Sprint's 'iPad for Life' plan will loan you an iPad for $20 per month, kind of

ipadair2 schultz thickness
Credit: Rob Schultz

Sprint is letting people get a new LTE-equipped iPad without spending hundreds of dollars up front, but subscribers should note the fine print first.

With the carrier's “iPad for Life” plan, a 16 GB iPad Air 2 costs $20 per month for 24 months, while an iPad Mini 3 costs $17 per month. For 32 GB and 64 GB models, the monthly cost increases by $4 per month and $8 per month, respectively.

The program is similar to the financing plans that most carriers already offer for smartphones, and requires a data plan on Sprint's network. Subscribers can either add the tablet to a shared data plan or get a separate plan starting at $10 per month for 100 MB.

After the two years are up, subscribers have a few options:

  • Pay the remaining balance (roughly $150 for the 16 GB model) to keep the iPad, and either continue or terminate the data service.
  • Return the iPad in good working condition and terminate service.
  • Trade up to a new iPad and start another two-year cycle.

Subscribers can also terminate service early, but they'll have to pay the remaining monthly installments, then either pay the remaining balance or trade the tablet in.

There's just one big caveat: Sprint's shared data plan usually requires a $10 per month access fee for tablets, on top of the $20 per month lease. Sprint says it's waiving the fee through the end of 2015 for anyone who signs up by January 15, but that means even if you sign up now, your price will jump to $30 per month after about 13 months. If you only plan to connect your iPad sporadically, consider buying a Wi-Fi model and using your phone's mobile hotspot capabilities instead.

Why this matters: The iPad for Life plan isn't really a money-saving proposition. One way or another, you'll end up paying the full price of a 4G LTE iPad, minus any trade-in values if you turn it in or exchange it for a new model. But if you're balking at spending upwards of $600 all at once, Sprint's plan is a decent option if you don't mind being locked into the network for a couple years.

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