Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

Summary: Apple is widely expected to launch its tablet device later this month and speculation abounds about this highly anticipated gadget. But there is a significant wild-card: 3G access.


Apple is widely expected to launch its tablet device later this month and speculation abounds about this highly anticipated gadget. But there is a significant wild-card: 3G access.

The 3G access issue was noted by Macquarie analyst Phil Cusick and it's a point worth pondering amid all of the media reports over the holidays. The Financial Times pegs a Jan. 26 launch for Apple's tablet. John Paczkowski at Digital Daily says the Apple shindig will be Jan. 27.

In a research note, Cusick noted that as beautiful as an Apple tablet may be its success will be driven or limited by connectivity. Just Wi-Fi may be limiting. 3G access is going to be pricey. Where's the balance?

Cusick notes that the Kindle model, where 3G service is bundled into the price, isn't going to fly with full PC firepower, apps and lots of data consumption. The Kindle, media only model, has wireless data costs of $6 a month, estimates Cusick. Wireless data plans can run you $60 a month.

Simply put, how Apple packages in the 3G access will be a big factor with the iTablet, iSlate or whatever this device is called. Cusick writes:

Giving the carrier a piece of any media revenue (like Kindle does) rather than a high monthly service price could help, but could also result in higher prices for iTunes content, cut into Apple's already thin margins on iTunes, or limit a customer's ability to download over 3G and doesn't address browser/email pricing. The best result may be that devices offer tiers of 3G service, from a low-end with just Kindle-line functionality and pricing, to a highend with a fully functional browser and matching high monthly fee.

Those options sound pretty complicated to me.

In any case, the total cost of ownership for Apple's tablet should be monitored at launch. Analysts are expecting something in the $800 range per device with 3 million to 5 million shipments in fiscal 2010.

Topics: Tablets, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Wi-Fi

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Iphone & Islate user charges?

    I'm already paying quite a bit every month for my Iphone. If I were to get
    an Islate, would this in effect double what I'm paying? Or, would the 2
    somehow be packaged together. I don't think I could afford twice what
    I'm currently paying.
    Prime Detailer
    • You deserve to pay whatever Apple wants you to pay.

      If you buy into this thing as a "must have" like so many people did the iPhone, then you must pay. If you can afford $800-$1000 for the gizmo itself, another $40-$50 bucks a month is pocket change, right?
      terry flores
      • We DESERVE fair value -- but the cart is ahead of the horse

        The whole mentality that one "deserves" bad
        treatment because of a decision that didn't
        spell that treatment out up-front is downright
        loathsome in its negativity. What we DESERVE
        is fair value, always.

        What we DESERVE, since the primary purchase is
        with Apple, is for Apple to see to it that we
        have 3G access. Let THEM wrangle with AT&T or
        whomever else. Let them negotiate a bulk rate
        for us, and we'll pay them a sane profit for
        the bother. When one lays out this sort of
        cash and pays a month in advance, there is no
        excuse for credit checks or any of the other
        hassles AT&T has imposed.

        But this is all pointless speculation. Let's
        wait until the end of the month and find out
        what they actually present.
        • We deserve nothing

          By "deserve" do you mean we have a "right" to fair pricing? This a free market. The only right we deserve is the decision whether to buy or not. Apple, like any other company in the US, can charge whatever it wants.

          Now if only government would see health care that way...
        • We do deserve fair value

          Since when everything is someone else's responsibility? The gadget is a unit of product in itself. It gives you the kind of features that you think is good to have and that you think is worth the price it's calling for. We should appreciate the opportunity of being able to get a valued product at a good price, and get it in a package with low rate service plan that will enhance the value of the product. As responsible consumers, we should not buy into the hype of new products or have the mentality of "must have (what the Jones' got)". If you "got to have" something at whatever price and then gripe about it, what price you paid is the fair price for you. Furthermore, I think the wireless carrier should do credit check on everyone who wants in on a super deal and make the deal a sweet one we can't refuse.
      • deserve to pay

        No, $40-$50 is not pocket change. That is why I have $800 to $1000 in my pocket now. :)
    • No

      Probably you could "bond" to the iphone and use it's data plan.
  • Well we all know just how swell the iPhone handles 3G on AT&T.

