While cell phones and computers play similar — and similarly necessary — roles in the life of roughly half of the population, tablets have a much smaller audience.
Some of that has to do with form. Occupying the space between phones and laptops in terms of form, power, and navigational ease means that it can’t offer the specialized strengths of either.
That doesn’t mean that iPads don’t have value, but their more niche usage means that the questions you’ll need to ask about functionality tend to be a bit more specialized.
Pairing your iPad with cellular service can be anything from an absolute necessity to an absolute waste depending on your unique use case.
Let’s start by talking about what we mean when we’re talking about when discussing iPad with cellular.
Then we’ll delve into the strengths and weaknesses of cellular service and examine the alternatives available to you.
So if you are ready to explore the Pros and Cons of iPad with Cellular keep reading !!
What is iPad with Cellular?
We would never have phones in our pockets without the advent of cellular mobile technology.
Essentially a two-way radio operating on a massive scale, cellular towers receive and send information to cell phones and other devices within a range of up to 45 miles (depending on the technology used).
Since signals can be sent up and down the chain of towers — and since users can seamlessly shift between towers — it’s a highly mobile form of connecting to the internet.
Wi-Fi sacrifices that mobility for consistency, privacy, and flexibility. The range may only be about 150 feet, but the owner has control over security and user access as well as serving as a static source of internet.
Every iPad model comes with Wi-Fi access, but cellular requires you to pay for a recurring data plan for your tablet in addition to getting the iPad + cellular model that’s capable of connecting to a cellular network.
While proprietary restrictions and physical SIM cards once left you locked into paying for a data plan from the telecom provider that sold you the iPad, the implementation of electronic SIM cards and the lowering of restrictions give you a lot more flexibility to match your tablet to a plan that works for you.
So, basically an iPhone with Cellular is a model that has extra capabilities to connect to a mobile cell network in addition to WiFi.
Pros of iPad with Cellular
The most obvious advantage of attaching a cellular plan to your iPad is the increased flexibility it gives you when you’re on the go.
Consider the advantages that your phone service offers and apply them to your tablet usage.
A tablet with a cellular plan attached lets you watch streaming movies and TV shows on a larger screen even when you’re riding in the car or on a bus — and you can further improve its utility by attaching a wireless keyboard to your iPad and using it essentially as a smaller laptop model for correspondence and basic work.
But perhaps the biggest advantages of a cellular plan are the additional services that come along with it.
All iPad models with cellular service come with a GPS chip, and it can work even if you don’t have a data plan attached to your tablet.
If you’re looking for a dedicated device for navigating in your car, paying a little extra for a dedicated GPS isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
That’s doubly true once you add a data plan into the equation and gain the leverage to use it for everything from navigation to streaming music to answering calls.
Cons of iPad with Cellular
Bringing a data plan to your iPad gives you access to new features without taking anything away, and that means that the only major impediment is the cost.
And while that cost factor might make sense if you’re going to regularly take advantage of data on your iPad, it’s relatively steep.
Not all iPad models come with the capacity for transmitting cellular data, and new versions of the models that do will typically cost you $200 or more at retail.
That overhead is compounded by the costs associated with a data plan. Fortunately, you can generally package together your tablet’s data plan with your existing phone plan.
The best options can vary from provider to provider, so finding a good deal may require you to evaluate your current data and figure out what sort of speeds and data caps you need.
Functional data plans typically run from $15 to $60 a month depending on the terms, but you can get the most bang for your buck by maintaining a shared data cap between your multiple devices.
But no matter what plan you choose, it’s definitely worth stopping to evaluate the value you’ll get from an iPad data plan before making a final decision.
While it’s not an out-and-out con, you’ll want to do your research in figuring out the specifics of your plan and in understanding what sort of leverage you have to switch service providers.
Any iPad that was produced since 2019 will include both an eSIM and a more traditional physical SIM card.
If you’re willing to use the latter, you have a lot of flexibility to pick from most major providers throughout the world.
