Most people use their tablets on their wi-fi at home or by connecting to free wi-fi when they’re out and about. But it’s not always enough, so a data SIM for your tablet or iPad can come in handy. There are plenty of tablet SIMs available, from budget options to those with tons of data.
The main difference between a tablet SIM and smartphone SIM is that a tablet SIM just offers data, with no calls or texts included. A tablet SIM needn’t break the bank – there are some extremely cheap ones around although your data allowance will be pretty small. At the other end of the scale, you can get up to 50GB a month with some networks. As yet, there is no unlimited data tablet plan available – but watch this space.
This deal from Three is as close as it gets to an unlimited data deal. It comes with a massive 40GB of data for just £22 a month. It includes Go Binge which lets you stream your favourite shows and music from the likes of Netflix and Deezer without using your data allowance. If two years is too long a commitment, you can get 40GB on a 12-month deal for £23 a month, or a one-month deal for £30 a month.
£22 is a decent monthly price but you’ll need to commit to two years to get it. You’ll also need to pass a credit check. The price includes a £5 monthly discount for paying by direct debit – so add on £60 a year to the price if you want to pay another way.
If you need a good chunk of data each month, but don’t want to commit to a lengthy contract, this deal from EE is worth a look. For £30 you get 30GB for 30 days. Simple. You can use the data in the EU plus five extra destinations. The same deal on a 12-month contract costs £29 a month, while a two-year deal is £28 a month.
Be aware that on every EE contract, the monthly price plan charge will be increased by the RPI in March of each year, although this does also apply to other mobile providers.
This is a great option if you’re just looking to fill in the gaps between wi-fi hotspots. For a tenner a month you can browse the web and check emails on your tablet on the go. If you run out of data, you can get a range of data bolt-ons, from £3 for an extra 300MB that lasts 24 hours, to £25 for an extra 10GB for one month.
This isn't the cheapest deal but as ever, you are paying for the convenience of a one-month offer.
Tesco Mobile offers two one-month, data-only SIM deals, of which this is the cheapest. It also offers a single 12-month option of 4GB for £15 per month if you are looking for a longer-term option. However, if you just want something to tide you over for a few weeks, this is ideal.
Tesco Mobile does extremely well when it comes to customer service – its team is UK-based and is open 365 days a year. Tesco Mobile uses the O2 network to carry its calls, ttexts and data, meaning you should have a good signal in most places across the UK. If you are looking to travel abroad, you can roam for free in the EU with Tesco Mobile.
Vodafone has a decent choice of data-only tablet SIMs, with deals offering 2GB to 50GB a month on either 12-month or 30-day contracts. This 5GB deal is a good mid-level option. All Vodafone’s 4G data SIMs come with Vodafone Global Roaming. This means you can use your UK data for free in 50 Roam-free destinations and for £6 a day in 60 Roam-further destinations. You’ll only be charged on the days you use your device.
Watch out for mid-contract price hikes. Each April your plan price will increase by an amount equal to the RPI rate published that year (calculated in March for consumers).
There are two ways to access the internet from a tablet or iPad. Wi-fi (at home or when you're out and about), or via a mobile phone network. All tablets offer wi-fi access, but not all offer 'cellular' access (ie 3G or 4G). Tablets that support both wi-fi and cellular data will have a slot for a SIM card.
As with smartphones, some tablets will be purchased locked to a particular network. This might be the case if you originally bought your tablet together with an airtime contract. You can normally pay for a tablet to be unlocked so you can use it with any SIM. If you bought your tablet outright, it will normally be unlocked and able to accept a SIM from any network.
Tablet SIMs work in a similar way to SIM-only mobile deals. The main difference is that they are data-only with zero calls or texts allowance. You’ll be able to choose from 30-day rolling contracts, 12-month contracts and 24-month contracts. In general, the longer you commit for, the cheaper your monthly fee for a set amount of data will be.
If you’ll mostly be using wi-fi, you might not need that much data. You can get dirt-cheap SIMs for tablets from £3 or £4 a month – although you won’t get much data for this amount of money, and it won’t be enough if you regularly stream music or video while you’re out and about. Heavier users should assess how much data they use each month and then look for an appropriate SIM.
The majority of tablet SIMs work on the 4G network now. The 4G network is about five times faster than 3G. Before you sign up with a network, check the 3G and 4G coverage in your area. EE has the widest 4G coverage in the UK but the other networks aren’t far behind.
SIM cards come in three sizes: standard (or regular), micro, and nano. You need to get the right size SIM for your tablet, otherwise it won’t work. The packaging should say which SIM you need – or you can look it up online. Fortunately, most mobile networks offer multi-sims – these are standard SIMs that can be broken down into micro or nano SIMs.
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