Wi-Fi versus 3G/4G tablets: Is it worth the extra cost?

By Adam Turner | April 23, 2013

It's a question every business owner must answer before they buy a new tablet - do you pay extra to have the flexibility and practicality of a 3G/4G tablet, or will Wi-Fi suffice? There's no one answer - every person has their own unique needs. Here are some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide what best suits you.

All Apple, Android and Windows tablets feature built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to your office wireless network or a public Wi-Fi hotspot. You'll pay extra if you also want built-in 3G/4G connectivity, with the ability to slip in a SIM card to connect to the mobile phone network.

Along with the extra cost of the 3G/4G-compatible hardware, you'll also need to allow for the cost of data - either prepaid or on a monthly plan. This ongoing expense can be a significant factor in the total cost of ownership of a tablet.

Rather than pay extra for a 3G/4G tablet with its own mobile data plan, it might be more practical for staff to use their smartphone to generate a Wi-Fi hotspot to supply internet access to the tablet when away from the office. Even if this requires boosting the mobile data allowance on some mobile phone plans, it's still likely to work out cheaper than paying for a second SIM card for every tablet. It's also worth investigating business-grade group mobile plans which let you pool data between devices.

If your staff are using a USB dongle to supply mobile internet access to their notebook computer, it could also be more economical for them to use their smartphone instead. Alternatively they might upgrade from a USB dongle to a standalone Wi-Fi hotspot, which can supply internet access to several devices at once.

Tablets are mobile productivity tools, so staff who spend their days on their feet might benefit from the convenience of a tablet with always-on 3G/4G access. The battery drain of constantly running a Wi-Fi hotspot on their smartphone could also be a reason to favour a 3G/4G-capable tablet. But other staff who will only use their tablet occasionally, often while sitting at a desk or in a cafe, shouldn't find it a major hassle to enable the Wi-Fi hotspot on their phone. They won't need to re-enter their password every time they connect the two devices.

Have you crunched the numbers to calculate how much a mobile fleet of tablets is actually costing you? There are pros and cons to each option, so think about how you intend to use your device to assess what you need before you buy.

Optus has a great range of Wi-Fi & 3G/4G tablets, click here to find out more.

*This article contains general information and commentary only, and is not financial or financial product advice, and you agree not to rely upon this article in any way.


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