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iPad WiFi vs iPad Cellular: which one should you get?

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iPad WiFi vs iPad Cellular: which one should you get
With the release of every new iPad, like the latest iPad Pro duo that Apple announced earlier this month, millions of people are facing a dilemma: Should I get the WiFi-only iPad or the iPad with cellular?

If money is of no concern to you, then sure, get the one with LTE, even if you’re not planning to use it often. But for most people, the added cost of the cellular connectivity, which varies between $100 and $150 depending on the iPad model, is something that has to be thoroughly considered. For most use cases, it really is a waste of money.

So, that’s what we’re here to find out: is the WiFi-only iPad or the WiFi + Cellular iPad the right one for you.

*Apple is currently running a promo offer where you get $200 off on cellular models, effectively negating the price hike of a 5G iPad!

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

- buy cellular models for up to $200 off!

$799
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

- buy cellular models for up to $200 off!

$999
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2020)

Wi-Fi + Cellular - 256GB (Verizon) - Space Gray

$949 99
$1049 99
Buy at BestBuy

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2020)

Wi-Fi + Cellular - 256GB (Verizon) - Space Gray

$1149 99
$1249 99
Buy at BestBuy
And if you want to get a deeper discount, you may want to wait for Amazon to start its Prime Day deals in the summer.

Also read:

WiFi-only iPad for your home entertainment needs


These days, our electronic devices are almost useless without a connection to the internet. That’s why the distinction between the WiFi iPad and the cellular iPad is so important. With the WiFi one, your internet use is restricted to the places where you can get access to a WiFi network, obviously.

And, in the case of the iPad, that’s probably the majority of the time. Most people don’t carry their iPads with them all the time, they leave them at home so they can watch movies in bed or let the kids play their games or enjoy cartoons. 

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

If you’re a more advanced user, then you might have a keyboard case or even an Apple Pencil and bring your iPad to work or school. Chances are, those places have pretty reliable WiFi networks you have access to. Even if you’re traveling, these days you can get WiFi at the airport, on the plane, in your hotel, pretty much anywhere.

Using iPad with mobile hotspot


For the rare occasions that you need connectivity on your iPad, but no WiFi in range — you can very easily set your phone up as a mobile hotspot and have the iPad use your phone's LTE or 5G connection. If you own an iPhone, that's even easier — the iPad will actively notify you that the iPhone connection is available and, with a single tap, the hotspot will be activated and the two devices will be instantly connected. If you own an Android, you will need to activate your hotspot manually and set up a username and password to log in with. Still, not super-hard.

The downsides of using your phone as a cellular hotspot are two — for one, it eats a lot of battery. The phone is constantly relaying information between the iPad and the Internet, and being in the middleman position puts it in a situation where it needs to upload and download every bit of information twice over. Secondly — and this one is pretty obvious — it will eat up your data package, so use with care, use only when needed.

WiFi + Cellular iPad for the freedom and peace of mind


Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash

While WiFi coverage is abundant these days, relying only on it comes with some anxiety attached. Public WiFi is often over-loaded and overburdened, not to mention it's hardly safe. You most certainly will want to use a VPN for your coffeehouse or hotel WiFi usage. And don't even think about accessing any sensitive documents or data while on an unsecure network — either wait to get to a private WiFi or do it from your phone's cellular connection.

But, if you are constantly on the move, and an iPad is forever nested under your forearm, then you can consider this option — buying the iPad with LTE connectivity.

*Apple is currently running a promo offer where you get $200 off on cellular models, effectively negating the price hike of a 5G iPad!

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2021)

- buy cellular models for up to $200 off!

$799
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

- buy cellular models for up to $200 off!

$999
Buy at Apple

Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (2020)

Wi-Fi + Cellular - 256GB (Verizon) - Space Gray

$949 99
$1049 99
Buy at BestBuy

Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2020)

Wi-Fi + Cellular - 256GB (Verizon) - Space Gray

$1149 99
$1249 99
Buy at BestBuy

The reason we’re not recommending the cellular option to more people is that — unlike other choices like getting more storage, which is a one-time expense — this upgrade makes using your iPad more expensive. After all, the only thing you’re getting for your money is the opportunity to use LTE. If you want to actually use it, you have to pay for a data plan as well.

Photo by Buro Millennial from Pexels

Thankfully, carriers often provide tablet-specific plans that cost nowhere near the regular smartphone lines. And, having a separate plan for your iPad means you don't risk eating up your monthly data allowance by using your phone as a hotspot too much.

Does the WiFi iPad have GPS? Does the cellular iPad have GPS?


To underline the point that cellular iPad is made for those techies that are constantly on the move and always with a tablet by their side, the cellular iPad models have their own GPS antenna for precise navigation. Not that people generally use an iPad for that, but since it is assumed you will be on the road with this device a lot — of course a GPS feature is a given.

The WiFi iPads do have location positioning, but not a GPS antenna. Your regular iPad will use data provided by local public connections to get an idea of its general positioning — that's why you can still see its location in Find My. But it's location pinpointing is rough and it doesn't provide any directional data whatsoever. Thus, it can't be reliably used for navigation, even if you download a map and a route.

Conclusion


In short, if your iPad rarely leaves your home and / or office, if you don’t want to deal with carriers and extra data plans, get the WiFi-only iPad. And if there’s ever a dire need to have it connect to the internet with no wireless networks around, you can always use the hotspot feature of your phone.

But if your trusty iPad never leaves your side and you’re using it to answer emails, sync projects and presentations with the cloud, or do other important tasks no matter the location, then the cellular iPad is the one for you.

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