Which iPad WiFi+4G LTE is Better: Verizon or AT&T?

My “New iPad” WiFi+4G AT&T iPad is on its way and should arrive today. However, I wondering should I swap it for the Verizon version? All jokes about AT&T’s “service” aside (or lack there of) I was one of the few that got in on the AT&T Unlimited Plan when the iPad first came out. Switching to Verizon would mean potentially giving that plan up. However, the Verizon iPad (3) seems to be the better deal as you get tethering at no additional cost (while AT&T is still – once again – trying to figure out the whole tethering thing). Also it appears that the Verizon one also has a SIM slot and since iPads are UNLOCKED and contract free, you can put a local SIM in when doing international travel. I also have to consider that Verizon’s LTE 4G network is larger than AT&T’s and AT&T doesn’t even have LTE service where I live (Michigan) with no plans to add it here anytime soon.

So what say you? Which one should I get and WHY? Please spare me the general just because “AT&T sucks” comments. I get it that they have the worst record of them all, but I’ve had no issues being on AT&T with my last two iPads. I’m looking for a sanity to check to make sure that I’m not missing something by going with the Verizon version. Keep in mind that I spend a lot of time on the road and I travel internationally for a living. Would there be a downside to the Verizon model overseas? Would an AT&T SIM work in the Verizon iPad domestically?

40 Replies to “Which iPad WiFi+4G LTE is Better: Verizon or AT&T?”

  1. Mr. White, your a pretty successful guy. You should buy both, and use both to see which you prefer. Not trying to be in your wallet but the best test is have both to compare for yourself.

  2. Terry
    I am switching from a first generation iPad with an ATT unlimited plan to the new iPad Verizon model. I also will be canceling my Verizon MiFi since I can tether with the Verizon iPad. In my case, I was not testing the upper limit of the ATT unlimited data plan and know that the Verizon 4G is far superior to the ATT 4G both in terms of speed and coverage. In my specific case, I know my $80 monthly costs ( $30 for the iPad and $50 for the MIFI ) will probably go down. One added thought: I seriously doubt you will be allowed to tether using an unlimited ATT data plan on the new iPad if and when that feature becomes available.

  3. Terry – you live in Southfield. VZW has 4G in Detroit. AT&T does not. That settles it.

  4. Terry – I have the same dilemma and I am on AT&Ts unlimited plan with my iPhone but they told me the only way they would allow me to tether is if I switched to a different plan. So I think I’m going the Verizon route.

  5. Hi Terry!

    Verizon does have some nice advantages – the mobile hotspot feature is a big one. And Verizon has a larger LTE footprint.

    But outside of the areas covered by LTE, Verizon tends to be at a speed disadvantage to AT&T. If you travel, this can be a big issue.

    We did a blog post recently using our app ‘Coverage?’ to directly overlay and compare AT&T and Verizon’s LTE and “4G” coverage maps. Screenshots posted here:

    After comparing coverage maps, we decided to go with Verizon for the greater LTE footprint. But it is a close call – AT&T’s “4G” is in practice often nearly as fast, and if we can move the unlimited SIM over from our iPad 2 that would be amazing.

    FYI – if you want to do your own coverage map comparisons, you can get the app here:

  6. Terry,

    I too am still on the old unlimited data plan with AT&T. I didn’t pre-order the new ipad because I was undecided on if I wanted to switch to Verizon or not. I think (as of this moment) I’m going to take my chances and stick with AT&T for the following reasons:
    * Keeping my unlimited data plan obviously.
    * AT&T currently has LTE in my home market and 2 of the top 3 locations I travel to most often.
    * Most locations that I travel to for more than a day, I have wifi access at those locations. Therefore I’m not overly concerned about tethering.
    * My current unlimited data plan is $30 per month (and I really have no desire to spend more on a monthly data plan). $30 on Verizon nets me the 2gb plan. With the increase in app sizes due to the retina graphics + higher megapixel cameral; 2gb could be a problem for me. Hopefully the cellular networks will eventually allow FaceTime over LTE. I’m taking into consideration that I’ll have an increase in data usage even if I’m doing pretty much the same stuff that I currently use my ipad for now.
    * ATT&T’s HSPA+ (aka faux 4g) on my iphone 4s isn’t that bad for what I do while on the road. If I’m in an area that doesn’t have LTE, but has faux 4g – I can live with that.
    * I also use my Slingbox on my ipad to catch up on my favorite TiVo’d shows while I’m on the road. Another reason to stay on an unlimited plan.

