Cost Effectiveness and Summary
Attempting to calculate the break-even for using a Tablet as a phone (cheap data plan + $5-10/mo VoIP) vs a Smartphone. The Smartphone is cheaper short-term, whilst the Tablet is cheaper long-term (Tablet is more expensive itself but the plan is cheaper per month). Thus, the longer you use your tablet instead of a phone past break-even, the more money you save.
Tablet VoIP Apps
Line2 ($10/mo unlimited talk/text)
GrooVe IP (one-time $4, might be a small ~1 second delay so makes talking at the same time a little hard, but is said to be better than Moplus and Talkatone)
Talkatone free to USA/Canada from USA (good quality but there is a delay)
Vonage Extension (only viable if you have Vonage for your home + Google Voice, not 100% sure if it’ll work)
MobileVoIP (differing rates depending on VoIP Host)
Skype $3/mo unlimited USA/Canada Calls
Alternatives (Calls to Mobile/Landline):
TruPhone App $2c/min (no texting) (TruPhone simcard is too expensive $15c/min $10c/text)
Vox Mobile $2.9c/min USA (no texting)
WiCall $1c/min USA (no texting)
Fring $1.2c/min USA (fringOut, no texting, not that great quality)
Free app-to-app calling (no calling to phone numbers): Vonage Mobile, Viber, Kakao Talk (only in Japan for now)
Don’t use: MaraConnect (need cell phone number), Tango (horrible as Voip but decent as free app-to-app), Google Hangouts Voice (uses cell minutes unless in conjunction with another app)
Expensive Tablet ($550 tablet/$33 monthly)
Break-even for Most People (vs $100 phone/$52 monthly): 2 yrs (Save $19/mo after 2 years)
Break-even for Expensive Phone People (vs $200/$52): 1.5 yrs (Save $114/first 2 yrs + $19/mo thereafter)
Break-even for Individual Plan people (vs $200/$70): 0.75 yr (Save $555/first 2 yrs + $37/mo thereafter)
Cheap Tablet ($350/$33 monthly)
Break-even for Most People (vs $100 phone/$52 monthly): 1.1 yrs (Savings: $205/first 2 yrs + $19/mo thereafter)
Break-even for Expensive Phone People (vs $200/$52): 0.66 yrs (Savings: $310/first 2 yrs + $19/mo thereafter)
Break-even for Individual Plan people (vs $200/$70): 0.33 yr (Savings: $741/first 2 years + $37/mo thereafter)
Tablet cost estimated a little higher to include activation fees and possible accessories such as
1) Bluetooth handset/headset for using the Tablet as a Phone
2) Tablet Carrying Case
Best Plans/Tablets and Accessories, for Replacing Phone with Tablet
Verizon is recommended for the best service generally (depends on location), even though tends to be slightly more expensive than the competition. AT&T is decent, sometimes has higher speeds in some areas but slightly worse service overall. AT&T plan is $30/mo for 3gb on contract tablets (1gb more data than Verizon’s $30/mo for 2gb). Note: For Verizon, if you can get in somebody’s “Share Everything” cell plan, you can add a tablet for only $10/month (and to add data +$10/mo per 2gb). The other carriers are similarly priced.
Recommended Carrier 4G Cellular Tablets
Tablets range from 7 to 13 inches. The 7 inch might be more easy to carry by hand or pocket. 10 or 13 inch tablets are nice because it is also more of a laptop replacement, however they are a slightly more inconvenient carry (I recommend a leather shoulder bag, but good ones may be hard to find to fit the tablet perfectly).
Many great tablets are wifi-only (not on cellular data), such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. In addition, the big 12-13 inchers: iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note Pro (laggy) are hard to lug around, even though they are premium quality, so I would recommend the below options more, however, the iPad Pro wins over the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro in a head-to-head between the two.
Best Option: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (10 inch) $500 [Amazon]
OR iPad Air 2 (10 inch) $550 [Amazon]
Better multitasking, faster, and better battery than the 8-inch iPad Mini 4
I would recommend Android operating system for replacing a phone with a tablet, as the operating system and apps are more lenient and open-source (and less pricey!).
