Cellular iPads (Things To Know)

So you might be thinking of buying an iPad, and you might be trying to figure out whether to put your money on a basic Wi-Fi iPad model or a WiFi+ cellular iPad model. 

I’ve been through the same dilemma, and I understand how challenging it can be to make this decision.

Having cellular on an iPad means it can connect to the internet through a cell network. The type of connection (3G, 4G, LTE, or 5G) depends on your iPad model.

Let’s talk about what it all means and the pros and cons of buying a WiFi+LTE iPad.

What Does Cellular (LTE) Mean on iPad?

iPad with cellular connectivity comes with built-in support for mobile data. It typically features a SIM card slot, allowing you to insert a SIM card and connect mobile data services directly on the device.

So, the word “cellular” in iPad is actually indicating the device’s ability to connect to a cellular network for data. 

In other words, if you buy an iPad with WiFi+LTE you can access the internet from anywhere. You don’t have to rely on WiFi.

How Much More Does A Cellular iPad Cost?

There is going to be a difference in the price of each iPad variant, these are estimates, prices change depending on specs, the country you are in, and the model you are choosing.

IPad ModelWiFi Model PriceCellular Model PricePrice Difference
iPad Mini$499$649$150
iPad Air$599$749$150
iPad Pro$799$999$200

As you can see, there is a $110-$200 difference between the Wi-Fi model and the cellular iPad.

Unfortunately, that’s not it. You have to pay more for the iPad and you have to pay a monthly price for the carrier partner.

iPad Cellular Data Plans

Cellular data plan can cost anywhere from $20/month to $60/month depending on which carrier partner you choose. If you are in the USA these are the ones I can recommend and they are also recommended by Apple on their website.

Carrier PartnerData PlanPrice
VerizonUnlimitedStarting from $20/month
AT&TUnlimitedStarting form $35/month
T-MobileUnlimitedStarting form $20/month

I would highly recommend getting in touch with your current data carrier and ask them if they can offer you a price for your iPad, it will most likely be a lot cheaper than getting a new one.

You can also get limited data plans. For example, if you are going to use your iPad on rare occasions you don’t need an unlimited data plan you can get by with 5GB of data.

Is Cellular iPad Worth It? 

should you buy ipad with cellular?

Buying a cellular model will provide you with a few extra benefits that the simple Wi-Fi model does not.

With a cellular iPad, you get the power of a high-performance tablet combined with the networking capabilities of a smartphone.

If you require an internet connection at all times on your iPad or you travel around a lot, a cellular connection is a must. Of course, if you have your smartphone with you, you can always create a personal hotspot, but it will drain your smartphone’s battery significantly.

iPads with cellular connectivity are more expensive than regular iPads, so if you don’t intend to use your iPad outside your home where there is secure WiFi, then it’s hard to justify buying iPad with cellular.

It’s also worth considering that purchasing a cellular iPad involves additional expenses like buying a new SIM and subscribing to any data plan. So, In addition to the initial cost of $110-200 for the cellular tablet itself, you’re going to spend even more for a separate data plan, which is around $20 a month.

Ultimately, when making a decision about whether to buy a cellular iPad or not, you should look at your specific needs and preferences, as well as your budget and usage patterns.

Pros and Cons of iPad With Cellular

Buying a Cellular iPad might have a lot of potential benefits. But there are also some disadvantages.

So, how about we take a look at the pros first then, after that, we can have a look at some of its cons.

  • Internet Access Everywhere
  • Always Active
  • Security Concerns 
  • Navigation or GPS 
  • Bigger battery than a Smartphone
  • A Higher Cost 
  • Cost for Mobile Data Renewal
  • Impact of SIM / Internet on Battery 

Pros of iPad With Cellular

Pros of iPad With Cellular

Let’s discuss each point separately. Here’s a list of all the advantages and why they are advantages.

Internet Access Everywhere

With a cellular iPad, you are always connected to the internet, you don’t have to rely on WiFi. So, no doubt, it makes things easier. 

It frees you from asking for the Wi-Fi password. Like, you’re having a morning coffee in a coffee shop and suddenly you want internet. You have to ask them, which I personally don’t like.

Also, using Wi-Fi in a public place can be really risky, so I’d rather pay than risk my security.

Always Active

As a working man, I have to keep my social media accounts active, and in that case, the iPad with cellular connectivity is more useful for me than a laptop sometimes.

Laptops generally do not have built-in LTE capabilities. This feature allows me to stay connected to the internet with just a press of a button, making it convenient to go online from almost anywhere in the world, whether I’m in a car, coffee shop, gym, or university.

While a laptop is preferable for four-hour or longer work sessions, the iPad with the Magic Keyboard can serve as a laptop replacement for many tasks. With the keyboard, it can provide an experience similar to that of a laptop.

Security Concerns 

Connecting to unknown or unsecured Wi-Fi networks can pose significant risks. That’s why I personally don’t prefer connecting to unknown Wi-Fi networks. 

I am very concerned about becoming a victim of a phishing scheme, so the LTE Tablet makes me less worried about one or more things. For more information on Wi-Fi security – check out this article.

Navigation or GPS 

GPS is a good tool for travelers to locate the right location. While I don’t personally use it on my iPad, I have observed people attaching iPads to their car panels for navigation.

So, if you struggle with remembering streets, getting a cellular iPad can be helpful. It’s worth noting that GPS or navigation features are only available on the cellular model. If you have a Wi-Fi model, you won’t have access to GPS.

