Guide to iPad contract deals and hardware
Over the past few years, tablet computers have become the hottest gadget on the UK market. And while the likes of Samsung, BlackBerry and the rest have tried to take their piece of the market, the Apple iPad range has reigned supreme.
The original iPad was launched in 2010. Featuring a 9.7-inch touchscreen, in many ways it could be seen as an oversized iPhone: offering the same access to apps and iTunes, but with a larger, higher resolution screen.
It made it great for both the internet and watching videos, while those apps and games looked so much better.
It was an instant hit, with mobile operators falling over each other to offer the best value iPad contracts with mobile broadband. The tablet revolution had begun.
Do I choose a Wi-Fi or 3G iPad?
There have already been several generation of the machine hitting the market, which we’ll discuss below, but one thing they have in common is the choice of 3G connectivity, or Wi-Fi only models.
While the Wi-Fi models are great if you’re at home or at a hotspot, the 3G + Wi-Fi iPads will allow you to connect to the internet via a mobile broadband SIM. These are the versions you’ll find in the comparison table above, and are the most cost effective way to pick up an iPad on contract.
Being able to connect your contract iPad via mobile broadband means you’ll be able to get online anywhere you can get a mobile signal, which nowadays is pretty much anywhere (but do check each network’s coverage checker before you buy, as well as checking our user reviews).
If you’re looking for a Wi-Fi only model, you won’t find them subsidised in the way 3G iPad contracts work: not surprising, as you connect them up directly to the mobile networks and that’s how they make their money!
The Apple iTunes Store: download heaven
While your iPad will come with everything you need to get up and running, it’s the extra downloadable content that sets it apart from the competition. So what can you get downloaded?
- Music: For many, CDs are a thing of the past. Pretty much every artist you can think of is now available to download via iTunes; either by album or by track for under £1.
- Movies: Why waste space with a massive DVD collection when you can rent or buy TV series and movies directly on your iPad?
- Books: There’s no need to also own a Kindle if you’ve picked up an iPad contract: just download books, papers and magazines here.
- Podcasts: There are hundreds of regular audio shows to download too, which are mostly free. From the BBC radio shows you’ve missed to loads of niche content, subscribe to the shows you like and never miss an episode.
- Games: From Angry Birds and Scrabble clones to racers and complex online RPGs, there are tens of thousands of games available to download – many of them free.
- Apps: These cover everything from business applications to sat nav, photo apps to social networking. If you can think of it, you’re likely to find it in the App Store.
The length of iPad contracts: why so long?
You’ll note that when you compare the up-front cost of contract iPads, they can be very cheap. However, you’ll also notice the contracts tend to be for two years.
As with mobile phone deals, the mobile broadband networks do a kind of hire purchase deal with iPad contracts, so that instead of paying a load of cash up front you spread the cost of the tablet itself over the whole length of the contract. For this, your penance is having to stick with the same network for (usually) 24 months.
However, frankly it’s a pretty sweet deal as long as you don’t intend to upgrade every time a new iPad comes out. If you do, you may want to just but one outright and then get a SIM only deal.
If you do have the cash up front, you’ll notice that you can also get one month rolling iPad contract deals that will leave you free to upgrade to the next iPad as soon as it comes out!
iPad 2 contract offers
In truth, the original iPad was a good idea, but it wasn’t that well executed; it wasn’t until the release of the iPad 2 in 2011 that the concept really came into its own. Thinner, lighter and with a better processor, it also boasted front and back cameras.
And more importantly, the app community had been working overtime to create improved versions of their iPhone/iPod Touch applications to work on the bigger screen, giving the tablets an even bigger unique selling point.
If you’re looking for a cheap tablet, getting a 16GB iPad 2 contract is probably the way forward. It doesn’t have the quality of screen the New iPad (below) boasts, but prices are much lower now that the newer version has hit the shelves.
An iPad 2 on contract can be yours for less that £100 up front, with some very generous monthly download limits attached. Available in black or white, the iPad 2 is still a nice introduction to the world of tablet computers.
The New iPad
Released in March 2012, the oddly named ‘New iPad’ has an improved dual-core processor (the 1GHz Apple A5X) and much improved screen (the ‘retina display’, boasting 2048x1536 pixels).
If you can afford one, you’re certainly better off picking up a New Apple iPad. They may not be the cheapest, but they’re certainly a big step up from the original iPad and the best tablet on the market right now.
The cost of your New iPad contract is going to depend on three key factors: choice of network, storage capacity (16, 32 or 64GB) and the amount of data you want to include per month. Prices can vary a lot, so carefully consider your options.
- Capacity: This should only really be an issue if you intend to keep a lot of video on the device and don’t have another piece of kit (such as a PC) to offload it onto when it’s not needed on the iPad.
- Network: Your choice should be a combination of network coverage in the areas you use most, plus reputation.
- Monthly download limit: what you need will be governed by how much you’ll be using your iPad on 3G (rather than Wi-Fi), and what for (simple browsing doesn’t use much data, while downloading or streaming video does!).
Free iPad on contract
Unfortunately there’s no way to get a free iPad on contract at the moment (May 2012), but as prices continue to drop, competition heightens and new models are released, we’re sure it’s only a matter of time.
If this is the only option for you, be sure to keep popping back to this page as we update it daily with all the latest iPad deals and offers.
Signing up for your new iPad or iPad 2 contract couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve chosen the right deal from the comparison table above, simply click the ‘go’ button to be taken to the mobile provider of your choice’s website.
Once there it’s simply a case of signing up directly with them. Enjoy your new iPad!