updated 02:55 pm EST, Fri November 26, 2010
3 UK plans to carry subsidized 3G iPad in months
3 UK and T-Mobile UK have confirmed Apple's widening plans to offer subsidized iPads with a deal of its own. The British carriers will have 3G versions of the tablet available, including at "more affordable prices" when tied to a data plan. The companies wouldn't detail the prices or their plans other than to say the device would come in "coming months."
The update follows talk of an Orange deal as well as confirmed plans for Orange France, which hopes to have the iPad for 279 Euros ($376) paired to a 3G contract.
The indirect wording from 3 and T-Mobile may point to availability at or near the release of the next iPad. Apple has previously used similar vague dates for the iPhone, allowing carriers to reveal their deals in advance of new iPhone launches but keeping the timing open to avoid giving away the release schedule.
No official explanation exists for the sudden change in policy away from an exclusively unsubsidized approach to carrier-discounted versions, but the move is likely to head off moves by competing tablet designers that may focus primarily or exclusively on deals. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab can still be had unlocked and contract-free in some countries, but the US sales model so far has strongly favored data contracts save for the AT&T version's emulation of the iPad's prepaid data model. A subsidy both offers a lower price for those who want 3G service and also puts the iPad in carrier stores as a reminder of its existence.