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Breakdown of iPad 2 release: Verizon vs AT&T data plans

Ipad2_smartcover The iPad 2 goes on sale in stores Friday, March 11, at 5 p.m. You can buy it at:

  • Apple Stores
  • AT&T
  • Verizon
  • Best Buy

If you rather just wait to have it delivered, online sales begin Friday at 4 a.m. Eastern. You can get a version that only uses a home Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, which is the cheaper version. This is good for folks who don't plan on traveling much with it.

Wi-Fi version prices:

  • $500 for 16 GB of storage
  • $600 for 32 GB of storage
  • $700 for 64 GB of storage

Want to get one that has the option to tap into a wireless 3G network when you're not at home or in a public Wi-Fi spot? Add another $130:

  • $630 for 16 GB of storage
  • $730 for 32 GB of storage
  • $830 for 64 GB of storage

Now you have to decide between AT&T or Verizon. Both don't require a contract. Paying for 3G is on a month-to-month basis, which you can switch on and off anytime. There are no activation fees. You'll have to decide which one has a monthly data plan that better fits your needs, and which has coverage that works for you.

Expect to download large files frequently on a trip or do lots of video streaming? Then get a bigger data plan. Just want to check some e-mail and download a file or two? You'll only need the minimum. But be aware of how overage charges work. For example, if you have it with AT&T so that you're sent a monthly bill, you'll be automatically charged for all the data overages. But if you set up an account with a credit card, you'll be asked before being charged more.

AT&T:

  • $15 a month for 250 MB of data. (Overage: $15 for another 250 MB.)
  • $25 for 2 GB of data. If you get this plan now, there's a limited time deal where you get the first-month free. (Overage: Another 1 GB costs $10.)
  • The Personal Hotspot feature is available to customers who choose the $25 plan, plus pay another $20 for tethering. It'll give you an extra 2 GB of data. (So that's $45 a month for 4 GB of data and the option to share the Internet connection with nearby devices, like a laptop.)

Verizon has more choices:

  • $20 for 1 GB of data (Overage: $20 for 1 GB.)
  • $35 for 3 GB of data (Overage: $10 for 1 GB.)
  • $50 for 5 GB of data (Overage: $10 for 1 GB.)
  • $80 for 10 GB of data (Overage: $10 for 1 GB.)

So what's the big deal about the iPad 2? There's now a camera in the front for video chatting, and another camera in the back. It's also thinner, lighter and has a better, dual-core processor. And you get the option to buy colorful covers that help it stand up. If you don't care about these things, then go with the original iPad, which is $100 cheaper.

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