Three Cool Ways to Get a Tablet with a Free Data Plan

Three Cool Ways to Get a Tablet with a Free Data Plan

Consider the tablet.

All done? I guess what I meant to say is, consider how you typically use your tablet. I suspect most of us fire them up at home or the office, connecting to the Wi-Fi networks available there. When we’re out and about, though, we switch to our smartphones.

But wouldn’t it be nice if your tablet had a data option all its own? If it didn’t have to rely on Wi-Fi for checking e-mail, viewing Web pages, and playing Pandora playlists? I’m guessing there are times when you’ve wished for exactly that.

Obviously some tablets do offer cellular connectivity, most notably Apple’s higher-end iPads. Of course, not only does the hardware cost extra, but you’re on the hook for another data plan as well. Right?

Maybe not. I’ve rounded up three ways you can live the good life with your tablet, by which I mean enjoying totally free data. Not a ton of it, mind you, but perhaps enough for those times when there’s no Wi-Fi to be had.

1. Free data from FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a low-cost (and sometimes no-cost) cellular carrier that piggybacks on Sprint’s network. The company is best known for offering phone and hotspot service, but a couple weeks back it got into the tablet game.

Specifically, you can buy a tablet from FreedomPop or bring your own, then enjoy 500MB of data, 500 text messages, and 200 voice minutes for free. Every month. No strings attached.

The company sells refurbished first-generation Apple iPad Minis (16GB) for $299.99 and the refurbished Galaxy Tab 3 (16GB) for $179.99. These are, of course, the Wi-Fi + 4G versions of these models. But if you already own a 4G-capable tablet that’s compatible with Sprint, FreedomPop will give you the same freebie service. It doesn’t get much better than that.

2. Free data from T-Mobile

Well, maybe it does get a little better, at least if you’re a T-Mobile subscriber for your smartphone. The company is currently offering 1GB of free data per month when you add a tablet to your current voice plan. That offer is good through the end of 2014; after that, you’ll get 200MB of free data per month for as long as you own your tablet.

You’ll have to purchase a tablet, of course, but T-Mo offers some state-of-the-art models and even has a trade-up option if you already own a tablet that’s Wi-Fi only. Definitely worth a look if you’re already paying for phone service.

3. Free data with a new tablet

If you’re in the market for a new tablet and don’t necessarily need a lot of bells and whistles, Walmart offers the Trio AXS 7.85-inch tablet for $179 — a price that includes 200MB of free data for life.

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s the same 200MB offered by T-Mobile to other tablet customers. The difference is, the Trio is more affordable than most of the models sold in T-Mo stores.

How does it compare with, say, the iPad Mini? It’s actually pretty similar to Apple’s first-gen version, offering similar screen resolution (and size). But here you get 16GB of expandable storage, plus GPS and 4G LTE (natch), for considerably less money.

Needless to say, it’s a good time to own — or buy — a tablet!

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


Rick Broida has spent the last 25 years writing about technology in all its forms. A self-proclaimed cheapskate, he authors an eponymous blog for CNET. He is also a contributor to CNET's iPhone Atlas and Ehow Tech. Broida's book credits include the best-selling "How to Do Everything with Your Palm Handheld" and the more recent "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech Secrets."

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