New 11 with LTE or 12.9 WiFi Only

So, I’ve been contemplating the size of things with these new iPads. While the new 11" seems familiar and comfortable, the new 12.9" seems to be more manageable than before. I already have convinced myself that 256G is right for storage, but I have always struggled with paying extra for the LTE models. I am usually around WiFi or my iPhone, so every iPad we have had has been WiFi only. However, with recent travel and voices from podcasts in my ears, the LTE may come in handy.

Any thoughts you all can share on either the 11" with LTE or the 12.9" with WiFi only would be appreciated. And, while it would seem obvious to just add the LTE to the 12.9", it is a budget thing, and with the extra costs of the pencil and folio, we are slightly over on the budget. So, sticking with one or the other is the path for now. Thank you in advance for your thoughts and insights.

We discussed this recently. If you’ve got an iPhone it’s a simple matter to use it as a hotspot for the iPad. I wouldn’t pay the premium for cellular myself.

Yes. This was part of my challenge…:). I always thought WiFi was good enough, but with Katie mentioning she would have went to the Celluar version, the wheels began turning…so, @bowline, it looks like you would vote for the 12.9”? Thank you.

Let’s see if I can succinctly say my position on this. I don’t anticipate ever buying an iPad without cellular ever again. I went back and forth for a while but my current iPad has cellular. Absolutely amazing.

Yes, you can tether to a phone. It’s not as easy…period. There is something almost magical about just hopping on cellular on my iPad whenever I need it. I’m in the US and use T-Mobile on my iPad (I buy data packs as needed) and Verizon on my phone, just for reference.

I don’t mean to say those who favor tethering are wrong. Whatever works for them. I just know that for me and a nominal price increase, a cellular iPad is a game changer.


I spent some time yesterday playing with both models at my local Apple Store, and left slightly flummoxed, to tell you the truth. Given the way I previously used my iPad3 and my iPad Mini2, the 11" model would seemingly work best for the kinds of one-handed media consumption for which I was using those units. The 12.9" model is better for multitasking productivity because it can give you groups of split-screen full-sized windowed apps (plus Slide Over, plus Picture In Picture).

I’m not sure which to choose because I get along fine with my 27" iMac for heavy-duty work, and because some of the things I’d like to do on an iPad aren’t quite there for me, but might be corrected next year with iOS 13. So I’m trying to decide whether I go for the 11" or the promise inherent in the 12.9".

1 Like

Thank you @HobbyCollector. That’s one for the 11”.

I haven’t has the 11 or 10.5 before, I got the original 12.9 and upgraded it to the new one now.

The new form factor is awesome, and I love the screen size.

If you feel that the 12.9 would be the best screen size for you, then what I’d weigh it against is the convenience of LTE (fairly low if you typically have Wi-Fi or your iPhone near), but also the added “security” of locating the iPad via its LTE.

I’ve been buying iPads since the very first model and the only time I’ve bought one without cellular I regretted it. It was an iPad mini that I bought as a second iPad that I could more easily take out and about than my 12.9". Since it was a secondary device I didn’t want to pay the additional upfront cost of cellular or the monthly bill. I figured I could tether to my iPhone and get by OK. I was wrong about that. The lack of data connectivity has been a real impediment. Tethering is a pain and it never seems to get set up quickly when I want to use it. It just adds a bit of extra friction anytime I want to do something with that iPad. Between that friction and some other changes in my life I almost never take that iPad out and about the way I’d intended. Instead, it’s gotten demoted to a casual around the house machine (which is not something I would have shelled out the money for if I’d known that’s how I’d use it).

As far as 11" vs 12.9", it’s really an individual decision that depends on you and how you’re going to be using it. Will it always be on a desk or hand-held in tablet mode? Will you be doing a lot of multitasking, or mostly single applications? Will you be using apps that really benefit from the larger screen size (drawing, photo and video editing, etc.)?

One thing I would encourage you is not to make a decision on either the screen size or LTE to hit an arbitrary cost threshold. With the Pencil and Smart Keyboard, we’re talking about a roughly $1500 device here. Compromising its usefulness to save 10%-15% of that would be penny wise and pound foolish. If you decide that the 12.9" with LTE would be the best configuration for you, that’s what you should get, even if that requires waiting to save up for it.


Thank you @ChrisUpchurch. While I currently use my iPad for reading, playing games, and small productivity things, such as taking notes in meetings, and viewing PowerPoints and Word documents, I do think I can do more.

I would use either one really. It is just a matter of what would be done based on the size. However, we do not wish to spend more on an iPad option. The budget is not necessarily arbitrary. If we move too far above the $1500 threshold, a smaller laptop would actually be a better choice as there would still be some things that even the larger iPad would not accomplish. The laptop, however, would not offer the same portability and functionality as the iPad, especially on the touchscreen side. With my iPad Air getting a little long in the tooth, I can increase efficiencies with the bigger iPad, but would not lose much with the smaller one. I would just be going back to the laptop just as I do now.