Recommended Accessories for using Tablet as a Phone
Best Tablet Carrying Case
Get something such as iPad 3 Shoulder Flip Case or iPad 3 Shoulder Flip Case2 (for people who don’t want to be carrying a big bag everywhere, and want easy access to their tablet)
Wired Headphones (IEM/earbuds with Mic)
Cheap: ErgoFit RP-TCM125 $13 [Amazon]
Best Quality and Value: Logitech (Ultimate Ears) UE 600 $75 [Amazon] mic and 3-button-remote (great smooth sound, also good for audiobooks and phone calls, con: so-so plasticky build and cable quality)
Substitute: ETY-Kids 3 (with mic) $60 [Amazon – with mic] (the 5 model is the one without a mic)
Wireless Bluetooth Handset/Headset
For wireless, you can either go budget or mid-level best value for better noise cancelling.
Aliph Jawbone Era $45 [Amazon] (better than Plantronics M55 which is tiny but bad noise cancelling, bad battery life)
BlueAnt Q3 [Amazon] (worse sound quality than Plantronics)
Plantronics Voyager Edge (new version of Voyager Legend) $75 [Amazon]
Secondary: Jabra Motion $94 [Amazon] (Voyager has better form factor and better noise cancellation)
Replacing a cell phone with a tablet ONLY saves a good amount of money if you are replacing a plan that is $55+ (ie an individual plan) AND you keep using the tablet for much longer than 2 years. The newer Verizon Share Everything plan allows a tablet for $10/month, which might be viable if you can leech of someone else’s family plan (and they have extra data for you to use so you won’t have to order more), however this will probably not be the case for most people. If you do manage to do this, you’ll be sticking it to the man (wireless companies), and have hipster bragging rights. 🙂
For the majority of people, a Tablet is currently NOT a valid replacement.
Cons of Tablet instead of Phone:
1) Performance – Tablets should have better performance, however phones are similar in performance to mid-level priced tablets currently in my opinion, due to the fact that there are no carriered tablets with real operating systems (ie the Windows Surface Pro)
2) Total Cost – In most cases, the inconvenience of the tablet is not worth saving $20/mo IMO, especially with the much higher (2x) up-front cost.
3) Public Acceptance – A phone is more accepted in workplaces, where a tablet could be viewed as a toy.
4) Convenience – It’s difficult to find a great classy carry-cases like the iPad 3 Shoulder Flip Case or iPad 3 Shoulder Flip Case2 for most tablets out there, nor bluetooth handsets (I can only find headsets). Microsoft Surface Pro 4, however, has a great keyboard cover.
Pros of Tablet instead of Phone: 1) Greater screen real estate (however, phones with ~5.5inches may be big enough for the average user and can still fit ina pocket).
2) Upfront Cost – With the advent of carriers getting rid of contract phone subsidies, tablets should be getting more viable in the marketplace when they not only have less monthly costs, but now have similar upfront costs
Available Carrier-Networked Tablets
Prices may vary by area. For better pricing, I only include 2-year contract price
Plan: or for people who can get on someone else’s “Share Everything” cell phone plan: $10/mo for device + $10/mo for each additional gb (usually free activation on weekends).
Available Tablets (prices with 2 year contract): iPad Pro $980, iPad Mini 4 $430 (Mini 2 $300), iPad Air 2 $530 (Air $430), Galaxy Tab S2 $500, Verizon Ellipsis 8 $80, LG G Pad X8.3 $130, Sony Xperia Z2 $350, Galaxy Tab E $230, Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 $130, Nokia Lumia 2520 $500, Galaxy Note Pro $550
Plan: $15/mo for 250mb, $30 for 3gig, $50 for 5gig (go for the $30/3gb, as overages are $10 per gb so $50/5gb is no additional value)
Available Tablets: iPad Pro $980, iPad Air 2 $530 (Air $430), iPad Mini 4 $430 (Mini 3 $150, Mini 2 $300, Mini $80), iPad with Retina $280, Trek HD $0, LG G Pad F 8.0 $0 (G Pad X 10.1 $250), Asus MeMO Pad 7 LTE $0, Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 $200 ($0 in Like-New, or 10.1 $0 in Like-New, or S 8.4 $150 Like-new), Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 $665 (Like-New), Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 $500, Microsoft Surface 3 $500
Plan: $20 for 1gb, $30 for 2gb, $10 per 2gb thereafter, ($10 off if you already have a cell phone plan)
Available Tablets: iPad Mini 4 $530 (Mini 3 $550, Mini 3 $350 refurbished), iPad Air 2 $630 ($500 refurbished), Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 $650 (Tab S refurbished $400), Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 $320, Alcatel Onetouch Pixi 7 $170, LG G Pad F 8.0 $240,
Plan: $15-20/mo for 1gb, $30/mo for 2gb, $45 for 3gig, $60 for 5gig, $90 for 10gig (unlimited 2g data afterwards, unsure if there’s $10/mo access charge)
Available Tablets: iPad Mini 4 $530 (Mini 2 $500), LG G Pad F7.0 $240, Samsung Galaxy Tab E $300, Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 $648, Slate 10″ Tablet $288 (8″ Tablet $240), Alcatel Onetouch Pixi 7 $240
