Stray beyond the range of your wi-fi router and you’ll have to switch over to mobile web if you want to carry on surfing – and that means paying for the data you use.
It’s been two months since the launch of the new iPad and there are now tons of tariffs on the market, giving users more choice of data plans than at launch, but who’s doling out the biggest data allowances for your money?
Here we take a look at the best value tariffs for your iPad.
A word on data plans
For the purposes of comparison we’re assuming you have an iPad already, or that you plan on buying one outright, directly from Apple or elsewhere without a SIM.
There are contracts where you can buy the new iPad at a discounted price by committing to the contract for 18 or 24 months. The monthly cost of these contracts is weighted to include the cost of the iPad though, so it’s not just the data you’re paying for.
There are two types of SIM-only deals: those which give you a monthly data allowance for a monthly fee on a rolling contract, and those which give you an allowance to be used over a given period, paid for in advance (pay as you go).
Rolling one-month contracts
Three is offering 1GB of data on a rolling one-month contract for £7.50 per month. O2 will charge you £10.21 for 1GB over data over 30 days or £15.32 for 2GB.
For £15 a month Three will give you a whopping 10GB data allowance. T-Mobile’s only pay monthly iPad data deal will get you 5GB over 30 days for £15.
For £15 per month Orange will give you a 3GB allowance, while £25 per month will buy you 10GB but you’ll need to sign up for an iPad SIM-only plan first.
Vodafone will give you 500MB over 30 days for £7.50 or 2GB over 30 days for £15.
Pay as you go (PAYG)
Three is offering 1GB for 30 days for £10.49 but is under-cut by giffgaff who is offering the same data allowance for £7.50. For £20.49, Three will give you an allowance of 3GB over three months.
O2 offers a 200MB per day pay as you go data plan for £2.04 per day. T-Mobile has a similar but better PAYG tariff offering 250MB for one day for £2 per day. They also offer 500MB over a week for £7 and 1GB over a month for £15.
Orange also does 200MB valid for one day for £2 or 1GB over one week for £7.50, but again you need to you’ll need to sign up to an iPad data plan first.
Vodafone will charge you £5 for 250MB of data to use over 30 days on PAYG.
giffgaff, which runs on the O2 network, will give you 500MB for a month for £5, 1GB over one month for £7.50 or 3GB over a month for £12.50.
So who offers the best value?
If you’re confused by the various data plans the big networks are offering, you’re not alone – it’s very difficult to compare tariffs as there are very few like-for-like comparisons you can make.
For example, Three will give you 10GB on a rolling one-month contract for £15 to be used over three months whereas Orange will offer you 10GB for £25 to be used over just one month.
Three’s pay monthly 10GB allowance for £15 does seem particularly attractive if you’re a heavy user though. If you’re more of a casual user, giffgaff’s PAYG SIM cards are very reasonably priced.
The best value tariff really depends on whether you want to pre-pay for your data or sign up for a pay-monthly plan, and how much data you actually need.
What does your data allowance get you?
As a general rule, loading a typical web page uses around 100KB of data, a typical song download uses about 5MB, and watching a typical video uses around 250MB per 30 minutes.
This means a 200MB allowance would allow you to download around four music albums, stream video for 25 minutes or view 2,000 web pages.
A 1GB allowance would give you access to 10,000 web pages or allow you to download around 20 albums or stream two hours of video.
Simple extrapolation will tell you that a 5GB allowance would give you five times the allowance of a 1GB data plan and 10GB would give you ten times that of a 1GB plan.
You can compare tariffs and find the most suitable one for you over on our mobile phones channel.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.