Tablet Buyers' Guide; Free Tablet Data Plans - Technologist
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Tablet Buyers' Guide; Free Tablet Data Plans

Tablet choices, much like the purchase of a new car, can present a confusing series of options. What size screen do you pick? Apple or Android? What about storage capacity upgrades? And do you need cellular data?

Speaking of cellular data, while it would be nice to have an always-on connection, much like your smartphone, who needs the extra expense? (How about free?)

If you're selecting a tablet for yourself, for your firm, or for a family member, here are the choices you'll have to make, plus the low-down on low-cost data.

Apple or Android (or Windows)

It's the age-old debate, isn't it? Much like Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, and Windows or Mac, it's a matter of preference. However, there are some considerations that might cause you to lean one way or the other.

Have a smartphone? If you're already packing an Android or iOS device, sticking with the same ecosystem makes sense -- why buy apps twice? If you're starting from scratch, more lawyers use iOS, but Apple's overall market share has dwindled to 32 percent, reports Engadget.

And then there's the wildcard. With Intel's power-sipping Bay Trail processors, your best bet, productivity wise, might just be full-blown Windows 8.1 on a tablet.

Size, Storage, Cellular

Is 16 gigabytes enough? With both Android and Apple screens going HD (or Retina), app sizes are larger than ever (better screens require better images). Then again, cloud storage allows you to keep nearly anything online, downloading it to your device on an as-needed basis.

At this point, we'd lean towards 32 GB, and if you're going with a Windows 8.1 tablet, perhaps even more, since those are basically laptops without keyboards (more productivity means you're more likely to fill the storage space).

As for screen size, we've daily driven 10-inch and 7-inch tablets, and the latter was definitely our preference. Reading books, practice guides, and briefs on a larger, heavier tablet got annoying quickly (though the new iPad Air should help the heft issue), plus smaller tablets are cheaper.

Your best bet? Go to the store and try the different sizes out in person.

Tablets with built-in cellular data modems are a bit more ($130 more for iPads, $80 more for Google's Nexus 7). If you're only at home, or at the office, it's not worth it. But if you have a long train commute, or spend a lot of time at the courthouse, it'll be more handy than you think.

Data Plans

We teased you with free, and we'll deliver free (with caveats). T-Mobile announced last week that it will offer 200 megabytes of free data for everyone with a data-capable tablet, reports The New York Times. You only need to purchase a $15 SIM card to gain access.

Otherwise, we've been quite happy with FreedomPop, especially since they dropped the "inactivity" fee. You get 500 megabytes for free, but you have to purchase a USB stick or MiFI router (the latter will work for non-cellular tablets) to get access, plus the company's coverage is very limited outside of major metropolitan areas.

Have any other questions about tablet purchases? Give us a shout on LinkedIn.

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