Smartphones Competing with Tablets
1) Samsung Galaxy Note 4 $200. Large (5.5in screen) but still comfortably fits in both one hand or pocket. Able to multitask on-screen (ie browsing half screen, video half screen). Big battery, downside: little less durable than smaller phones. The Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 6 does not have a removeable battery, so Note 4 is a better choice than the Note 5 because you can replace the battery yourself! [Verizon $200 AmazonWireless] [AT&T Amazon] [Sprint, Amazon], Substitute: Samsung Galaxy S6, thankfully has a removeable battery if you’d like a smaller size Android phone
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is also the best value without contract [$330 or less for used on eBay]
2) iPhone 6S or 6S Plus (I would not get this, as android is better to work with for productivity/functionality) [Only available direct from Wireless Carrier Verizon 6S, Verizon 6S Plus, AT&T 6 S, AT&T 6S Plus]
Best Value Dumb Phone Without Contract
Nokia 515 (International Version) or 301 (USA Version) $75 [eBay]
Best Wifi Tablet: In the case you are fine with only making calls on wifi (and have free wifi often ie at work or wherever you frequent), there are more options for better tablets –
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($1300) [Amazon] is the best for productivity (the keyboard case is a great keyboard and Windows 8.1 is the best OS for productivity due to it being a full laptop OS). However, it is expensive (do not get the non-Pro Surface, as Windows RT is a gimped OS).
2nd Place: Galaxy Nexus 10 $460 [Amazon]
The Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) $550 and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 $600 have better specs but they both lag at times (Infinity lags more than the new 10.1). Google Nexus 10 $400 has same great resolution as Galaxy Note 10.1 screen resolution, so its probably the better buy at the lower pricepoint. Galaxy Tab S 8 inch
Best Budget Wifi Tablet: Google Nexus 7 $200 (7″) with added benefit of being made by Google so it’ll have prompt Android software updates. The new Apple iPad Mini is also good but a bump in price at $325. (Don’t get Kindle, get at least $180 Galaxy Tab 2 7.0)
This Post Has 4 Comments
Gary Ditchburn3 Jul 2015
You (whoever you are} have posed a very important question. Tablets v. cell phones… or evolving alternatives comprise a key. About convergence and planning, long-term utility. You did good.
Huckleseed1 Nov 2015
Good grief….where to begin? I get this feeling that you are trying to discourage the use of tablets. Why?
Lets start with your voodoo economics. While you happily provide the actual cost to purchase a tablet you fail to do so for the phones. Instead you use the fake “contract” price. Who are you kidding? The actual price for a high end phone is closer to $700, not $200. And yes even on contract you end up paying that $700 and usually MORE. Why do you think the carriers used that model until T-Mobile began shaking things up.
So really the price of the devices are pretty much the same, with some truly high end tablets going a bit above.
But you didn’t stop there. In order to fabricate an even larger price gap of your own making, you arbitrarily toss in cost for accessories for tablets but not for phones! Your phone doesn’t come with a Bluetooth wireless headset and nearly everyone who buys a smartphone buys a case for it before they even leave the store.
I would go further into this by saying the Surface 3 is NOT Windows RT and does come with 4G LTE versions but nevermind because your worst offense of all is to have Oct 15, 2015 on the article even though your “upcoming” tablets were released in 2013.
The only reason to do that its to continue to generate traffic to an outdated and useless article by skirting Google’s search tools that allow the customer to filter for current information by choosing the date range. If it isn’t fraud I am fairly certain you are violating terms of service.
admin20 Nov 2015
I am sorry you feel that I am biased, but I assure you, this is but my humble unbiased opinion! Actually, I will be revising this post because carriers are getting rid of phone subsidies, thus tablets should be getting more viable in the marketplace when competing against cell phones!
Thank you for visiting!
Samuel Mackie6 Sep 2016
I have been without a cellphone for a couple years, due to me owing Rogers Wireless some money. With smartphones being 1200$ and LTE tablets only being 300$ I am seriously considering getting a prepaid data plan that will cost 5 times less than any cellphone contract. I think this is the way of the future and soon tablets will be phones/ personal hotspots. If you could give me any advice that would be awesome. Despite this article being hokey im just looking for any information I can get.