A data plan for iPad would allow us to connect to the internet no matter where we are, even when there’s no Wi-Fi network around.
Yet, choosing the right data plan for iPad can be quite confusing because they can be very different from smartphone data plans we’re more familiar with.
What are the factors to consider when choosing between different iPad cellular plans? Would I need different data plans for different Ipad models?
Below, we will answer those questions, as well as other things you should know when choosing the best data plan for iPad depending on your needs.
Do You Actually Need an iPad Data Plan? Wi-Fi VS Cellular iPad
First things first, it’s important to note that you’ll only need an iPad data plan if your iPad is capable of cellular connectivity.
Since the first generation of the iPad, Apple has always offered two different options when it comes to connectivity, Wi-Fi-only iPads, and the more expensive Wi-Fi+Cellular iPads.
So, if you aren’t sure, check whether your iPad is capable of cellular connectivity.
However, if you are currently looking to purchase a new iPad and still not sure of which connectivity option you should get, read along.
Typically a Wi-Fi+Cellular iPad is around $130 more expensive than a comparable Wi-Fi-only model, although the newest iPad pro with cellular is $150 more expensive than its Wi-Fi-only counterpart.
So, when choosing between the different iPad models, the question is whether the $130-$150 price difference can be justified depending on how you are going to use the iPad. There are two main concerns you should have:
The main difference between the two models is pretty obvious: cellular connectivity which is made possible with a SIM card. Newest iPad models (2018 or newer) now use eSIM (embedded SIM), which is a chip that is soldered into the iPad itself, but older iPad models still use SIM card trays for physical SIM cards.
Also, iPad Pro models from 2016- 2018 use embedded Apple SIM instead of true eSIM support, and there are older models from 2014-2018 that come with physical Apple SIM cards.
Apple SIM would allow us to switch carriers, just like an eSIM, but not too many carriers support Apple SIM, and overall it’s just not as convenient as real eSIM. If you are purchasing a brand new iPad model, this won’t be too much of an issue.
Having cellular connectivity on top of Wi-Fi means that you have flexibility. You can use your iPad anywhere even in areas without any Wi-Fi hotspot, which is great if you bring your iPad for traveling.
Yes, you have the option of tethering your phone’s connection to the iPad, but it will be a major battery drain for the phone. Also, you’ll have the ability to use different network providers between your iPad and iPhone, which can be useful in areas where your phone’s network provider isn’t available or the other way around.
Besides cellular connectivity, another key difference between a Wi-Fi-only and cellular-enabled iPad is GPS capability.
Only the cellular iPad has a GPS antenna. A Wi-Fi-only iPad can use location tracking and apps like Maps, but it will rely on Wi-Fi triangulation instead of GPS.
As you might have guessed, GPS is much more accurate and reliable than Wi-Fi triangulation. This will also mean that in the event when you lose your iPad, the Find My iPad function is also more reliable in a cellular iPad.
So, now you should have a clearer idea of whether you actually need a cellular-enabled iPad and a data plan for iPad, which basically boils down to whether you’ll need cellular connectivity and GPS capability.l
If your answer is yes, then let’s move on to the next section.
How To Choose a Data Plan for iPad
As discussed, you might need to consider different factors when weighing between different iPad data plans when compared to choosing a standard phone plan. Here are some key considerations you should have:
1. Data usage
How much data will you use on your iPad? Most likely you already have an active data plan on your phone, so it’s likely you won’t need as much data on your iPad (and you can always tether your phone’s data plan when needed.
If you are only going to use 1 or 2 GBs of data on your iPad per month, then you might not need an unlimited data plan.
Also, different plans might limit the Personal Hotspot allowance, meaning you can only tether a set amount of data to other devices. If you are going to tether your data plan for iPad a lot, this might be a major concern.
2. Coverage area
Another key consideration when choosing between different data plans is to get a data plan that offers reliable coverage in the area you frequent (that doesn’t have Wi-Fi). Also, if you plan to travel a lot with the iPad, then you might want to get an iPad data plan that offers international or even global coverage.
Truphone’s iPad data plans, for example, have global coverage in more than 48 countries while only costing as low as $5/month for 1GB of data.
3. Contract details
It’s also crucial to check all the details of the contract. Some iPad data plans might claim to offer unlimited data while in practice they’ll throttle your bandwidth after you’ve used a certain amount of data. Others might offer free international roaming but the actual connection is very slow (you’ll need to pay extra to get normal speed).
Choosing the right data plan for iPad would depend on how and where you are going to use the iPad. By following the tips we’ve shared above, you can get the most ideal data plan for your cellular-enabled iPad according to your needs and budget.