General Question

Roby's avatar

Do I Pads or Tablets require a monthly access fee?

Asked by Roby (2939points) July 13th, 2012

Fee as cell phones and other devices that store information.

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12 Answers

2davidc8's avatar

My understanding is that if you use WiFi, you don’t have to pay an access fee. But if you use 3G or 4G, you need to pay for a data plan through your phone company.

Of course, if you need WiFi in your own home, you need to pay for that.

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JLeslie's avatar

Ipad’s do not require a fee if you use only the wifi. You can get an ipad that is wifi capable only, or one that also has 3g capability. The one that has both is more expensive, but there is still no required monthly fee. You get the option of turning off and on the 3g and paying for your usage.

Buttonstc's avatar

The only exception to the above is if you obtained the tablet in conjunction with a two year contract plan from a cell phone carrier.

You would be getting it at a reduced price in exchange for the two year commitment.

But even then, you wouldn’t be limited to only using it with 3G or 4G service. If wifi is available, it’s usually more efficient.

Otherwise, if you just purchased it outright apart from any contract, you can use it with any wi fi source available either at home or from the numerous businesses offering free wifi such as McDonalds, Starbucks, etc.

2davidc8's avatar

@Roby I wish to expand my answer. I wrote too quickly and did not provide enough detail.
By “access”, I assume you mean accessing the Internet, because without the Internet these devices are essentially useless, IMO.
Basically, you can access the Internet in 2 ways: through a cell phone network (aka, 3G or 4G) or through WiFi.
Via cell phone network Cell phone (aka, “wireless”) companies offer 3 basic kinds of service: voice, text and data. If you have a cell phone but you have only voice and text, you need to add data, and that will cost you extra $$. If you have a home computer, and you are already accessing the Internet via the phone company’s DSL network, then you probably already have a modem with built-in wireless, so you already have a home WiFi network and you can access the Internet through your own wireless network and it probably won’t cost you anything extra.
Via WiFi You can access the Internet via public WiFi networks, like those available at McDonalds, Starbucks, public libraries, many restaurants and cafes. These networks are free but they are unsecured and somewhat inconvenient because you are limited to the hours that they are open. (Now about the “hours that they are open”, I am assuming this, but if anyone knows if you can access the Starbucks WiFi even when they’re closed, let me know. :-) ) You may also be able to “piggyback” off your neighbor’s WiFi network, but only if it’s unsecured or if he/she has given you the password. Even then, this is not so good because the signal from your neighbor’s house to yours may be very weak.
Finally, you can have your own wireless network. This service can be obtained from either the phone company (see above) or from the cable company. You get a modem and a wireless router. Of course, you have to pay for this service, but in general you don’t have to worry about exceeding your data limits as you would on a 3G cell phone data plan. IMO, this is the best way to go, and get a device that has both WiFi and 3G. Then use the WiFi when you are at home or near a public WiFi network (such as Starbucks), and use the 3G when you on the go (car or public transportation) or away from any WiFi network. This will give you the most flexibility. Just my 2 cents.

jerv's avatar

@2davidc8 Verizon now has plans that let you use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot for free*. That means that a wifi-only tablet like mine could access the internet anywhere there is 3G coverage… though it would run down my battery quickly and may make me hit the data cap even quicker.

* No additional cost, but you still must pay the normal monthly access fee for your spartphone. Still, that is an improvement over the $20/month that tethering used to cost.

2davidc8's avatar

@jerv Yes, that is the problem with the “smartphone as wifi hotspot” solution. You would use up your 3G allotted minutes faster, and I understand that performance is not as good because you’re essentially going through the 3G network, and that is not as fast as regular wifi. True?

Buttonstc's avatar


You asked about accessing wifi when a place is closed.

I have accessed wifi from the parking lot at Starbucks and other places as well. Whether it’s still available after closing would vary from one place to another and be dependent upon whether the manager shuts down the entire network after hours or not.

At my local SB as well as MCD I’ve been able to continue using wifi from their parking lot. But I don’t know that that’s a universal thing so I guess you could ask in your local area.

jerv's avatar

@2davidc8 It depends. My workplace has many computers and a VoIP phone system sharing a 1.5 Mbps data pipe, so anytime I need to use the internet for work, my 3G phone is at least five times faster. At home, I have 7 Mbps shared between me and my wife, so wifi is faster. Many shared wifi networks are as slow as what I have at work while others are as good as what I have at home, so it’s hard to say as a general rule. Home wifi it’s almost always faster, but public access wifi is a dice roll.

2davidc8's avatar

@Buttonstc Thank you for your observations.
@jerv Yes, things are always a bit more complicated than they seem at first. When you use your 3G phone as a wifi hotspot, are you are also using up your cell phone’s voice minutes, or are you using up only your data plan’s MBs?

Buttonstc's avatar

If they try to bill you for both together at the same time you have every right to contest it.

THEY are the ones who decided to separate the two functions, making data separate and billed separately. They can’t then combine them (that’s not logical) and bill for both at the same time. It’s either or.

At minimum they must be bound by their own internal logic.

I think it’s ridiculous that we are billed (in minutes used) for calls which we receive as well as for calls we dial.

That’s a major difference from landlines where it was only the person making the call who is charged. That took a lot of getting used to for first time cell phone users.

BTW I have successfully protested charges for unsolicited advertising text messages. I never opened them so I didn’t participate in the transaction at all.

I recalled reading in the fine print somewhere that unopened text messages can’t be charged to you. So I pressed the point and got a refund. (it wasn’t a lot. But it was the principle of the thing.)

It’s obvious to them that I basically don’t use the texing allotted by my plan. I’ve never sent a text and that was obvious to them.

I told them if they didn’t want to see texts on my acct, then dont make my number available. Make it unlisted or something. It’s not my fault that I’m receiving unsolicited texts.

They then replied that I could shut off texting altogether.
I don’t want to shut off the text feature since they use it to bill me each month. But their texts are free of charge and I just hit total and send it back and my bill is paid.

So they decided it was better just to refund me the money and be done with it already.

And I haven’t gotten any further texts or sales calls for years. So I guess it was possible for them to unlist my number after all :)


jerv's avatar

@2davidc8 Only data; why would it use voice minutes?

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