Optus will be releasing the Samsung Galaxy Tab this week, and while we've been disappointed with the $999 up-front cost, Optus will be offering the tablet starting from a far more palatable $0 upfront on a $59.95 cap plan (minimum total cost $1438.80 over 24 months). For that, you get at least 10Gb of data - the actual range is between 10GB and 20GB, depending on whether you use the device during peak hours or off-peak.
Compare that to the iPad, where you pay for the device up front - from $799 for a version with 3G - but then select a carrier and pay for a data plan. The rates vary, and you can choose a pre-paid plan that would mean you didn't have to connect every month, but we'll assume for the moment that you want a full 24 months of connection.
On Telstra, you'd be looking at a minimum of $30 for the sim, plus $20 per month for 1GB of data - a minimum total cost of $1279, including the upfront cost of the iPad.
With Optus, The minimum total cost is the same, at $1279. As with Telstra, it's $30 for the sim, but $20 per month gets you 2GB of data with Optus.
Virgin Mobile have Plans that work out to either a minimum total cost of $919 for 300MB per month, or a minimum total cost of $1272.80, at $19.95 per month for 1.5GB and $14 for the microsim. Vodafone's cheapest plans work out to $1159 with a 49c microsim and $15 per month, for 1.5GB of data.
That may sound as though the Samsung Galaxy Tab is by far the better option, given the impressive data allowance, but keep in mind that it's charged in 10MB increments, unlike most of the iPad plans, which are charged per KB. In other words, if you download a three word email, it's counted as 10MB by Optus if you're using the Galaxy Tab, or 1-3KB if you're using the iPad.
On the other hand Facebook, Twitter and Myspace won't count towards your data limit on the Optus plans, if used in Australia. Optus Zoo sites also don't count to your quota.
The 10MB increments are likely to cause some bill shock - if you check email every 10 minutes for the entire month, for example, with a 10MB increment per time, you'd rack up around 44GB of data in total. Most people won't do such small checks so frequently, and will use larger blocks of bandwidth in each session, making it far less likely to go over their limit. A call to Optus to ask what happens if people go over the monthly limit had not been returned as we published this, but we'll update with the response.
Still, it will pay to think about how you're likely to use a tablet before wading in on a 24-month plan.