Just like previous iPad iterations, there’s a wi-fi only version of the new iPad and a wi-fi and 4G version. The UK doesn’t support super-fast 4G yet (it’s available in the US and Canada), but the new iPad still supports 3G, which we do have in the UK.
If you’re planning on buying the mobile web-enabled version of the new iPad or a discounted iPad 2, you’ll need a micro SIM card from a mobile network. Here’s a run-down of what’s on offer and how to get the best deal.
If you have an iPad 2 with a 3G connection or a new iPad with 4G connectivity, you’ll need a micro SIM card to access the web on the go – unless you are content to rely on available wi-fi. You can get a micro SIM card from any mobile operator offering data plans, such as O2, Three, Vodafone and so on.
You can either buy the iPad and data plan together, as you would a contract smartphone with a network like O2 or Orange, or you can buy your iPad directly from Apple or elsewhere without a SIM and then get a SIM-only deal with one of the networks.
If you take out a contract on the new iPad, you’ll get a reduced price iPad with a monthly data allowance in exchange for a monthly fee and an initial payment for the tablet itself.
Remember that, as with mobile phone contracts, you’re tied in for the entire length of the contract.
For example, Three is offering 24-month contracts on the new iPad with a SIM. You can pay £99 upfront for the new iPad (16GB model) and then £29 per month for a 15GB monthly data allowance. Over the course of the two-year contract it will cost you £795. (The 16GB new iPad 4G itself costs £499 if buy it outright.)
As a guide, that would allow you to send approximately 15,000 emails, surf the web for 150 hours, and download 75 four-minute videos and 480 songs each month.
Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile are all offering similar plans over 24 month contracts but with lower data allowances. O2 is not selling the new iPad itself but does have SIM-only deals to use with it.
Bear in mind that 4G isn’t currently accessible in the UK, but will probably be introduced over the course of the next 24 months. If you signed up for a two-year contract now you’d be locked in and unable to take advantage of the best 4G tariffs as they are launched.
Alternatively you could buy the 16GB wi-fi and 4G model outright for £499 and then sign up for a SIM-only deal.
For example, Three offers a micro SIM with a 10GB data allowance for one month for £15.
To give you an idea of what 10GB is worth, the data plan would allow you to send 10,000 emails, surf the web for 100 hours, download 320 songs and 50 four-minute videos.
If you opted for this deal instead of the 24-month contract, the total cost would be higher at £859, plus you’d get a lower data allowance. The difference is you’d be free to leave at any point, as long as you give 30 days’ notice.
This means you’d be able to take advantage of the 4G tariffs when they start rolling out in the UK.
Other operators also offer SIM-only deals, but again with lower allowances. For example T-Mobile will give you a 5GB allowance for 30 days for £15.
If you’re upgrading from the iPad 2 you can always recycle your old tablet in exchange for cash and subsidise the cost of the new iPad. At the moment, our recycling partner is offering £240 for a 16GB wi-fi and 3G-enabled iPad 2, so you could use that cash to reduce the cost of a new iPad with wi-fi and 4G to £259.
If you don’t plan on using your iPad on the go, you may just as well opt for a wi-fi only model. You won’t have to pay a monthly fee for your data usage because you already pay for your broadband from your broadband provider. Simply connect to your wireless router and away you go.
As 4G is one of the big selling points of the new iPad, you could always go for a now-discounted iPad 2 if you’re not interested in mobile web capability.
Apple has cut the price of the standard 16GB wi-fi only iPad 2 from £399 to £329 since the release of the new iPad, so if you’re making your first foray into tablet computing you won’t get as high spec a model for less.
Again, if you’re upgrading to a new wi-fi only iPad, you could get £220 for your 16GB wi-fi only iPad 2, bringing the cost of a 16GB wi-fi only new iPad down to just £179.
Finding the best deal
Finding the best deal for you will depend on exactly how you plan on using the tablet. You can compare new iPad and iPad 2 prices on our shopping channel, but you won’t find any retailers offering discounts on Apple devices.
You can compare data plans on our mobile phones channel to find an allowances and monthly charges to suit you.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.