Apple iPad 3G data plans compared

While the iPad is great on wi-fi only, 3G data access gives it a new dimension. No longer restricted to short-range wi-fi hotspots, it means you can access the web and use web-connected apps wherever a mobile signal is available. Here we compare 3G data plan prices from O2, Orange, 3, Vodafone and T-Mobile.

Tablet buyers’ guide – read our in-depth guide to buying a tablet

iPad 2 3G data plans – SIM-only or contract?

First you’ll need to decide whether to get a SIM-only deal or buy a 3G iPad on contract. The iPad uses its own kind of SIM, known as a Micro-SIM, that’s not compatible with normal size SIM cards. This means you can’t use an existing SIM in your iPad.

SIM-only 3G data plans come in either rolling contract or pay-as-you-go flavours, which means it’s easy to cancel at short notice and switch to a different network. This is particularly useful if you find your chosen network has a poor signal in your area. The downside is you’ll have to buy the iPad upfront.

Contract 3G data plans work just like mobile phone contracts. You sign-up to a contract with a provider that subsidises the cost of the iPad itself. This is a useful way to spread the cost, but it means you’re locked-in for up to two years and the total cost is generally more than if you buy an iPad outright and have a SIM-only rolling contract.

iPad 2 3G data plans – SIM-only deals

3 offers rolling contract and pay-as-you-go SIM-only deals. They’re arguably the best value SIM-only deals available, particularly if you’re a heavy data user. 10GB of data can cost as little as £15; some networks charge that much for just 1GB.

Contract Option 1: 1GB of data for £7.50 per month
Contract Option 2: 10 GB of data for £15 per month
PAYG Option 1:  1GB of data for 30 days fir £10.49
PAYG Option 2: 3GB of data for 3 months for £20.49


O2 
offers two rolling contract options and a daily pay-as-you-go option. Its plans include unlimited wi-fi through the BT Openzone and The Cloud public wi-fi hotspots. This means you can use wi-fi instead of using your 3G data allowance where available.

Contract Option 1: 1GB + unlimited wi-fi for £10.21 per month
Contract Option 2: 2GB + unlimited wi-fi for £15.32 per month
PAYG Option: 200MB + unlimited wi-fi for £2.04 per day

 

Vodafone doesn’t offer pay-as-you-go options, but it was two different rolling contract options. One includes access to BT Openzone wi-fi, but not The Cloud as well, like O2.

Contract Option 1: 500MB of data for £7.50 per month
Contract Option 2: 2GB of data + 1GB BT Openzone wi-fi for £15pm

 

 

Orange has a wide range of options, including a plan that charges 5.1p per MB capped at £40 per month. There’s also a choice of two monthly plans, and two different pay-as-you-go plans. If you’re after a network that offers flexibility in its plans, Orange is probably your best bet.

Contract Option 1: 3GB and unlimited BT Openzone wi-fi for £15pm
Contract Option 2: 10GB and unlimited BT Openzone wi-fi for £25pm
PAYG Option 1: 200MB per day for £2
PAYG Option 2: 1GB valid for 7 days at £7.50 a go

 

T-Mobile has two pay-as-you-go offers and one rolling month contract. With the rolling contract, even if you go over your data limit, you will be able to continue to email and browse the web for no extra cost.

Contract Option: 5GB of data for £15 per month
PAYG Option 1: 250MB per day for £2
PAYG Option 2: 500MB per day for £7

 

Apple iPad 2 3G data plans – contract offers

All network contracts for the iPad 2 last 24 months, meaning you’re committed for the full-length of the contract to pay the monthly rate. Cancelling the contract early will incur a penalty. Below we’ve listed the deals available for each version of the iPad below – although all but Orange are now only offering deals on the 16GB version.

O2 does not offer the iPad to buy on contract.

Vodafone’s contract costs £27 per month for 2GB of data and 1GB of BT Openzone wi-fi at a cost of £648 over two years. One-off costs are listed below:

iPad 2 3G 16GB: £139 one-off cost + £648 contract cost = £787 total

3 continues its dominance with its iPad 2 3G contract plans. £25 per month gets you a massive 15GB of data. No wi-fi allowance is included, but with that much 3G data you won’t need it. 24 months at £25 will cost you  £600 overall.

iPad 2 3G 16GB: £69 one-off cost + £600 contract cost = £669 total

Orange also charges £25 per month on its iPad contract, but the data allowance isn’t as generous as 3. Like the SIM-only offer you get 1GB of anytime data, 1GB of ‘quiet time’ data (12am – 4pm) and unlimited BT Openzone wi-fi. Orange also offers a £30 one-off discount for existing customers. While Orange still offers three versions of the iPad 2 on its website, only the 16GB version has received a discount since the launch of the new iPad.

iPad 2 3G 16GB: £169 one-off cost + £600 contract cost = £769 total
iPad 2 3G 32GB: 
£279 one-off cost + £600 contract cost = £879 total
iPad 2 3G 64GB: 
£379 one-off cost + £600 contract cost = £979 total

 

T-Mobile offers the same basic deals as Orange, including an identical data allowance, but no wi-fi is included.

iPad 2 3G 16GB: £169 one-off cost + £600 contract cost = £769 total

 

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19 replies

    1. I strongly would advise not using Giff Gaff as they experience too many technical problems and you have little if any assistance so generally a poor service throughout. Cheapest is not always best with these guys!

