\r\n\r\nNo one will ever accuse Apple of being a bargain brand, but the company’s iPad tablet may prove to be more affordable than the first generation of Android slates, particularly the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab.Apple, a boon for bargain hunters? It’s true if your new Android tablet is tied to a 3G data contract, a time-honored tactic (at least in the United States) that lowers the up-front cost of the device, but tethers the buyer to a pricey two-year wireless data plan.\r\n\r\nTake the Streak, for instance. With a two-year AT&T contract, Dell’s 5-inch tablet starts at $300. To get that price, however, you’ll need to ink a voice and data plan. At Dell’s site, the cheapest option is a $55 per month deal: 450 voice minutes for $40; and 200MB data for $15. That comes to $1620 for two years of Dell Streak usage: $1320 for the 3G plan; and $300 for the tablet.\r\n\r\nDon’t want a 3G contract? In that case, the Streak costs $550. Shockingly, that’s $50 more than the 16GB (Wi-Fi-only) iPad.\r\n\r\nWhich would you rather buy? Of course, the Apple and Dell slates are very different beasts. Arguably, the Streak is more of a freakishly large smartphone than a tablet. It has two cameras. The iPad has none, although that’s likely to change soon. Given a choice, most people would opt for the iPad, with its elegant design and larger display, over the relatively clunky Streak–which happens to cost more.\r\n\r\nTo be fair, let’s price the iPad with 3G service. (It’s important to note that you’re not tethered to a long-term contract with the iPad. You can cancel AT&T’s 3G service at any time.) The 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G costs $629 up front–more than twice the Streak’s price. AT&T charges $15 per month for 250MB of data. So over two years, the least you’d pay for an iPad with 3G service is $989. (That’s $629 for the device, plus $360 for 24 months of AT&T.)\r\n\r\nThe Dell Streak cost $631 more to operate over two years than the iPad. Of course, you could cut costs by using the Streak as a cell phone too. But with its 5-inch display, the gargantuan Streak is awfully big for a phone.\r\n\r\nGalaxy Mystery\r\n\r\nThe first Samsung Galaxy Tab models will include both 3G and Wi-Fi. They’ll be offered by all four major U.S. wireless carriers, none of which has announced pricing details at this time. Industry watchers expect the subsidized units to sell for around $300, however.\r\n\r\nIf you want a Galaxy Tab with Wi-Fi only, there’s good and bad news. The good is that Samsung plans to release a Wi-Fi only model; the bad is that it won’t say when.\r\n\r\nWhile every business is different, it’s safe to say that many companies would choose a Wi-Fi-only tablet over a 3G/Wi-Fi model, particularly if the 3G option requires a long-term data contract. Some remote employees such as salespeople might benefit from 3G service, but tablet-toting workers in an office or industrial setting would function just as well with Wi-Fi.\r\n\r\nGiven the large number of Android tablets on the horizon, the Wi-Fi-only option will almost certainly become a standard option soon. But for now, Apple’s iPad pricing is impressively affordable relative to its Android competitors. Who would’ve known?