Mobile

T-Mobile goes tablet crazy: Offers free 200MB monthly data, $0 down for all tablets (including iPad Air)

Above: The new iPad is super-skinny.

Image Credit: Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat

T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” schtick continues to break new ground.

Today T-Mobile announced that it will offer 200 megabytes of free monthly mobile data for all tablet owners for life, starting on November 1. And for a limited time, it will also offer all of its tablets for $0 down, including Apple’s new iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display.

Just like T-Mobile’s past moves towards killing mobile contracts and international roaming fees, today’s news adds some much-needed clarity to something that’s usually confusing (and expensive) on other carriers. Typically, you’d have to pay a premium for a tablet equipped with cellular access and lock yourself into a separate contract to get it online (unless you’re on a data sharing plan, but that’s complicated in its own right).

While T-Mobile is focusing specifically on Apple’s new iPads with the free data announcement, the deal applies to anyone with a tablet compatible with its 3G or 4G LTE network. (If you have a tablet from AT&T, for example, you could easily move over). Like T-Mobile’s $0 down offering for smartphones, the carrier isn’t revealing when the offer will disappear.

The iPad Air will cost $26.25 a month on T-Mobile for the 16 gigabyte model, while the iPad Mini with Retina will run you $22 a month. Other tablets will go for much less — Google’s Nexus 7, for example, is just $16 a month. While another monthly fee is a hassle, the lack of a down payment could make a tablet on T-Mobile a smart choice for plenty of buyers. (I recently moved from AT&T to T-Mobile, and even though I’d never consider a cellular-enabled tablet on another carrier, I’m definitely interested in what T-Mobile is offering.)

On a conference call today, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said the company won’t charge overages for anyone who goes over the 200MB of free data. Your data access will simply stop. T-Mobile will also offer a variety of other options for people who need more data: $10 a month gets you unlimited data (at a slower speed) once you use up 200MB of LTE 4G, and you can add 2 more gigabytes of LTE data every month for an additional $10.

For people who only occasionally need more monthly data, you can pay $5 for a day pass with 500MB of LTE, and $10 for a weekly pass with 1GB of LTE. Both of those offerings also grant you slower unlimited data once you use up your LTE bandwidth.

“These Uncarrier moves … we try and design them to be things even we can’t believe were doing,” Legere said. “This is one of those.”

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