Do You Need a Data Plan for iPad Connectivity


iPads have come to define an entire market sector, with their sleek interfaces and robust designs. They are the very epitome of a portable, personal computer, but for a long time they were missing a key ingredient to make them a truly portable powerhouse—cellular data.

Fortunately, modern iPads are available with cellular data capabilities, allowing users to take their iPads away from the invisible tether of an available WiFi network, but you do need a data plan for iPad cellular connectivity.

Can WiFi Only iPads be Used on Cellular Networks

WiFi only iPads can not be used on a cellular network. This is not a software issue or some kind of feature lock by a service provider, but a physical limitation of the device itself.

To be able to access a cellular network, a device must have various components for that purpose, such as an antenna. It is therefore not possible to “convert” a WiFi only iPad into one that can connect to a cellular network without significant physical modification, something that would be economically impractical compared to just buying an iPad that is designed for cellular use.

Cellular Functionality Over WiFi

It is worth noting that the vast majority of the functionality one might use over a cellular network from their iPad can be accessed just as easily over a WiFi network, and without the added burden of a cellular data plan.

For that reason, it is worth considering the use-case for the iPad in question. If the iPad will not be taken out of range of an accessible WiFi network, it could be a much more financially viable option to take that route. There are also options for a WiFi only iPad that may be taken out of range of a WiFi network on rare occasions, such as tethered cellular phones, and cellular WiFi routers.

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ESIM or Phone Plan

When choosing your data plan for an iPad, there are typically two ways to go about it. One can choose a plan that is linked to a phone contract, or an ESIM plan that is just the SIM card for the iPad itself.

The advantage of having a SIM linked to your phone is that it often works out cheaper than having a SIM card for your phone and ESIM for your iPad separately.

Of course, if the phone is not needed, it would work out more expensive than just getting an ESIM by itself.

What is an ESIM

An ESIM is a chip inside your device that acts like a SIM card but that is for data use only, and cannot be used to make phone calls or send text messages through the traditional cellular network methods. This is typically not a problem for iPad owners, since they would not be very practical alternatives to cell phones, even if they could be used as one.

ESIM plans typically offer better deals on data, since that is the market they are chasing, and it will always be advisable to opt for an eSIM data plan for your iPad.

Of course, one natural limitation of an ESIM device is that the chip cannot be taken out of it in the way that a regular SIM card can.

Prepaid ESIM

Some service providers will allow prepaid ESIM plans, allowing the users to avoid the commitment of a lengthy contract. These plans allow the user to top up their balance as and when it is needed, with fixed upfront rates established, so you can easily work out how much you will need to spend once you have an idea how much data you will be using.

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While you do not necessarily need a data plan for iPad connectivity, it can often make life a lot easier. Being free of the invisible tether of a WiFi network means you can work anywhere where there is cellular service.

Additionally, with the increasing coverage, speeds, and bandwidth available from cellular providers, the advantages of being on a traditional WiFi/broadband network are dwindling by the year. It could soon become more practical to have a cellular data plan than a broadband or fiber plan for a majority of Internet users.


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