Future of tablets may be cellular, carriers say
Tablet computers, which to this point have been mostly supported by WiFi connectivity, may soon move toward more 3G and 4G models as the price of cellular radio hardware comes down, IDG News Service reports.
According to the news provider, mobile carriers are pushing tablet manufacturers to introduce more cellular-enabled devices. These tablets would still include WiFi capabilities, but would be able to connect to cellular networks when necessary.
The development has its upsides and its downsides, however. In order to connect to a cellular network, the tablet user would need to pay for a data plan. The devices would also be more expensive to build. Despite falling prices, original equipment manufacturers would have a difficult time absorbing the extra cost of 3G or 4G hardware, IDG reports.
On the plus side, any tablet purchased would be guaranteed to come with both WiFi and cellular connectivity. This means even if a user doesn't want to subscribe to a data plan immediately, he or she would still be able to use the tablet in WiFi hotspots. IDG notes that having one device support both functions could also save original equipment manufacturers in terms of inventory and marketing costs.
The development may still be a ways away, however, as the majority of users prefer the less expensive WiFi-only tablets. According to a study by Connected Intelligence, 65 percent of tablets sold by October 2011 were WiFi-only.