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Want a Cellular Data Plan with That Tablet for Your Senior? Should You?

Want a Cellular Data Plan with That Tablet for Your Senior? Should You?

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Tablets are taking over the computer world and it’s easy to see why. Portability, convenience, touch control, battery life and price (for most tablets, anyway) put them ahead of traditional laptops in meeting the needs of many people.

With many consumers and businesses buying tablets instead of updating computers, the market is big enough that manufacturers can profitably offer a range of sizes, features and prices so there is something just right for most all users.

Many seniors, especially first time computer users, find a tablet performs all of the tasks they need quite well and gives them great flexibility of location. Not only are tablets designed so that it isn’t tied to one location, most are sized small enough and are light enough to be easily held and used in the hands.

Tablet Options – Oh the Decisions!

Buying a tablet, especially as a gift for a senior loved one who isn’t sure they “need” one, means making a number of decisions.

  • Which operating system? Devices using iOS (iPad), Android, Windows and even others are out there shouting for attention now. There is also the popular Kindle Fire, which builds on the Android operating system and provides additional capabilities.
  • How big a screen is best? Most tablets are between 7″ and 11″ (measured diagonally), with some outside those dimensions. Some of the top brands, including iPad, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy and Google Nexus, come in at least two sizes. If you think a smaller device would be easier to hold but a larger one better for aging eyes, keep in mind that tablets let the user resize text for reading comfort.
  • How much memory is needed? Many tablets come with memory options, along with higher price tags for more memory. This is a tough question for most of us to answer. Unless you think the tablet will be used to store lots of books (and I mean lots of books) or movies then a middle-of-the-road option will cover the needs of most without spending more than is needed.

Decisions like the apps to use, which case is right and whether to use a bluetooth keyboard don’t need to be made up front and can be left to the recipient of the tablet if it’s intended to be a gift.

There is another decision that does have to be made upfront that many don’t consider until it the feature is missed later.iPad Air Verizon Wireless

WiFi Only or Cellular Data Service Too?

One thing many tablet buyers don’t consider or, if they do then don’t initially think it’s needed, is whether WiFi access to the internet will be sufficient or if cellular data service capability should be part of the purchase. It may also be that an initial tablet purchase was made a few years ago, when data plans were much more expensive. Now sharing plans, such as those from Verizon Wireless, make adding a tablet to the plan with your smartphones much less expensive.

What makes using cellular data attractive for a tablet, especially when there is a higher purchase price in addition to monthly data charges?

  • Greater security than when using public WiFi or even password protected WiFi that your senior loved one might have in their nursing home or assisted living facility. If a tablet (or computer) is going to be used to access banking or other financial accounts – or anything else that requires entry of a password or could expose personal data – cellular data provides greater protection.
  • Access to the internet when out of range of WiFi, such as when traveling in the car (passengers only!) or stopping/staying in a location that has only wired internet service or maybe spotty WiFi coverage. Sure, the tablet could share (or be tethered to) the internet through a smartphone with data service but not all offer sharing and for many it’s not the easiest thing to implement.
  • Simplicity in connecting to the internet that just isn’t possible with WiFi. Using a cellular data service eliminates the need to select the right WiFi signal when away from home and enter the password (hopefully it’s secure!) because the cellular data service automatically connects when a recognized WiFi signal isn’t found.

Evaluate Before Buying a Tablet

The time to evaluate cellular data capability is before making a tablet purchase. You don’t have to start paying for a data plan right away, but the capability of connecting to the cellular system – the specific system on which it will be used – has to be built into the tablet.

Kindle Fix HDX AmazonNot all tablets come with cellular data capability but chances are you’ll find one with the operating system you want, the right size and with the functions you want that does have a cellular option. You can buy them from a number of sources, such as Amazon.com, but you might want to check with your cellular provider to see if they offer a discount.

We like and are long time customers of Verizon Wireless, which typically offers a discount on the tablet purchase if you make a two year commitment to one of their data plans. If you plan on using and paying for the plan every month that might be a good deal, but it’s one more factor to evaluate.

Tablets as Gifts for Seniors

Senior Care Corner advocates getting our senior loved ones online and active in social networking and feel a tablet is the right device to facilitate that for many seniors.

Would your senior loved one use a tablet if they had one? If you ask and are told “no” don’t give up the idea without further consideration. We have heard from many family caregivers and seniors themselves who originally said a tablet wouldn’t be used but are thrilled they got one anyway.

You say cellular data is a great idea but your senior already has a tablet bought a few years ago without data service? It might still be worth considering a new one, not just to get the benefits of cellular data but also because the newest generation of tablets are lighter, have sharper pictures and more capabilities then those that came before them.

A tablet might just be the answer to the age-old issue of getting seniors a great gift they will really use!

3 Responses to Want a Cellular Data Plan with That Tablet for Your Senior? Should You?

  1. In in my opinion, the WiFi only model is much more practical option for most seniors. Increased security is not a legitimate reason for purchasing a cellular enabled tablet. A vast majority of home or community networks are password protected and secure. Moreover, tablets recogonize private networks and automatically connect when in range. In my experiences, many seniors (especially those with less experience) with a cellular option unknowingly forego a WiFi connection and accidentally rack up a hefty bill for data.

    For seniors that do a lot of traveling and regularly need to access information on the go, a cellular enable tablet makes sense. But for an overwhelming majority, I would recommend saving the extra money and opting for the WiFi only model.

    • Thank you for your comment, Michael. I agree that the WiFi only model will be enough for many seniors and share the concern about hefty data bills, but I am not as comfortable with the safety of a network in a nursing home or other senior living community. Password protection can give a false sense of security when a password is widely shared. Even if you know and trust everyone in the community, which is difficult in many large ones, it only takes one malicious visitor or staff member to create all sorts of problems.

      We weren’t trying to convey that all, or even most, seniors can benefit from a data plan, just that it’s a decision that has to be made when buying the tablet.

      • I agree with your concerns for security in a community/public network, if accessing online banking or financial information. In many of the communities I work with, seniors opt for their own password protected router, which is a safe/secure way of accessing the web. Additionally, it offers unlimited data use and faster connection compared to cellular data (and it’s usually comparable in price, especially if bundling with cable/home phone).

        I loved the article! There is a lack of good information for caregivers/communities regarding technology and seniors. I will be sharing with many. Keep up the good work!

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