Growing Pains: Are 4G LTE iPad Data Plans Just Too Small?

Making Apple’s newest iPad 4G LTE compatible is a curse and a blessing. While it helps allows for supercharged Web surfing when there is no Wi-Fi around, it also gobbles up precious gigabytes like a data succubus, luring unsuspecting iPad users into its enticing trap with high-definition movies and speedy Internet connectivity. We all know what limited means, but who can resist Retina display college basketball at this time of year?

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the problems with limited data plans on 4G networks using iPads, calling them a “speed trap.” Two victims of the irresistible overconsumption of network data spoke out about their experience. Brandon Wells watched two hours of March Madness on the new iPad from the dashboard of his car, wasting all two GBs of his Verizon limited plan. Why he was sitting in his car watching college basketball instead of from the comfort of his own home or while sitting at his desk at work we may never know, but that is not the point. The poor man was enticed into unnecessarily streaming broadcast sports because he could, because the new iPad is finally 4G compatible and uses the fastest network around. Who could blame him?

“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Wells was quoted as saying. “It streams really fast video, but by streaming really fast video you tend to watch more video, and that’s not always best.”

Another unwitting victim of, apparently uncontrollable, 4G data streaming was Albert Park. He was in a café that actually offered wireless Internet access, but was so enamored by superfast uploading that he “watched concert videos and other clips and browsed social media sites” on his AT&T limited data plan. Five days later, he had used up two-thirds of his 3GB plan. Luckily, Park was able to break away from the spell. “I’ll probably avoid watching videos outside of my home,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

So, what are we supposed to do to resist the overwhelming temptation to suck up streaming data over the 4G networks? How can we possibly be expected to reign in our usage, even though it is not a problem for most smart phone user? Maybe there is an app that will shut down the new iPad after 1/30th percent of your monthly usage (assuming a daily use and a 30-day month… seems logical) so that you can parcel out your megabytes accordingly.

AT&T has a solution that will help themselves and consumers. In February, we told you about how the company is working on a service that will allow app developers to pay for usage taken up by their apps. So, if basketball addicts like Brandon Wells uses the NCAA March Madness Live iPad app instead of watching it from mobile Safari, Turner Sports Interactive could be the one covering the data stream, freeing up those precious gigs for other important uses, like finding your way through the forest with a GPS app when you are lost, or emailing an important document to your boss while in a taxi on the way to the airport.

Another solution may be to stop unnecessarily using our iPad’s 4G network. We got along without it before, didn’t we?

About Lory: Writer of all things app related, traveler of the space-time continuum, baker of really great cookies. Follow me @appaholik

  • Kevin

    This is why LTE is a joke for iPad and is meaningless to 9/10 iPad owners. Once consumers realize how little they can use their data plan, it won’t take long to realize what other neat things they can do with 20-30-40-50+ dollars a month. Apple is putting a ton of stock into something very few of us remotely care to pay for.

    Cellular data plans that are not unlimited are one of the biggest consumer rip offs I’ve seen. I’m actually in the process of leaving my broadband cable provider because they are forcing everyone into a data cap plan…for home broadband!!! Stop the cap and vote with your wallet.

  • Captain ZADL


    Not news. Geez the people who are complaining about it probably shouldn’t own one.