  7. I don’t see any reason why you should keep AT&T, even with the grandfathered “unlimited” plan. I would guess that if you started to reach or exceed 3gb AT&T would start throttling the service just like they do on an iPhone.

  8. Terry, aside from the 4G question, I’m interested to know what color you got. White or Black??? There is much discussion about the white being distracting when viewing photography therefore taking away from the retina display. What’s your choice?
    Love your blog

  9. Both no contract plans require new registration fee after 30 days of no use and verizon hotspot is another $30 a month over the base rate so AT&T may be better once they price it out

  10. Terry: I’m debating the same choice. However, I don’ see how having a Verizon iPad plan would affect your unlimited AT&T data plan at all. You’d just be logging on to the VZW hot spot with your phone, just as you could with your macbook pro. I’d think you’d not be using iPhone data, nor would you be “tethering.” I’d like to know if this is incorrect. Thanks for any help.

    1. Not sure what you mean. The AT&T iPad has the unlimited plan in question. This has nothing to do with my iPhone (which also has an unlimited plan and therefore no tethering). While I could certainly keep paying for my AT&T iPad unlimited plan, I would still need to buy a Verizon plan to take advantage of their LTE service. See my blog Monday for my post on what I ended up doing. 🙂

      1. I did misunderstand you, Terry. I thought you were talking about your iPhone unlimited plan, and didn’t realize you meant iPad plan. My mistake.

  11. I had the chance to talk with a verizon rep at an apple store in philly as it turns out the postpaid plans require a reactivation fee after 90 days but the prepaid plans require no activation fee and the hotspot is available with all verizon plans with no additional fees So Verizon is looking better now

  12. Terry, I think I have the best of both worlds. My family is on Version. I am on AT*&T since my first of 4 iPhones. I will not switch iPhone until verizon reliably allows me to do voice and data at the same time, so until there is a LTE iPhone that is reasonable on battery life. I’ll stay with AT&T on the phone.

    But since I have two contracts, I bought a Verizon iPad (3) yesterday and I think it gives me a couple advantages. No additional teathering cost allows me to use either network while traveling and turn it on/off in monthly increments.

    And with the unlocked SIM card, I can buy a short term local SIM when I’m in Europe. Best of both worlds with small incremental cost.

  13. I have a iPhone (at&t) and a work provided verizon 4G mifi. I purchased the at&t iPad to ensure I would alway have coverage. If att is bad, I can use the MiFi… and vice versa. My recommendation is spread the wealth/coverage around so you will be able t connect regardless of who has the best service (or lack there of).

  14. Terry –

    If nothing else, READ THIS:

    I am in the EXACT same boat as you. I just swapped my iPad3 AT&T for Verizon’s model tonight. And guess what – as I predicted, I simply popped my AT&T micro-SIM into the Verizon iPad and without doing ANYTHING, AT&T showed up on the top corner with full 4G service.

    My point: The verizon version is seemingly universal whereas the AT&T version won’t let you use a Verizon SIM.

    And the kicker: While using my AT&T Unlimited Data SIM in my new Verizon iPad (with zero issues), the device’s Tethering options now are shown & work beautifully!

    — the only ‘catch’ – Since AT&T’s LTE will operate on 2100 MHz, it is ‘unlikely’ that when AT&T’s LGE DOES hit your area that your Verizon device with AT&T’s SIM will be able to access it.

    For me, I have the AT&T unlimited plan for $29.99 plus my office has a MiFi that they pay $50 a month for (5GB). Since it includes tethering, I figured that instead of using the MiFi, I transferred the Verizon service to this new Verizon iPad3’s SIM it came with & am left with my AT&T unlimited data SIM (which I pay out of pocket for) and my Verizon LTE SIM (which my company pays for). I can switch between the two freely.

    1. “And the kicker: While using my AT&T Unlimited Data SIM in my new Verizon iPad (with zero issues), the device’s Tethering options now are shown & work beautifully!”

