Is it time to buy a 4G tablet?

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4G has been around for a couple of years now, and you might be thinking that since 4G phones are all over the place it might be the time for getting your hands on a 4G tablet to enjoy the speedy mobile internet with?

In the early days of 4G, it was rather expensive to get yourself some of that precious super fast data, but we’re beyond the stage where 4G is restricted to tech enthusiasts and people with more money than sense. Today a 4G contract can actually cost far less than a similar 3G contract did 12-18 months ago.

The 4G coverage in this country isn’t overly patchy either. Sure there are an awful lot of places that get zero 4G signal, but if you live in or near a major urban area then you’re bound to get yourself a decent signal. Rural areas are not so lucky, and you’ll just have to wait for the networks to very kindly invest money into the infrastructure that will expand the coverage. It is possible to check your area’s 4G coverage against the four major networks using this map.

So, if you live in an area with 4G coverage and you can afford the payments on a data-only SIM then we can continue. From here you need to figure out which tablet you want to buy, which is no easy task in itself.

A good tablet can last you a good few years, since they go obsolete far more slowly than your average smartphone. If you bought a tablet in the past one or two years then you might not need to upgrade at all since, one it works, and two it might have 4G already. If you do want to upgrade, for whatever reason (maybe your tablet mysteriously broke when you ran it over with your car), then upgrading to 4G is an obvious upgrade choice since there’s only so much tablets have improved upon since their inception.

There are a lot of 4G compatible tablets out there, and you need to make sure that you buy the one that’s right for you. The most important thing to watch out for is making sure you actually buy one that’s capable of communicating over mobile phone signals. This is because virtually all 3G or 4G enabled tablets also come as a Wi-Fi-only model which is slightly cheaper. Obviously you’re going to feel a little bit silly if you accidentally buy the wrong one.

Nowadays, in the same way that a 4G contract won’t cost you the Earth, neither will a 4G tablet. If you’ve got the money to spare you could go for one of the more expensive flagship options like the iPad Air 2 or the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. But there are 4G tablets available for almost nothing, and some of them are even less than £100. I am, of course, talking about the Alcatel One Touch Pop 7S from EE (£99), and the Vodafone Smart Tab 4G (£125).

The Alcatel from EE sounds like the obvious choice for those on a strict budget, and it comes with 100MB of free data each month, a 7-inch display, 8GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 3,240 mAh battery and is upgradeable to Android KitKat. The Smart Tab 4G, on the other hand, comes with an 8-inch display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, a 4060 mAh battery, and runs Android KitKat straight of the box. They’re not the best tablets available, but for the price and the fact that they both have 4G compatibility you’re not getting something too bad.

So is it time to buy a 4G tablet? As long as you live in an area with a decent 4G signal, and you actually want to upgrade your tablet, yes it is. 4G contracts aren’t obscenely expensive, and neither are 4G tablets. If you really want to get yourself 4G then it’s definitely one of the better times to do so.

By Tom Pritchard | November 24th, 2014