AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint: Which iPhone 5 should you get?

AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint: Which iPad carrier should you choose?

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!

Leanna Lofte

App and Photography Editor at iMore. Mother, wife, and math instructor. Follow her on Twitter @llofte and send her apps to consider for review at iosapps@imore.com

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There are 15 comments. Add yours.

ereyes323 says:

Sprint is horrid!!! Verizon here in nyc makes every other carriers LTE network look light years behind. I would go Verizon all the way.

markawashington says:

I have an iPad for verizon .... Get the share data plab for 40 bucks a month which gives you 6 gbs and add the tablet to it for 10 dollars now you are paying 50 bucks for 6gbs. If i get the mini for Verizon then its 10 dollars which makes total of 60 bucks split the cost . 30 dollars for 3 gbs .

briankeith513 says:

One fact not mentioned in the article is that Verizon has the most 4G LTE coverage of any carrier in the US, by far. That's the key for me.

Pam Partington says:

Same for me! and here in Canada http://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Products/Apple-iPad-mini is the one. I just got the iPad mini with them and it works great.

mainstation says:

Great article! Thanks for the comparison!

tuffy100 says:

lol sprint...

but no, verizon is the way to go.

cableguy619 says:

If you are on a shared plan just add it that way and pay the 10-15 to add to plan.

jonlien2012 says:

It sounds like Verizon is the obvious winner when it comes to LTE coverage. I am on AT&T now but planning to switch in the near future when I upgrade to iPhone 5 and buy an iPad mini.

Ozy says:

All these prices are a rip-off.

I'd love to see a post on the profit margins on the sale of bandwidth. I'm sure they are depressingly huge. There ought to be more competition. Thank the Lard AT&T wasn't allowed to gobble up T-Mobile.

Mobile49er says:

Solavei is a great alternative to the big boys.
mobile49er.com

Mobile49er says:

I popped in my Solavei SIM card this afternoon and had great 3G data on my iPad. And Solavei gives you 4GB of data before throttling and that is for $49. Kind of cool that you can swap your SIM card between your phone and iPad if you like.
Check out Solavei at mobile49er.com.

Peter Uetz says:

The Verizon service is good (at least in my location in Richmond, VA) BUT Verizon's business practices are PREDATORY. Each time I use my prepaid plan on an ipad I make sure I uncheck the "auto-renew" option and the next time it is activated again. I have lost many dollars because of this outrageous behavior of Verizon. Verizon should be avoided just for that reason as any other plan is probably cheaper as Verizon's attempts to rip you off will hit you sooner or later.

Woo Jee says:

I am about to buy a ipad mini or ipad 4 or i am gonna wait until the apple event next tuesday... but one thing that scares me the most is speed of LTE in US... i don't know if it is just me from Korea but man oh man everything is just SOOOOOOOOOOO slow... AT&T never gets to full bars Verizon on iPhone is a joke... From what i have read i think i am gonna go with Verizon, it seems like people are most happy with.