      I am trying my AT&T iPad 2 SIM in our new Verizon iPad, and it does work beautifully. But – I am not seeing the hotspot tethering feature enabled.

      I am wondering why you are seeing this and I’m not.

      Have you activated Verizon data before making the switch? I’m wondering if it just remained on even once the SIM changed. Does the hot spot survive an iPad reboot?

      1. @Chris Dunphy;

        Yes, I did activate Verizon LTE service before switching the cards. And yes, you’re right on the money; Tethering isn’t a feature that is normally there & gets hidden with AT&T service, it’s actually an option that normally does NOT display unless it detects service from Verizon, which is why you ask a great question.
        I activated the Verizon LTE service by having a friend allow me to ‘borrow’ their service from their MiFi device. I changed the service from his MiFi to my iPad and switched it back later on. But as soon as I switched it over to the iPad & it said Verizon LTE, Tethering became available.

        1. I’m a bit confused – are you actually able to keep the tethering option displayed and functional once you switch back to the unlimited AT&T SIM?

          Every time I put the AT&T SIM back in, the tethering option vanishes. I haven’t seen reference to anyone else online able to get tethering to work with an AT&T SIM installed at all.

          Maybe you’ve gotten incredibly lucky and for some reason it is just failing to deactivate for you…

          1. Same here, when I put the AT&T SIM in the Personal Hotspot feature goes away. When I put the Verizon SIM back in the Personal Hotspot feature/options return.

  15. I switched to Verizon for the new iPad and I’m very disappointed so far. Totally flaky service, jumping from 3G to LTE to GPRS to no service at all minute by minute. Happens both in the city (Seattle) and more rural areas. 🙁

  16. I am getting faster speeds with the AT&T 4g in the Seattle area, since I’m grandfathered in on the unlimited plan, I decided to stay with AT&T even with reports of slower than Verizon speeds. Best speed I have got hits over 9000 download 2900 kbps upload.
    Average not near as high, but normally around 3000 to 5000 kpbs. Rarely did I go over 3000 on 3G. Hope this helps people in the Seattle area faced with similar question.

  17. I’m wrestling with this situation myself. A few thoughts:

    1) Network coverage: if you have an iPhone on AT&T and an iPad on Verizon (or vice-versa), you are more likely to be able to access websites, email, social networking, even VOIP at a wide variety of locations. Some spots have little or no coverage on AT&T but excellent Verizon coverage; some locations the reverse is true. By having one iDevice on each network, you double your chances of being covered in those marginal situations.

    2) Hotspot: supposedly, AT&T is going to offer hotspot feature, too. Who knows if they’ll match Verizon’s $20 2G with free hotspot pricing, though. If AT&T follows their existing plans, you’ll have to pay an additional $20 for tethering, so $30 + $20 = $50.

    3) Bundled pricing: There are strong rumors that both AT&T and Verizon are going to offer bundled data plans, similar to Family Talk voice plans. That could be advantageous for people with multiple iDevices, but only if they’re all on the same network. You usually get more megabytes per dollar when you buy larger buckets of data. On AT&T, for example: instead of paying $15 for 250MB on your iPad and $20 for 300MB on your iPhone (total: $35 for a paltry 550MB), what if you could just buy a $30 3GB plan and share it among your iPhone and iPad? Much more cost effective and flexible. I’ve spoken with AT&T Customer Service reps and they say this is massively requested feature from their customers. I’ve also heard that they’re preparing to roll out something like this. But what the pricing details will be, I have no idea.

  18. I had been framing the Verizon-vs-AT&T debate like this:

    “Verizon wins for LTE coverage, but when you drop out of LTE areas, AT&T wins because their HSPA[+] 3G is twice as fast as Verizon’s EVDO CDMA 3G.”

    I had not considered that Verizon has 100% 3G across their network, whereas AT&T has large swaths of 2G. So in rural areas, Verizon will often be a much better choice. See “Do you travel a lot in rural areas?” in the article below:


    1. It is actually a bit more complicated than that. Verizon actually still has some 2G areas – they are not 100% 3G yet, but they are close. AT&T has more places that you fall back to 2G speeds.