If you choose the former, you’ll have a more limited range of data providers — albeit one that includes major telecom providers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — but connecting your eSIM with a particular provider may lock you out from using your electronic SIM card with another telecom provider.
If you find yourself traveling outside of the country, you may need to activate and bring a physical SIM card with you.
The electronic SIM model hasn’t been adopted everywhere in the world. Fortunately, physical SIM cards will work across most of the major cellular companies.
Who Should Buy an iPad That Supports Cellular Connections?
If you regularly find yourself on the move and needing to accomplish tasks that are too complicated for your phone, a tablet with an internet connection can make a lot of sense for your life.
Business travelers who fly regularly have a clear and convincing use case for tablets with cellular plans — as do professionals like couriers, delivery drivers, and house call technicians that can benefit from having a larger mobile device.
An iPad with cellular service also makes sense if you’re worried about internet security.
Public Wi-Fi networks may be plentiful, but it can also be hard to know how well protected they are.
If you find yourself regularly dealing with personal information while connected to public Wi-Fi networks, attaching cellular service to your tablet can provide you with greater peace of mind.
This is especially true of busy professionals who want a business device that’s always available and always dependable.
Alternatives to iPad with Cellular
If you want the advantages of internet access on the go but aren’t ready to pay a data plan for your iPad, there are some other alternatives.
Wi-Fi tethering essentially uses your phone — and its data plan — as a means to create a mobile internet hub for your tablet or even your laptop.
Basically your smartphone is connected to the cellular network for Internet access and your iPad connects to the smartphone via WiFi in order to utilize the cellular connection of the smartphone.
This is an ideal choice for people who might occasionally want to use data with a tablet but don’t need to do it on a regular basis.
Tethering can drain the batteries of both your tablet and phone, and some data plans have caps or extra charges associated with tethering. As a result, it’s not always a practical long-term solution.
The other option is a mobile hotspot. These are essentially small handheld devices that can serve as a Wi-Fi hub no matter where you are.
These devices will have their own data plans. Typically, a mobile hotspot will only require an electrical outlet to work, and they can serve as a hub for a wide range of devices.
If you’re highly mobile and see your tablet as just one of many internet-connected devices that you carry with you and need to use on the fly, a mobile hotpot makes a lot of sense. It also doesn’t require you to pay extra for a cellular-enabled iPad model.
Which is Faster, Wi-Fi or Cellular Internet?
Since it’s a static source of internet access, a functional Wi-Fi network has almost always been significantly faster than a cellular network — but that’s not always the case.
The amount of people who use your Wi-Fi network can dramatically affect your speed, as can your distance from the WiFi router.
And as 5G is becoming the standard for cellular speeds, that gap is closing significantly.
Wi-Fi will still generally be faster, but the factors at play means that speeds on both cellular and Wi-Fi can vary significantly.
If I say I just want to paly games and love to watch Netflix most of the time on my iPad pro. So, which one should I choose only wifi or with cellular?
If I say I just want to paly games and love to watch Netflix most of the time on my iPad pro. So, which one should I choose only wifi or with cellular? Please tell me soon
Harris Andrea says
Nitish, if you want to watch Netflix outside your home (i.e outside your wifi network) then you need cellular in order to watch.
Otherwise, just get a wifi only model.
Massey Jones says
My ISP has a music service, but unfortunately, there are gaps between cells, and no music. Which led me to purchase a Cellular Enabled iPad. While on the move with Transit, I have constant music, also provided by contract to the ISP. The plan on which I am on, in addition to the monthly iPhone charge (I own the iPhone and iPad), is a mere $5.00/month for the iPad ($60/yr). I found that it was greatly worth it, and the pros outweigh the cons. Glad to not be constantly tied up to a Wi-Fi system. Great in malls too, where you don’t have to use their Wi-Fi and expose yourself to hacking that is so prevalent in these places.
Harris Andrea says
Thanks for your feedback Massey. Indeed, with such a cheap plan its worth it having an ipad with cell connection.
Harris, thank you so much for this extremely helpful piece.
Harris Andrea says
You are very welcome Mary.
Have a nice day