Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G which runs on Telstra's LTE network.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G which runs on Telstra's LTE network.

Will we upgrade our tablets like we do our phones?

Many Australians ride the smartphone upgrade cycle because they get a "free" new phone every two years. Of course the phone is not really free, the price is obviously built into the deal, but it feels free because after two years you're probably going to keep paying the same amount to your telco each month even if you don't upgrade to a new plan with a new handset.

Whether we buy the bulk of our tablets on plans will depend on the success of highly portable 7 and 8.9-inch tablets. 

When tablets first came along I wondered if they'd enjoy the same upgrade momentum as phones. There were few if any contract options available for the first Wi-Fi/3G iPad when it went on sale. I expected that most people would prefer to buy tablets outright, especially as they could save money with a Wi-Fi-only model and tether it to their smartphone when they needed internet access on the go. Wi-Fi Hotspot features in smartphones are more prevalent today than when the iPad first launched, which you'd think would help drive sales of Wi-Fi only models. 

After studying the trends, comparison site WhistleOut concludes that buying on a plan is likely to become the most common way Australians buy their tablets, according to director Cameron Craig.

"I expect buying on plan will become the predominant way to buy a tablet," Craig says.

"In just three years, we have seen the tablet become an everyday item and the early adopters have all purchased at full price early on. The rest of the market will be harder to convert so a monthly plan is the next phase in going mass market. Having a monthly payment and embedded 3G connectivity for one price is an obvious choice for many.”

Today you'll find a tablet in 18 per cent of Australian households and this is forecast to more than double to be 39 per cent by 2013. Craig is convinced that growth will come from tablets bought on plans. Australians can now choose from more than 160 contract options for tablets, from 5 telcos across 13 tablet models. They come on plans just like mobile phones: a monthly payment for a broadband plan which might include a small fee up front to cover the cost of the tablet (or perhaps even or even $0).

Personally I think whether we buy the majority of our tablets on plans will depend on the success of highly portable 7 and 8.9-inch tablets, not to mention 5-inch phablets. Having spent some time with the sleek and sexy Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G (pictured above) I reckon it strikes the perfect balance between portability and usability. If more tablets follow its lead I think Craig's prediction could come true.

Do you intend to buy your next tablet outright or on a plan? What size will the screen be?