Talking tech since 2003

As great as tablets are, they’ve long presented a bit of a problem for folks who want them to be as connected as their smartphones: do you get a data-capable tablet, and then get a separate data plan to get it online anywhere? T-Mobile is looking to solve that problem with its newly announced Tablets Un-Leashed initiative. It’s another brilliant bit of brinksmanship that may force other wireless carriers to follow suit—which is great for consumers.

Basically, Tablets Un-Leashed allows users to hop onto T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network with any T-Mobile-compatible tablet and get 200 MB of data service for free each month. Once that cap is hit, T-Mobile offers you the chance to sign up for a pay-as-you-go data plan, or to simply wait for the next month for access. A post on AllThingsD offers up pricing details for the different plans: $5 for a day of 500MB, $10 for one GB in a week, while T-Mobile voice customers can get 500MB for $10 a month. Clearly the scales are tipped in favor of becoming a T-Mobile subscriber. But considering that the biggest differences in most carriers at this point are the deals they offer to lure you in, this is as good an incentive as any.

So what tablets are eligible to participate? It’s not totally clear right now, but it stands to reason that basically any tablet that T-Mobile sells is good to go. The company’s site has a bunch of devices listed, so here’s what I could find: Dell Streak 7, Google Nexus 7, HTC Flyer, Samsung Galaxy Tabs 7 and 10, the T-Mobile Springboard and G-Slate, and the forthcoming iPad Air. Considering you can grab a bunch of those for relatively cheap—like a Nexus 7 for only $350—there’s suddenly a great reason to grab a new tablet.

And if you don’t feel like paying a lot for a new tablet, T-Mobile has another incentive. They’re offering tablets at $0 down, with 24 monthly payments. The AllThingsD post says that iPad Airs will cost $26.25 a month, while the iPad Mini with Retina display will be $22.07 a month. Those are pretty low monthly installments, and as long as you don’t go over your data cap, you’re sitting with a pretty great deal.

What I really like about this is that it’s almost certainly going to force the hand of other wireless carriers. Shortly after T-Mobile announced its Jump campaign, its competitors started offering very similar deals for upgrading customers’ phones. T-Mobile is proving the value of competition in the best way: when companies take extreme measures to fight over customers, it’s a total win for consumers. Maybe Verizon will just straight up mail people complimentary tablets in a few weeks…

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