Verizon Loses Its Mind, Ties Contract to $530 LTE Galaxy Tab 10.1

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Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 is getting the LTE treatment from Verizon Wireless on July 28, but chances are you won’t like the terms.

The super-slim Android tablet will start at $530 with a 4G LTE connection from Verizon Wireless, and — here’s the rub — will at that price require a two-year data contract that costs at least $30 per month. By comparison, a Wi-Fi model costs $500. With the LTE version, you pay $30 extra for the privilege of locking yourself into a long-term service agreement.

(MORE: Seriously, Who Buys Tablets With Wireless Data Plans?)

Typically with tablets, signing a two-year contract gets you some kind of deep discount. When Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab launched last year, for instance, it cost $400 with a two-year commitment — a savings of at least $200, depending on carrier. The discounts for smartphones are even steeper.

With the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the discount is slim to none. Broadband-ready tablets typically cost more than their Wi-Fi-only counterparts, but in this case it’s not clear what the markup would be, because Verizon’s not publicizing the Galaxy Tab 10.1′s off-contract price (assuming that option is even available). Even if we assume that the Galaxy Tab’s mobile broadband markup is equal to an iPad at $130, you’d only be getting a $100 discount for signing a two-year contract. [Update: As a couple of readers have pointed out, this is exactly what is happening.]

Besides, there’s not a lot of evidence that people want tablets with data plans, especially with so many new smartphones able to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots. AT&T says it activated 377,000 tablets last quarter, compared to 9.25 million iPads sold. And iPads, mind you, don’t require a two-year contract. IDG analyst Bob O’Donnell believes that most 3G tablets are gathering dust in back rooms of wireless carrier stores.

I’m still hoping that some day, a wireless carrier will roll all of your devices — phones, tablets, Mi-Fis, whatever — into a single plan for which you buy one giant bucket of data. With the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Verizon seems to be moving in the opposite direction by locking tablet buyers into separate long-term contracts.

MORE: So Long Unlimited Verizon Data Plans, We Hardly Knew You