Tablets have exploded on the scene since the iPad launched last year (so recently?!) but being mobile means that connecting via a 3G network is vital if you're outside a WiFi zone.

While there are a host of contract options out there, most tablet users prefer to buy data on a prepaid basis. This means there is no long-term commitment, with the flexibility to top up as they go while also not exposing themselves to the risk of out-of-bundle rates.

Going prepaid puts you in control of your data costs, as you know when and how much you are spending on data, and avoids the “bill shock” associated with post-paid contracts.  

What's the con?
A big drawback of prepaid data for tablets has been the schlep and hassle associated with recharging data bundles. This typically involved buying an airtime voucher, and then converting this airtime to a bundle.

With tablets unable to access USSD (*111#) menus, the typical procedure was to steal a paperclip from your colleague’s desk, pluck out the SIM from the tablet, insert it into a phone, and then use USSD to convert the airtime to a bundle. Not very practical.

But there are some other ways to better manage prepaid data on your tablet or 3G modem. Take a look:

•    Buy Online: Voucher-less recharging is now available online for Vodacom data bundles. One of the best services is which allows you to buy data bundles online which get loaded directly to your SIM. No vouchers or conversions needed. They also have a handy phone book which remembers your SIM details for the next time that you need a top-up.

•    Internet Banking: FNB is the only bank that offers voucher-less data bundles (Vodacom) to be purchased through their Internet Banking portal.

•    Managed prepaid: For hands-off and automated management of prepaid data, Flickswitch offers a service called SIMcontrol. It basically monitors the balance of your SIM, and recharges it automatically when the balance drops below a level specified by you.  Recharges are done from a pre-funded purse and the online portal is handy to check your balance, recharge rules and daily usage. This means you will never run out of data. The service is charged at R7 per month, with data recharges at standard network rates. There is no contract.

•    Other networks have not yet offered voucher-less prepaid data bundles, but with the proliferation of tablets it is surely something they will start offering.

Do you own a tablet? Which one do you have and what's your biggest problem with it? Or do all the services run smoothly?