      As for rural areas – it all depends where you go. For example, AT&T has essentially no non-roaming coverage in Nebraska, but Verizon lacks coverage in huge swathes of rural Texas.

      Our app ‘Coverage?’ is the only way I know of to actually make these sorts of regional comparisons easily to figure out which provider will fit you best wherever you personally roam.

      And the best option – having some redundancy and being able to connect on multiple networks. 🙂

  19. Are you in an area of Michigan that has 3G/H+ coverage? If so ATT is supposed to have LTE service across the entire H+ coverage area by 2013. I live in Michigan and get decent H+ speeds on my HTC Inspire but I also have a Verizon Mifi LTE hotspot so I am covered wherever I go.

    1. I do live in an area covered by 3G/H+, but I’m not waiting til 2013 to get LTE when Verizon has it here now. When AT&T does in fact have it here there will likely be new iPads by then anyway and I’ll evaluate switching back at that time.

  20. AT&T ….. 3 GB for $30
    Verizon .. 2 GB for $30

    I chose AT&T 4G. Tracking of current usage on my new iPad extrapolates out to about 2.4 GB per month. I use it quite a lot but am not a gamer nor do I watch full length movies on it. So .. The AT&T $30 per month plan is good. With Verizon, the $50 plan would have been the best choice. The savings in a year is enough to pay for my recently purchased remote printer (Epson NX 430) and still have enough left over to buy a Kindle Fire.

    The advantage though with Varizon is the hot spot capability .. and .. the ability to use AT&T 3G if you’re caught in a Verizon shadow area.

  21. AT&T ….. 3 GB for $30
    Verizon .. 2 GB for $30

    I chose AT&T 4G (it’s very fast .. faster than my DSS wi-fi) Tracking of current usage on my new iPad extrapolates out to about 2.4 GB per month. I use it quite a lot but am not a gamer nor do I watch full length movies on it. So .. The AT&T $30 per month plan is good. With Verizon, the $50 plan would have been the best choice. The savings in a year is enough to pay for my recently purchased remote printer (Epson NX 430) and still have enough left over to buy a Kindle Fire.

    The advantage though with Varizon is the hot spot capability .. and .. the ability to use AT&T 3G if you’re caught in a Verizon shadow area.

  22. I just bought a ipad3 with AT&T and AT&T 4g service in Miami, FL absolutely positively sucks. Its worst then the old 3G I had. AT&T say they have 4G LTE but they dont, they lie.

    If you are buying ipad3 DO NOT BUY with AT&T try Verizon, its too late for me.

    1. Thanks for your input, I live in Miami as well I got the Ipad from Apple store and I was told I would be able to swap companies any time just enter the new sim… do you know if this is true??

  23. I live in the Detroit area and I got the Verizon iPad. The LTE service is really fast. In the fall if AT&T still doesn’t have LTE here I am moving the 3 iPhones on my account to Verizon. Two will be off contract so I’ll only have to pay the fee on one, the speed will be worth it to me.

  24. Sorry if I’m a bit confused (and for bringing this thread back up). I am being offered an iPad 3 AT&T by a friend and currently have a Pantech UML290 Verizon 4G LTE service (also thru work). That said, I do have a Verizon 4G LTE service (and can figure out how to cut the regular SIM to micro SIM).

    Would my work’s Verizon SIM work on the AT&T iPad3? And if so, would tethering work? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Since iPads are not locked, a standard GSM MicroSIM (or one you cut down) should work. However, if the Verizon SIM is CDMA based then I don’t “think” it would work in an AT&T iPad. In either case Tethering may not work in an AT&T iPad, but it may since the tethering is probably tied to the SIM and not the device. Sorry that I don’t have any definite answers for you, but I’ve never tried going the other way.

  25. Dear Mr White, I bought the ipad 3 with verizon from the apple store. I was happy with the service and speed in my area. I tried to go out the country and I called them to purchase an international data plan. They did not offer it, their solution was to look for wifi spots overseas. I did not want to waste time looking for or purchasing a local overseas SIM card .
    I was not happy about it, I switched to Att and got the international data plan with no problems at all.
    I miss the option to become a hot spot.
    I hope att would change and offer that like verizon

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