    So is this phantom Apple Tablet going to have an "exclusive" 3G deal with AT&T, just like the iPhone? Oh goody. That should really help sales...NOT.

    And then MORE of AT&T's bandwidth is going to get clogged, when the faithful purchase this lump...and subsequently start whining about dropped connections, etc. I can?t wait.
    • Which is why I say it will be wi-fi only.

      I always though the idea of a device that is an "iPhone on steroids" was
      silly, and with AT&T making noises about bandwidth caps, tiered pricing,
      and user data-usage rationing (all totally anathema to a wireless media
      portal), binding this device to AT&T 3G would be proof El Jobso lost his
      mind with his, original, liver. So I see this device as supporting only
      802.11n/g/b, with [b]maybe[/b] an ExpressCard slot for people that
      want to add a broadband air-link with the carrier of their choice.
  • $800!?!

    I can't imagine paying $800 for a tablet, one that will probably be handicapped with an Apple controlled app store.

    At that price only Apple fanboys who've been left out of the Netbook crazy would be silly enough to shell out that kind of cash.
    • $800 would be kinda cheap...

      Given that standard new PC Tablets are around
      the $1000+ mark, $800 would be exceeding cheap
      for a Mac Tablet... unless of course it's going
      to be crippled by simply being an oversized
      iPhone, which if they're smart they won't do.

      They've got the facility to make a reasonably
      high-powered yet slim tablet (MacBook Air?)
      that could be so much more than an oversized
      iPhone, and if they do that while keeping it
      similarly priced to the Air, they could
      potentially bust the tablet market open.

      o_O I'd have to wonder whether (given that
      Apple is apparently the choice for artists)
      they'll include some kind of pressure
      sensitivity on the interface. Given the patent
      wars over their capacitive displays on the
      iPhone, I sadly doubt this will be the case.

      Still... $800 for a fully functional
      [b]tablet[/b]? Fanboi or not, I'd snap your
      hand off.
      • only if

        it is powerful enough to replace laptop as $800 will be cheaper than any Macbook.
      • $1000 would be cheap

        If you're talking about what artists actually use (for those that don't
        know, they don't finger paint!).

        Wacom Cintiq12WX:
        12.1" Screen
        Pressure sensitive pen (absolutely required for real work)
        No processor
        No ports
        No memory
        No battery
        No WiFi
        No 3G
        Some "keys"
        Weight: 4.4 lbs.

        Price: $999.00

        If the iSlate or iTablet exists and is under $1000, it would have to be
        an oversized iPhone (with subsidized carrier lock-in).
        Scott Kitts
        • graphic tablet ...

          is a very specialized device with high-precision, so , it design to actually emulate paper for those artists. I don't think it is right to compare these things side-by-side.
  • No one seems to be addressing the "Full vs. iPhone" OS issue

    I was really looking forward to the idea of an Apple tablet -- at least one I could re-pave with a non-Apple OS.

    Now the rumor mill seems to be indicating that we'll be seeing an iPhone-style OS, which most likely means that it will be stuck on whatever OS Apple releases on it.

    God forbid if it uses iTunes to syncronize data with a PC. In that case I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

    I will continue hoping that Apple release a full Intel x86-compatible slate tablet. If they don't, I'm not buying.

    To the person who said 800 bucks is a lot for a tablet: You're correct if it's a big-brother iPhone, but that's frankly not a lot to pay if it's a full x86-compatible computer.
  • RE: Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

    ASUS will dominate this market on the PC side (initially), then just like the netbook craze, everyone else will come aboard after the craze peaks (ACER/GATEWAY/EMACHINE, DELL, HP/COMPAQ, MSI).
  • RE: Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

    And childish name calling really helps your argument.
  • RE: Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

    I have yet to figure out why we need any vendors tablet
  • RE: Apple's tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

    I have yet to figure out why I would need any vendors tablet. If I have to carry something in a case why not a small 'more' featured laptop instead?
  • Isn't this just more speculation?

    This seems to be just one more speculative posting about a mythical iPad, iTab, or whatever.

    If they really are releasing one, then good for them, otherwise, it is just speculation.