Seriously, Who Buys Tablets with Wireless Data Plans?

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AT&T has proudly announced that it’s the exclusive 4G wireless carrier for Sony’s upcoming S2 dual-screen tablet. I’m proud to announce that I couldn’t care less. Honestly, any time I hear about this or that wireless carrier selling this or that tablet, I wonder, who’s actually interested? Do people really want to pay upwards of $20 per month for a bucket of data that can only be used on a single device?

Apparently not. Although sales figures for 3G tablets are hard to find, IDG Analyst Bob O’Donnell recently told Computerworld that sales are very slow, and that hundreds of thousands of 3G-ready tablets are sitting unsold on store shelves. He drew that conclusion from interviews with Motorola, Samsung and other tablet vendors. “The 3G thing on tablets is bogus,” O’Donnell said. “Nobody wants to pay for that data.”

(MORE: The Apps That Eat Your Wireless Data)

And yet, carriers persist. Just this week, AT&T locked down another exclusive in the HP TouchPad, which will launch with 4G coverage this summer. Sprint sells the Evo View, a 4G version of HTC’s Flyer tablet. Verizon and AT&T both sell a 3G iPad. I suppose if even a few people lock themselves into a new data plan, that’s more money in carriers’ pockets.

But unless a tablet is the only device you plan to connect to the Internet, better options are available. Most modern smartphones can act as Wi-Fi hotspots for any device, often at a lower cost than a separate tablet data plan. And don’t forget about the Wi-Fi hotspots all around you. Lots of coffee shops will connect you for free, and the cost of buying Internet access on an airplane or at the airport should be less than the monthly costs of wireless carriers if you’re not a frequent traveler.

So with all due respect to AT&T and Sony, thanks, but no thanks. Show me a crazy dual-screen folding tablet that isn’t shackled by an absurd monthly data plan — in other words, let me use a share of the smartphone data I’m already paying for — and maybe I’ll get excited.

MORE: Sony Announces Two Android Tablets, Including a Dual-Screen Device