Compare tablet and data SIM-only deals
Compare the latest tablet SIM-only deals, plans and tariffs from the leading mobile providers. Our comparison includes prices, contracts, data, and much more.
How to compare and buy SIM-only tablet deals
How do I compare different packages?
If you want to get online with your tablet away from home without hunting around for a wi-fi hotspot, you’ll need a mobile broadband SIM. Our comparison table above helps you easily compare the options based on data allowance, contract length and all-important price.
Your preferred providers will be those that offer strong 3G or 4G signal in your area. If you don’t check this important issue before you sign up, you could find yourself with poor or even no signal and unable to get online. This is especially true of 4G, which is less widely available than the older, more established 3G networks.
It’s easy to check availability since the providers have a postcode checker tool on their websites, where you can enter your postcode and see the level of mobile broadband coverage in your area. We have a guide which enable you to check 4G coverage.
Check the details
In addition to coverage, there are a few other details to look out for in the small print before committing to a contract. First, you’ll need to check that your tablet is SIM-card compatible as not all of them are. iPads for example, are available in two versions – Wi-Fi + Cellular or just Wi-Fi – and only the former will accept mobile broadband SIMs.
When you’ve found a plan you like, look out for charges or penalties if you exceed the data allowance, and whether you’ll be alerted when you’re nearing the limit or automatically incur extra charges. If you’re signing up for a long-term plan it’s also worth checking what the exit terms are if you want to leave before the end of the deal.
Why choose a SIM-only deal?
If you bought a tablet outright rather than in a package from a mobile provider, you’ll need a separate SIM card to get yourself online on the move. Here’s a round-up of the perks SIM-only deals for tablets can offer you.
The flexibility to get online without Wi-Fi
Without a dedicated mobile broadband SIM, your internet options are limited to either connecting to your home wi-fi or checking into a public wi-fi hotspot. This is convenient sometimes, but if you want more flexibility, a 3G or 4G SIM card will allow you to get online wherever you’ve got coverage.
To suit a range of budgets
Whether you’ve got £5 or £50 to spare each month, there’s a mobile broadband SIM to fit your budget. There are pay monthly plans where you’ll need a credit check and have to commit to a monthly direct debit, or pay-as-you-go SIMs that are available to everyone since no credit check is required. You’ll generally find that 4G SIM-only deals are more expensive since they deliver a faster service, so if budget is a primary concern, you’ll get more data for your money with a 3G SIM plan, as well as more coverage.
With a choice of contract lengths
Don’t fancy committing to a long contract of 12 months or more? No problem. SIM deals for tablets are available on one-month rolling contracts as well. You’ll notice that rates are a little higher for comparable deals on longer plans, but the flexibility is often a bonus worth paying extra for.
Pros & cons
- SIMs provide flexible mobile broadband
- Choice of short- and long-term contracts
- They suit a range of budgets
- Some providers prohibit tethering
- Not all deals are compatible with all tablets
- Limited availability for 4G
Which package is right for me?
SIM-only deals for tablets are pretty simple, since you’ll just need to look at data allowance rather than factor in calls and minutes like a regular phone SIM. Here’s what you need to consider when comparing the deals above.
Choose between 3G and 4G
Availability might make this decision for you, but if you’re lucky enough to have both 3G and 4G in your area, you’ll need to decide between them. The big difference is speed. According to Ofcom, 4G is up to five times faster than 3G, which means faster page loading and a more seamless online experience for streaming songs and videos. It’s a superior service so you should generally expect to pay more (but not always) and also be aware that the faster speed could lead you to eat through your data allowance at a faster rate.
It’s worth checking which providers offer the best coverage in your area so you know which ones are worth pursuing. As the original 4G provider, EE offers the widest coverage in the country and its 3G coverage is even more extensive. Three, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, O2, Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff also offer 4G.
Consider how much data you need
Tablet SIM-only deals have a wide range of data allowances, so there’s an option for every level of user. Consider how often you’ll be accessing the internet and for what kind of activity, and pick a plan to match. Don’t worry if you’re not completely sure, just opt for a one-month contract and you can easily switch plans if you find it’s too much or not enough data.
And what size SIM card your tablet takes
Different tablets take different SIM cards. There’s three sizes – standard, micro and nano – so you’ll need to check which one you need before you sign up. This info can usually be found in the paperwork provided with your device. If you see any deals with combi SIM, this simply refers to a two-in-one standard and micro SIM.
What will I need?
Unlocked tablet that accepts SIM cards
As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll need to ensure that your tablet is SIM-card compatible before signing up to a deal. If it is and has been used on a different network previously, you’ll also need to check whether it is unlocked and able to accept a SIM from a different provider. If is locked, you’ll need to investigate how to unlock it online as there’s different methods for different models.
Reasonable credit history and bank account
The best SIM-only deals run on contracts rather than pay-as-you-go, as you’ll get more data for your money. You’ll need to undergo a credit check and commit to paying by direct debit to get a contract however, so be sure your finances are in order before applying.
Six essential questions before you buy
- Is my tablet SIM-card compatible and unlocked?
- Which providers offer the best coverage in my area?
- Do I want a 3G or 4G plan?
- How much data do I need for my planned usage?
- Do I want a short- or long-term contract, or pay-as-you-go?
- Do I understand the small print and any potential extra costs?
Doing a quick postcode check with the main providers is the best place to start, as it’ll narrow down your options to those offering strong 3G or 4G signal in your area. Once you’ve decided on your budget, ideal data allowance and preferred contract length, you can easily find a SIM plan to suit your needs.