factor to consider when choosing a carrier, but coverage should be just as, if not more, important when making a decision. Since the iPad and iPad mini support LTE cellular technology, you're going to want to take a close look at which carriers offer the best LTE coverage in your area.
First, let's take a look at prices.
iPad mini and iPad 4: AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint prepaid monthly plans
All three carriers offer LTE data plans for iPads with month-to-month, contract-free pricing. So if you are interested in choosing a different provider than you have for your cellular service, you can. You may also be interested in one of these plans if you are not on a "share everything" plan on AT&T or Verizon, since those are the only plans eligible for adding a tablet at a low price.
Since the data amounts and prices vary so much between the carriers, we have created two different charts to present the data -- one organized by data amount and one organized by price.
iPad mini and iPad 4: AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint add-on plans
If you already have a "share everything" plan with AT&T or Verizon, you can add a tablet to your plan for just $10 per month. If you have an individual plan, this is not an option and you must use one of the above prepaid plans.
Sprint does not offer a simple add-on price for iPads since their "share everything" plans include unlimited data. Instead, even if you already have a smartphone with Sprint, the same costs above apply. However, for an unknown amount of time, Sprint is offering discounted rate plans that include 1 GB of data for $15 per month and 100 MB for $10 per month. These are the only two plans available at a discount.
To see a comparison of the different "share everything" plans, check out our AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint comparison for the iPhone.
iPad mini and iPad 4: LTE availability
In addition to price, you must also consider where each carrier offers coverage and if you're within that area. When it comes to coverage, the first thing you want to consider is LTE availability.
Clearly, the above maps are not a good enough indication of LTE coverage in your area. So make sure you look at each of carriers' maps very closely as they all offer an interactive tool that lets you zoom into your specific area and learn exactly which areas of your city get coverage.
If LTE is not available to you on either network, the next thing to look at is 3G (or "4G" -- ugh!) coverage. In general, AT&T's HSPA data is much, much faster, but also less reliable than Verizon and Sprint's CDMA networks -- and Verizon is typically faster than Sprint. Because of 3G/4G data speeds, I am inclined to recommend AT&T over Verizon and Sprint providing that they offer solid coverage in your area.
It really does come down to who offers the best coverage. If price is deal breaker for you, you may have to compromise on coverage and stability and choose Sprint, but if you're willing to pay extra for a better network, take a close hard look at the coverage that AT&T and Verizon offer. Don't only look at maps, either. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who use AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to learn how satisfied they are with their carrier's network.
iPad mini and iPad 4: International traveling
Since AT&T is GSM carrier and Sprint and Verizon are CDMA carries, Apple chose to make two different models of the iPhone 5: GSM+LTE for AT&T and CDMA+LTE for Verizon and Sprint. For people who don't travel internationally, this fact is irrelevant, but if you're a frequent traveler, it may play a very important role on which carrier you choose. To make a long story short, if you regularly travel within North America (US and Canada) and want LTE when you travel, AT&T is your only option. If you travel to the rest of the world, then you want Verizon or Sprint. If you travel between Canada and the rest of the world, well, you're out of luck -- you can't have both, unfortunately. If this is something that you need to consider, hit the link above for more details.
iPad mini and iPad 4: Making the choice
So which carrier are you going to choose? Will you be ditching one carrier for another or sticking with the one you already have? Sound off in the comments below!