  1. I think you’ve made a calculation error in the 3, Orange and T-Mobile packages for the 32Gb units on a contract. A one off cost of £279 plus £600 contract payments should be £879 not £979. Or have I missed something?

  2. Will using my home wifi eat into my data allowance if I chose the 24 month contract on the 3 network? Or is wifi a totally separate thing from the data allowance? I don’t understand how they can limit my usage if I already pay for broadband in my home.

    Any help will be grateful

    Thanks

  3. Vodafone are offering I pad 2 on a 24 month contract for £32 a month with 3 gb .
    Is this a good deal ? If I connect to wifi at home will this eat into my 3gb ?
    Im not very tech savvy any help would be great

  4. Hi I’m new to iPad 3G thingy but I’ve Ben using it on wifi my problem is I top up £10 on it but it won’t let me get through the Internet but I can see that there is 3G sign on it… I tried to check on general setting on mobile data sim application and that it says your current balance it £10, and there is no current allowance left WTH I can’t understand!

  5. Can I use the iCloud public wifi networks or bt open zone without a network provider such as 02 or do I need a provider as a means to enter these free wifi networks on my ipad2

  6. Hi I am new to all of this!!
    Just decided to cancle all of my Sky plus/broadband packages.
    No internet at home!
    I am an O2 pay monthly (IPhone 4) contract user. Is it worth my while getting an Ipad?? I do not have wifi at home so which would be the best (cheapest) deal for me???
    Thanks :-)

  7. I was very happy when I first had the new iPad on my hands. I didn’t notice this at first, but when I took the tablet to my backyard, and my iPhone was able to pick up my router signal without a hassle, and the iPad didn’t found the network at all, this issue became a nightmare to me. A friend suggested to try the “Forget This Network” reset method, which used to work on the older models, but this didn’t improve the wifi range at all. Right when I lost all hope, I came across WIRED magazine and found a review of Pong Research cases, after looking at the great feedback on their products, I decided to place my order, to finally fix the new iPad 3 poor wifi. The back cover has a built-in antennae in between it’s layers, which redirects and boosts the signals and range, allowing me to getting connected from the distance!

  8. I am about to buy an iPad. I expect to mainly use Wi-Fi connections but plan to go for a 3g Pay as you Go option for the times when this is not possible.
    However I will occasionally wish to access the internet when overseas and know that Wi-Fi will not be available in some of these locations, eg a remote rural spot in the Greek Islands (as well as some travel further afield). Any recommendations on the best deal to cover such travel?

  9. A little TIP for everyone I don’t know if it’s mentioned but most smart phones ( HTC for fact) have portable HOT SPOT FEATURES turning your phone into a secure wireless router. If you get a unlimited usage contract with the 3 network then this becomes the cheapest way to get unlimited downloads on your wi-fi enabled device. It’s not as fast as a direct link but there’s no problem with it.
    I say with 3 network because unlike most contract suppliers ( O2, orange & T-Mobile ) they do mean unlimited where as some of the others actually consider 1gb of data unlimited but it’s not.
    Hope this helps.

  10. Be aware of EE , signed for brodband package. Because of strong signal on mobiles in house.
    Could not connect me because of fault in BT copper wire to house (they still have a stranglehold on lines in rural areas) Having transferred my telephone number to them from Direct Save Telecom with a MAC code (DST having had the same problem with their line because of the same fault they could or would not fix). EE then took six weeks trying to solve the problem. Sent me all round the world i.e.Delhi, Mumbai, Manilla, Wales, Scotland and Yorks. Manchester Ayreshire etc etc absolute nightmare. Blocked all lines lost me my House number had for 30 years then locked my iphone and ipad demanding more money making me pay further £60 to speak to them through premium rate numbers via a 3 contract I have. Have now sold my last bill to CAPQUEST who are demanding more money to avoid CCJ’s and bailiffs calling. I am 81 and it has resulted in my wife divorcing me after 52 years. Can anyone help? Suicidal.

  11. Apropos my last entry.All the horror stories on the internet regarding CapQuest are very misleading.This company changed hands last October with a mission to change the nature and reputation of debt collection in u.k.
    Unfortunately they have an insuperable amount of baggage to overcome, this is not helped by their initial approach letter obviouslly used historically.
    Helen Ashton who is the new CEO appears to be sincere, I rang their helpline no.08442 487 651.Since I am already in dispute over the so called debt and reported the facts to CISAS they promised to return the debt back to T-Mobile and EE.To sort it out. Appeared very professional.The advice I have read the last two days is totally wrong! and would lead you into morass ten times worse than you are in already.

  12. Just been offered a deal by Orange for a free ipad 3G, contract 24 months for £26 per month. All this is new to me so can you advise if this is a good deal?? Looking to replace the phone contract I have already that is Sim only costing about £20 per month.

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