Battery Life

Firstly, tablets typically have a longer battery life than smartphones. So, If your phone’s battery dies, you won’t be able to use its hotspot. 

Secondly, I must admit that our phones now contain important documents, contacts, and digital keys. I am not sure about you, but when my phone dies, I feel helpless. That’s why I store my important things on my iPad as well.

Cons of iPad With Cellular

Cons of iPad With Cellular

Now, let’s discuss some cons. I’m sure you’ll be eager to know these, as they’ll help you decide whether to go for an iPad cellular or not.

A Higher Cost 

Yes, you’ll have to pay more for an iPad with internet capabilities. On average, you’ll have to pay around $110-$200 more to buy a cellular version of any iPad model.

Cost for Mobile Data Renewal

This is another great issue where you have to spend extra money on the renewal of your data plan.  

A cellular data plan can cost you anywhere from $5/month to $80/month depending on your needs.

Impact of SIM / Internet on Battery

Yes! The presence of the internet and SIM usage will have an impact on the battery life of an iPad. I know I’m crossing over my facts, but yeah, this factor does make a difference. 

Why Are iPads With Cellular More Expensive?

The iPad’s cellular model costs $110-$200 more, not specifically for the advantages it offers us, but there’s a lot more than that. 

Cellular iPads get expensive because they have an extra chip that is fitted inside them alongside radio frequency modules and antennae. Similarly, it requires more R&D and a bit harder assembly as well.

Furthermore, if you haven’t noticed, the iPad WiFi and cellular models have the same battery capacity. There might be a slight change in battery life, but when using the LTE version compared to WiFi, the actual battery size has not changed. Therefore, another reason for the increased cost is basically due to cramming a battery of the same size into a chassis that didn’t get any bigger.

From what I’ve seen, here are the differences between a WiFi tablet and a cellular iPad:

  1. LTE Radio / Chip
  2. Radio Frequency Antennae
  3. Cellular Module
  4. Extra Circuitry

How to Find Out if My iPad is Cellular?

In the olden days, you could’ve looked at your iPad in hindsight and found out whether it was a cellular variant or not, as those versions had a cellular strip at the back of the device. Nowadays, the antennas are integrated into the sides of the chassis, which makes them hard to spot.

Therefore, the best way to find out whether your iPad is cellular or not is by following this method:

  • Open the Settings application on your iPad
  • Now, tap on General
  • After doing so, tap on About
  • Scroll down until you see Wi-Fi address
  • Now, if you have Network Provider and Mobile Data Number pop-up, you have a Cellular iPad. If you don’t, then you have a WiFi-only model.

How to Turn on Cellular on an iPad?

Once you’ve activated a cellular data plan for your iPad, you can then use Cellular Data and the Personal Hotspot feature (depending on your carrier) to be able to use cellular data while on the go. 

Here’s how:

source: apple.com
  • Open the Settings application on your iPad
  • After doing so, head to Cellular Data to turn on Data.
  • You can also adjust your Data from all the way up from 3G to 5G, depending on your iPad and carrier.

Does A Cellular iPad Need a SIM Card?

No, the cellular iPad does not necessarily need a physical SIM card. You can either set up an eSIM on your iPad if it supports it. However, if your iPad does not support that option, you will have to resort to using an actual SIM instead.

In essence, the Cellular functionality in terms of connectivity and usage works similarly to an iPhone. They connect to the same cell towers and often have similar plans, except for the fact that the iPad cannot make calls on its own while the iPhone can. You can still make calls from the iPad, just differently.

Can I Insert A SIM Card In a Non-Ceullar iPad?

No, you cannot insert a SIM in a non-cellular iPad because it doesn’t have a physical SIM slot to insert anything into in the first place. And, since it doesn’t have a broadband chip inside it, you cannot use an eSIM by scanning a QR code or contacting your carrier either.

Final Thoughts

The cellular iPad offers a few more features than the Wi-Fi-only model. However, the $130-$200 price difference may not be justifiable for everyone.  

Additionally, you will have to pay for a monthly cellular contract, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $80 depending on your plan.

In conclusion, if you frequently travel and need internet access on the go, an iPad Cellular is worth it. However, if you don’t travel often or don’t take your iPad outside, a Wi-Fi-only model will be good. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to pay monthly for iPad cellular?

Yes, you do have to pay monthly for iPad cellular given that you have it on your plan. However, if you do not use the Cellular feature on your iPad or have deactivated it via your carrier, there are no extra monthly fees involved in that case.

Does iPad Cellular Work Internationally?

Yes, the iPad cellular does work internationally, given that your carrier supports Data Roaming. Otherwise, you can always use a local SIM card from the area to use cellular on your iPad, the latter option being much cheaper in most cases. 

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ernests embutnieks wolfoftablet
Founder & Chief Editor | ernests@wolfoftablet.com

I'm a writer and editor in iPads & Android Tablets, Windows Tablet section. I'm passionate about technology, especially about tablets. I'm on a mission to assist people in discovering their ideal tablets. In addition, I'm dedicated to producing helpful how-to guides and sharing top-notch tips and tricks. In my early carrier I founded and became and editor at worldoftablet and have been a guest author at many other tech blogs. In wolfoftablet I'm focusing on iPads, Tablets, Apple Pencil, Apps, Reviews, Buyers Guides and Tablet Accessories. In free time I like to play games on my PS5 or iOS.