So you may already have the best iPhone with you, like the iPhone 12 Pro. That already means that you have some kind of data plan for your smartphone, but what if you have the best IPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular? You may want to look into a cellular plan for your iPad as well, in case you want to use it anywhere without having to rely on a Wi-Fi network.
Whether you have a regular iPad or the latest iPad Air 4, picking the right cellular plan for your iPad can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, we're here to help. Here's some advice on picking the best cellular plans for iPad, whether you want to stick with your current provider or even try out a new one.
Who offers a strictly data-only plan?
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At the moment, there are three major US cellular carriers: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The only one that offers a data-only plan, meaning you don't need to have an existing cellular phone line, is AT&T.
AT&T DataConnect is a data-only plan that you can use for a tablet like the best iPad, or even with another device like laptop, mobile hotspot, USB modem, or an LTE camera. With AT&T DataConnect, you can get 15GB of data for $60 a month or 35GB for $85 per month. Overages are charged $10 per 2GB. However, you can get $10 off the monthly fee if you set up AutoPay and paperless billing.
For those who want to be able to have AT&T cellular data while traveling internationally, AT&T Passport Data can be added separately for laptops and tablets like the iPad. The rates are 2GB for 30 days for $70, or 6GB for 30 days for $140. Overages are charged $30 per gigabyte.
What we just mentioned is AT&T's post-paid plans, which you pay every month for. However, the company also has some prepaid data-only plans as well: AT&T Prepaid and AT&T DataConnect Pass.
The prepaid plan is basically pay as you go. The rates are as follows: 3GB for 30 days for $25 with the option to add 1GB for another $10, 10GB for 30 days for $50 with the option to add 1.5GB for another $10, or 18GB for 30 days for $75, with the option to add 2GB for another $10. These plans cannot be used internationally, however, but the mobile hotspots can be used in Mexico and Canada.
The DataConnect Pass is best for those who want to prepay and don't plan on using a lot of data at once. If you go for the DataConnect Pass, you can get 2GB for 90 days for $30, or 25GB for 30 days for $40. You can also add DataConnect Pass Global for international travel. The rates for DataConnect Pass Global are 1GB for 30 days for $60 or 3GB for 30 days for $120.
You can also opt for the auto-renewing DataConnect Pass. This option lets you get 1GB for 30 days for $19.99, 7GB for 30 days for $55, or 25GB for 30 days for $34.99 (this is straight from AT&T's website). These will continue to renew each month until cancelled by the customer.
These are what we found direct from the AT&T website. You could check with your local AT&T store for any deals that are currently only available in your area.
AT&T offers standalone data-only plans for iPad starting at around $60 a month. There is also a tablet add-on for existing accounts for less.
What about Verizon and T-Mobile?
Both Verizon and T-Mobile offer data-only plans for iPads, but you'll need to have an existing phone line with them already. They do not have standalone data plans for just your iPad.
For Verizon customers, you'll need to already be on one of Verizon's Unlimited plans for your smartphone. Verizon's Unlimited plans start at $70 per line for unlimited 5G and 4G/LTE data, and you get other perks like Disney+, Apple Music, and more, depending on the tier of unlimited you pick.
There are two tiers of Verizon Unlimited Tablet plans: Unlimited and Unlimited Plus. The Unlimited is another $20 a month on top of your base Unlimited line, and it includes 5G Nationwide 4G LTE data and 15GB of premium data, unlimited mobile hotspot, and 720p HD-quality streaming. Unlimited Plus is $30 on top of your existing unlimited line and it includes unlimited 5G Ultra Wideband (the fastest 5G available), unlimited 5G Nationwide 4G LTE with 30GB of premium data, unlimited mobile hotspot, and 720p HD-quality streaming.
If you don't need unlimited data for your iPad, you can get Shared Data plans starting at 5GB for $55 or 10GB for $65 per month. These do not require an existing unlimited line on an account. You can save a little money if you have more lines sharing this data allotment, but of course, you need to remember that the data is shared among more users.
Verizon offers impressive coverage and reliability. However, you need an existing account to get iPad data.
T-Mobile offers a 500MB for $5 per device each month or 2GB for $10 per device each month, as long as you enroll in AutoPay. The prices for these may be a little higher if you do not do AutoPay. However, you must already be a Magenta customer to qualify for these plans.
A T-Mobile Magenta plan starts at $70 a line, which nets you unlimited talk and text, unlimited 5G and 4G LTE data, 100GB of premium data, Netflix Basic, standard quality streaming, and 5GB of mobile hotspot data. Again, like most other carriers, the more lines you add, the more you can save (up to 30% with three lines).
So in order to get some data for your iPad on T-Mobile, you are looking at spending at least $75 a month, and that is only for 500MB of tablet data. It's at least $80 if you want 2GB of tablet data.
T-Mobile has the most affordable iPad-only data plans, but you need to be an existing Magenta customer to get them.
So what's the best cellular plan for iPad?
If you just want purely a standalone data plan for your iPad and nothing else, no strings attached, then AT&T seems to be the only way to go about it. Of course, this also entirely depends on AT&T's coverage in your area, so you'll want to make sure to double-check that first before pulling the trigger. AT&T also does have an add-on for iPad data if you are an existing customer, which would be about another $20 on your existing plan, and these start at $65 a month for the most basic tier. So to sum it up, you can get standalone data starting at $60 a month for 15GB or around $85 if you have an existing AT&T account.
Verizon is one of the best carriers around due to its incredible coverage, but it leans on the more expensive side. You're looking at something along the lines of at least $90 a month for unlimited data for both your smartphone and your iPad.
T-Mobile will definitely be the most affordable, but you'll have to be an existing T-Mobile Magenta customer to access it. If that's the case, then you can get some moderate data for your iPad starting at $75 a month. Of course, even after the Sprint merger, T-Mobile is still not as big as Verizon or AT&T, so you'll definitely want to double-check the coverage in your area to make sure you can get reliable signal.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.