Surprisingly, Apple’s wildly successful iPad wireless tablet device has achieved that success despite being launched in April (which is not exactly prime gadget-buying season) and without being sold through carrier stores. As we approach the holiday season, the consumer electronics giant likely will see average monthly iPad sales jump even higher—particularly since the device will be available beginning October 28 through retail stores operated by the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, AT&T and Verizon.
The AT&T and Verizon offerings are not identical however. A&T announced today that it will sell three different versions of the iPad that are equipped with 3G or WiFi connectivity at prices ranging from $629.99 for a 16GB model to $829 for a 64 GB model. The carrier has supported those products on its network since April but is only now able to sell them through its 2,200 nationwide retail outlets.
Verizon announced today that it will offer models with identical processing power at identical prices but those devices do not support 3G connectivity, only WiFi, and will not work directly on Verizon’s network. Instead, Verizon is including a mobile hotspot that will enable the iPad to operate on its 3G network at no extra charge. The mobile hot spot, which has been available from Verizon for some time, will enable up to five WiFi devices, including the iPad, to share a connection to Verizon’s 3G network. Verizon, which has about 2000 retail outlets, said it also plans to offer all three iPad Wi-Fi models on a stand-alone basis.
AT&T’s 3G plans are available for $14.99 a month for data usage of up to 250 MB and $25 a month for usage up to 2GB. Verizon said its plans will begin at $20 a month for up to 1 GB of data.
Whether Verizon would begin selling wireless Apple devices such as the iPad and iPhone has been a topic of much industry speculation. Today’s announcement may disappoint those who were hoping for a less kluge-y Apple offering from the carrier but I suspect the decision to make the launch in this manner was driven by a couple of factors.
Because Verizon’s network is based on CDMA, unlike AT&T’s GSM network, there simply may not have been time for Apple to develop a version of the iPad to work on the Verizon network in time for the holiday buying season. And rather than miss out on holiday sales, Verizon has found a way to support at least one Apple product sooner rather than later.
But the fact that Apple made a point of releasing the iPad to both wireless carriers’ retail outlets on the same day suggests it is working closely with Verizon, which could be a sign that there is more yet to come on that front.