If you want the best — or at least the cheapest — deal on wireless Internet for your tablet, you may have to look past the usual “AT&T versus Verizon” comparison. Amazon.com offers 250 MB a month for 12 months for $49.99 — not per month, but that much for the whole year. That’s less than half what AT&T charges for the same amount of data, and it comes with 20 GB of free online storage on Amazon Cloud Drive, plus $10 credit for the Appstore.
The catch? You can only get that data plan if you buy the 4G LTE model of the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD. And while Amazon just knocked a hundred dollars off of its price tag, dropping it down to $399, it’s still a dubious bet. Here’s why, and what else you could get instead.
1. You’re paying the “Apple Tax”
The Wi-Fi only version of the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD also saw a price drop, but only by $30 to $269. That makes the LTE version $130 more expensive than the Wi-Fi only version, which is exactly the markup that Apple charges for its LTE iPad Mini.
Not all tablets are like that, though. Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, while a bit smaller than the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD, has more powerful hardware and the same amount of flash storage on its $250 model. How much is the version that has HSPA+ wireless Internet? $300. It’s slower than LTE, but it’s also $100 less up front. Add in the $50 you pay for each year of 4G from Amazon, and that’s almost the cost of a whole year of 250 MB wireless Internet on AT&T right there.
2. You’re getting more ads than Google
Google’s known for its online ads, but its apps on Android tablets like the Nexus 7 are remarkably ad-free. You can find plenty of ad-supported free games and apps on the Google Play store, but Google’s official apps — even Gmail — don’t have ads.
The Kindle Fire? Its screensaver is an ad. More than that, its homescreen has ads on it. And Amazon’s so sure those ads will get you to buy stuff from it, you have to pay $15 just to turn them off.
3. The hardware and experience are vastly inferior
To the Nexus 7, the iPad Mini, or basically most other tablets. Reviewers have panned the Kindle Fire’sslow, laggy behavior, where it seems to take a second to notice you swiped through your apps.
The more powerful Nexus 7 is more responsive, and it has more apps and games — it uses the Google Play store instead of the Amazon Appstore. On top of that, you can read your Kindle books or even use your Amazon Appstore apps and games on a Nexus 7. Just install the Appstore and the Kindle app! It’s not a big secret or anything; the Appstore has a link to download the app for it, and the Kindle app’s on Google Play.
The iPad has a Kindle app, but can’t run games or apps you bought on the Appstore. On the other hand, Apple’s App Store (the “real” App Store) has a better selection of pretty much everything than even Google Play.
Since it’s only $50 a year for LTE, the longer you own the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch the cheaper it gets. But how long would you want to stick with it, really, when it’s already slow?
On the other hand, a refresh for the Nexus 7 line is probably just around the corner, and the fact that Amazon’s dropping the price on the Kindle Fire HD suggests that it might have new models on the way as well. So now might not be the best time to be getting locked into a year-long contract.