Is a pay as you go iPad SIM right for me?
Is a PAYG SIM the right choice? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons:
- Control your spending: Spend as much or as little as you like on top-ups.
- No contract: You’re not committed to spending every month and can stop using the SIM at any time without penalty.
- Contracts can be better value: Contracts can offer better value, provided you’re going to make use of them for the full contract term.
- You supply the hardware: PAYG deals don’t include free or subsidised hardware, so if you don’t already own a compatible iPad it will need to be purchased separately.
- May not work abroad: Not every provider allows roaming with PAYG SIMs.
Do I need to know anything before I compare these deals?
Before we get on to choosing a PAYG deal, you’ll need to:
- Find out what size SIM is compatible with your iPad
- Check broadband coverage in the areas the SIM will be used
- If you’re planning to use it abroad, check that the SIM will support roaming
What size SIM do I need for my iPad?
The iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4 use a micro-SIM.
The iPad Air and Air 2, all models of the iPad mini, the iPad Pro and the iPad 5 (which Apple simply calls “iPad”) use a nano SIM.
Many providers now use combi-SIMs which convert between sizes. If not, you will need to choose the correct size when buying.
Do all iPads need a SIM to get internet access?
Any iPad can get internet access, but some models are Wi-Fi only. These do not have a SIM card slot. If you need mobile broadband access on a Wi-Fi only iPad, use a Wi-Fi dongle.
What is a prepaid/preloaded SIM?
Prepaid, or preoloaded, SIMs are pay-as-you-go deals which come charged with a bundle of data. You can still pick up a PAYG SIM by itself without any data included, but a preloaded SIM is a simple way to get started. They’re also perfect if you urgently need mobile broadband service for a short period of time, such as when switching home broadband providers.
Can I get 4G on pay-as-you-go?
4G is available for PAYG users on all the major network operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. Your device will automatically use 4G when a signal is available.
Why are there deals for pay monthly SIMs?
Our comparison table above includes both PAYG and pay monthly SIM deals because we’ve found that many people who visit us looking for PAYG end up choosing a contract SIM instead.
Will I need to pay anything upfront with these SIMs?
There are no setup fees for PAYG SIMs without bundled hardware. For preloaded SIMs you will just need to pay the initial charge for the bundled data, and after that it can be topped up as and when you need more data.
PAYG SIM deals with hardware will have upfront fees because the hardware is not subsidised by a contract.
Will I need a credit check?
There is no credit check when buying PAYG SIM cards.
What should I look for in a PAYG iPad SIM package?
Preloaded data: If you’re buying a preloaded SIM for short term use and have no plans to top-up regularly after the bundle is used, make sure you choose an appropriate amount of data.
Top-up costs: Is the top-up good value? Could you save money with a different provider?
Credit and SIM expiry: Credit can expire if it’s not used within the time period set by the provider. The SIM card may also be deactivated if it’s not used regularly.
Roaming: Not every provider allows PAYG SIMs to be used overseas. If you’re planning on taking the iPad on holiday check before picking a deal to ensure your chosen provider allows roaming.
How much data do I need?
Web browsing and social media are light activities, but file downloads and media streaming can consume a lot more. Our guide to mobile broadband data usage has more information about how much data is used by different activities, and how to choose the right data limit.