iPad - cellular or wifi only?

I have owned an iPad since they first came out and have always added the cellular option. Now, as I consider upgrading to a 2020 iPad Pro, I am considering going wifi only to save on the initial cost and on the ongoing cost of cellular. Has anyone else made the switch? What kinds of success and failures has anyone had with iPhone tethering? Many thanks.

It really depends on how much you use the iPad on cellular. I think only the first iPad I had was cellular, then all the others have been wifi. I didn’t use cellular that much. Using the iPhone as a hot spot has worked well for me.


I’ve only ever owned two iPads with the latest bought last year. I was so undecided whether to go with Cellular as my previous iPad Air 2 had been Wi-Fi only. I was intending to keep the new iPad for 5 years or so and wanted to future proof. I went for Cellular in the end, but for the past 12 months I have not used it once. I find myself using the iPad at home, in the office, on holiday and in coffee shops, and all of these have Wi-Fi. I select holiday accommodation with Wi-Fi. I always have my iPhone with me. I have tethered a couple of times when coffee shop Wi-Fi has been down. There has never been an occasion when I want to use my iPad when Wi-Fi is not available in just under a year.

Carefully think about what locations and contexts you will use the iPad in. I had buyers remorse for a few months afterwards. The cost saving of going Wi-Fi only would have paid for an Apple Pencil.


I have always purchased wifi only iPads until recently. I normally have access to trusted wifi most of the time, home, work (until I retired), family, church, etc. and when needed tethering to my iPhone worked almost flawlessly. I simply did not need the cellular option.

But I just purchased a new iPad Pro with cellular because I occasionally travel to an area where cell coverage is almost non-existent. Sometimes I can only get data for a few minutes in the middle of the night, and occasionally the only signal comes from across the border in another country. I plan to purchase some pre-paid sims from other carriers so I can (hopefully) use my iPad to communicate if my iPhone can’t get a signal.

If you are questioning your need to purchase the cellular option, IMO, you probably don’t need it.

Tethering is so good now that my wife and I have both gone the wifi only route these days.
I have a very big allowance on my phone and we both tether off that, including at coffee shops etc, even at work for me sometimes.

I’ve grown to appreciate having only one permanently connected device when out and about.

My wife appreciates fewer bills.

I don’t see myself ever going back to a WiFi only model, to be honest. And I don’t use cellular that often, but it’s still nice to have! Tethering for me is fine in a pinch, but built-in cellular is so much more handy and reliable (not to mention, not a drain on my phone’s battery).

For me, there is no ongoing cellular cost because I use the T-Mobile plan that lets me just buy chunks of data. So I don’t pay a monthly fee or anything.

Just recently my home internet was down for most of the day (thanks CenturyLink), but I was back up and operating with a simple toggle of the cellular radio. I wouldn’t go back to WiFi-only iPad.

Thanks for your comments. I have decided to give wifi only a try.

For me, having cellular when I need (mostly while travelling) it is absolutely wonderful and seamless. As far as ongoing cost goes, there is none. If I need cellular then I purchase a one-time plan that covers the duration of whatever trip I’ll be on. If you don’t rely on it during travel then… your mileage may vary :smiley:

I don’t know if its still the case, but at one time getting the cellular model was the only way to get GPS as well.

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On the iPad’s I bought so far I always went for WiFi and cellular. Have never used the cellular in all those years. My next one will definitely be WiFi only.

As @GraemeS mentioned, the tethering works well. I have always bought WiFi only iPads since I always have my phone with me anyway and tethering is automatic.

One other point to consider, though, is that the WiFi only iPads do not come with a GPS chip. So any offline navigation or other application that needs to know where your pad is will not work properly if there are no WiFi, Bluetooth, or other signatures around that it can grab.

I was the reverse - always going wi-fi only, and this last iPad Pro (2018) I went with cellular.

My logic was that with how much I was already spending on the thing, the extra bit for cellular wasn’t that big of a hit - and it would let me have a direct cellular connection. I can always just not pay my cellular bill and let it get disconnected if I don’t want it - but I can’t ever add cellular after the fact.

Of course I also bumped up the storage and such, so that made the amount higher - which made the extra for cellular not seem like quite as big of a hit comparatively. :slight_smile:

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I bought cell last time around. …so I’d have the option to use it if my circumstances changed. I am running WiFi only but am pleased at not being boxed in.

I moved recently. It took weeks for my cable connection to be installed. I would have chipped the tablet except neighbors let me piggyback off their WiFi.

My last two iPads pro have been Cellular equipped. I don’t need the option often, but it’s really useful when I do. I’m on Sky Mobile (UK) for my phone and iPad, so any unused credit goes in my Piggy Bank and can be assigned to any device I wish (including my Wife’s phone)

I’ve gone Cellular twice because I still can’t find an answer to whether a Wi Fi iPad is aware that when tethered it should suspend non essential downloads, e.g. Updates to IOS or whether it just sees it’s on Wi Fi and downloads anything it wants.

At least on a cellular iPad, I can manually decide what can use the cellular metered connection.

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When you will need the Cellular data on your iPad you will be glad you have it. I started with a cellular iPad with the original iPad Air. I’ll never not get the cellular version.

If I need occasional internet connectivity I can use the unlimited free WiFi hotspot tethering (up to 22Gb 4G, then unlimited 3G) that comes with my iPhone’s plan, meaning cheaper iPad, cheaper overall cellular costs. :+1: (Now that T-Mobile has purchased Sprint in the USA we’ll have to see what goodies they take away with reduced competition, though.)

I used to use that. It’s just so much easier having it built in. Plus free data for life with Tmobile made sense to me.

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I wish I’d gotten cellular for mine, but it’s marginal, possibly a grass-is-greener situation. I think I’d only need cellular if I had a job that involved the iPad and had a public performance element, like in a courtroom or a board room where you don’t want to have to fiddle with a workaround for data.

Our first iPad was the original and WiFi only. Worked fine but when we eventually got cellular versions it was so much nicer. Using a phone as a hotspot can work and is easier these days but much more convenient just use the built in connection.

Cellular, because when you leave it somewhere, you have no chance of finding it if it’s wifi only. This is how I lost my wifi only iPad mini - fortunately one I had been going to replace as it was too old for software updates. My first generation iPad had cellular but I only ever enabled it once, when my phone was stolen (and recovered!). In those days cell companies really gouged for adding another device to your plan. Nowadays I still object to $10 per month, I think it should be a one off fee, but having the device on its own cellular connection is worth it.

Do you have to pay a fee each month? The $10/month thing is something that I hear a lot about, but I’ve never had that be a thing for me. Admittedly, I don’t live in the USA, but I do live in Canada, which has the worst (in terms of price gouging and terrible, terrible carriers) cellular cellular service that I have ever heard of. Even here, I can buy the cellular version of the iPad and not sign up for any monthly service.