Looks like a little more pondering is needed on my end on the size. I’ve spent some quality time in a couple of Apple stores comparing the two, so it may be just a wait and see until I can decide…:). Thank you.

I rely on tethering when free WiFi isn’t available and I agree it can be a PITA. For whatever reason it can take a couple of tries to connect and on rare occasions a restart is needed to get it working. I only need it 2-3 times a week and I’m happy to keep the money from a LTE model + monthly cost for other spending. However there are LTE plans that don’t include tethering so you should be sure that the plan you are on allows it without having to pay extra.

My other thought is the 11” sounds like it would be fine for you. And I find them much more portable (though I always get envy when I see people using the large one!).

From what you described 11” with LTE would be the safest choice within your budget constraints. That way you can activate LTE if you decide you need to use it.

1 Like

I always buy cellular.

Firstly, I have the good fortune of having gotten ATT’s original 29.99/month unlimited data plan, which I have moved from iPad to iPad with each upgrade, so I always want to keep that plan in place. Because I have that plan, it is far more economical for me to use my iPad for virtually all data-intensive operations while away from WiFi rather than tethering to my iPhone, which is on a cheaper data-limited plan (since I have the unlimited data on the iPad).

Secondly, the iPad is our primary tool for navigation on road trips, using Apple Maps, and for entertainment to stream a movie, read, or watch videos for work, and the hotel WiFi is often worse than the cellular service.

Finally, NOT having cellular means you cannot add it later without buying a whole new iPad, while having cellular means you can cancel service and re-add it as needed if you only need it when traveling, for example.

For me, it’s worthwhile to have the cellular and I just have to build that into the cost of the purchase.

I realize that budget constrains matter, but I would note that if you are keeping your iPad for 2-3 years, and you spend about $150 or so to add cellular, then you need to amortize that cost over the useful life of the iPad.

For me, I would prefer to hold off on the Apple Pencil and add cellular if the budget would not allow an immediate purchase, and buy the size I needed for maximum productivity. If the smaller iPad will negatively impact your productivity compared to the larger size, and the lack of cellular will negatively impact productivity compared to having it, then in the long run the better economic decision is to get the features you need to maximum productivity and and avoid the lost opportunity cost of not getting them.

1 Like

Thank you @nlippman. The opportunity cost and a sacrifice of another item makes sense. The pencil sacrifice may end up being the outcome. I’ll be stopping by the Apple store tomorrow to see what they have available.

I’m gonna play devil’s advocate and say it’s perfecrly possible to get along without cellular option (onboard anyway) and none of the iPads that I’ve owned (going back to iPad gen 1) have had it.

While I understand the case for having one less point of friction when working away from home and the convenience that having cellular onboard, I’ve personally gotten along fine with either public WiFi or using my iPhone as a hotspot.

My primary reasoning has been cost, not just upfront cost on the device but ongoing monthly cost of the additional data plan. And yes, I’m aware that I can then use my iPad as a cellular hotspot for my other devices as well, but it’s easier to carry the smaller iPhone around to act as a hotspot for all my other stuff.

1 Like

I’ve preferred bringing a MiFi portable hot spot along when I’m traveling.

1 Like

Why does everyone assume there has to be a monthly cost to use cellular? At least in the US, this doesn’t have to be the case. Of course, the iPad is still more expensive, that’s true!

I’ve had an iPad 2,4, Air 1, 12.9 (Rev a) and currently 10.5 and NONE have had cellular. I’ve tethered to my phone and it’s relatively painless. I will say I’m tempted by the cellular versions. Personally if it’s a deal breaker I’d not get the LTE and get the bigger screen size. I also like the idea posted above about forgoing the Apple Pencil for a while and instead opting for the LTE.

How do you get cellular data for free? This is something I’ve never seen, aside from those deals where you get a few hundred MB a month for free (and I’ll be holding onto that SIM from T-Mobile in the US and another from Three in the UK until that deal is completely dead!). Perhaps there’s a trick we’re not aware of :slight_smile:

I find no celular fine. I had it in two previous iPads and hardly used it.

However, the only time I would use it, in the train going to work, there is no mobile signal so it would be a waste of time for me. The rest of the time I’m on a university campus with WiFi everywhere or at home or visiting places that typically have WiFi.

I use the tether once or twice a year, I can’t even remember the last time I needed it. I’ve been lucky I guess because when I’ve needed it it has always connected first time.

The cellular models have GPS receivers. That alone is worth the extra cost (to me).


I’ve actually used this! Last time I was in Japan, I opened Google Maps on my iPad and downloaded the map data while I was at the hotel lobby wifi. When I left the hotel lobby, I was able to track where I needed to go with Google Maps and no cellular SIM installed.

1 Like