Carriers are fighting over tablet users. Finally

Gigaom’s Kevin Fitchard reported this morning that while Verizon Wireless lost feature phone and basic smartphone customers in the first quarter of 2014, its tablet business is booming. The carrier inked 634,000 new tablet connections during the period, increasing its overall base of cellular-enabled slate users by 15 percent in just three months to 4.3 million. AT&T, meanwhile, added 313,000 tablet connections during the first quarter, outpacing its new postpaid smartphone customer adds. And as FierceWireless reported earlier this week, analysts credit Sprint’s recent promotional pricing on tablets for helping to offset lackluster handset sales.
Sales of cellular-enabled tablets languished as the overall tablet market took off due to the high cost of data plans and the devices themselves. But T-Mobile helped to kick-start the market last fall when it offering no-money-down financing plans for new iPads as well as a limited amount of free monthly data for all tablet users. T-Mobile recently sweetened that deal with more free data, escalating the pricing war it helped to start. I expect to see competition heat up even more as the smartphone market nears the saturation point in the U.S.