Second-guessing cellular vs. tethering on iPad

I have a new iPad Mini showing up today (256 GB, Purple, Purple Case, Pencil if you’re wondering). I got the Wi-Fi version, with the idea that I could always tether through a phone or something like that.

Now I’m second-guessing myself, and wondering if I should’ve gotten the cellular version.

Does anybody do significant amounts of tethering? What are the drawbacks of tethering (iPhone 11) vs. having cellular right on the device? And do you see those changing significantly in the next year or two?

When I bought my iPad mini 4 a few years ago I cheaped out and didn’t get cellular. That was a mistake. I found tethering to be a big PITA, to the point that I ended up giving up on using it as a grab and go out device, which had been one of my intended use cases. I’ve got a new mini arriving today and it most definitely has cellular.

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From the perspective of using one for work (client meetings, on-sites and such) it makes a significantly better impression to be able to just open the iPad and go. Even the few extra minutes it saves round up to enough extra 15 minute increments to pay for itself and the cell service in additional billables.

I know some lawyers here have written that cell service makes a huge difference to them when they have to walk into a courtroom or a conference and immediately perform.

Granted the mini may not be used for work as much as the pro models, but I could certainly see the ease being worth the additional money there as well.

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Yeah, this is all reinforcing my second-guessing. Thanks. :slight_smile:

And with my current carrier ($14/month for a phone with 1GB of data, which I never use all of) it would be $14 per month to add my iPad with 1GB of data - and that data pools with my primary line.

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I purchased cellular on my 2020 iPad Pro mainly for the GPS feature. I use that now but probably won’t use cellular until I start traveling again.

@Webwalrus it’s better to get a Cellular one and not enable it when you don’t need it. Like in situations where you find working from home for months, you can disable the plan. Enable when you really need it.

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I hate how much Apple charges for iPad cellular, and always have.

Even more now that it’s apparently $150 instead of $130 (for the 5G that you may or may not be able to use).

But I have also found that tethering either works fine, or doesn’t… and when it doesn’t, I’ve never been able to get it to work. And then when it works again, it works again.

My 12.9" iPad Pro has cellular because I want to be able to use it while “out and about” (back when that was a thing). My iPad mini does not because I intend to use it mostly at home.


Bought the original mini with cellular.

Used it for a while just to realize that I was not using it enough to justify the recurring cost.

That said, tethering has been working fine for me and I use it frequently with both my iPad Pro 2018 and MacBook Air (since M1 it’s been even faster and more reliable than with my previous 2015 MacBook).

Of course, having Cellular baked has intrinsically no flaws. And it is better to have it than not.

So the pro is one less Point of Failure to worry about (and you can still tether from your cell should your carrier be not working fine on iPad, just be sure not to use the same carrier for that);

The (only) con is an extra cost (both initially and recurring).

1GB? :flushed:

I find tethering quite easy and without drawbacks; if I try to do something online and am not wifi connected the iPad just asks me if I want to connect to the phone.

But I don’t tether a lot (3-4 times a month), usually am in a wifi environment

I had an iPad 4 w/ wifi. It was always a nuisance to get it to stay tethered in instances where there was no wifi or the network was unreliable. I now have an iPad Pro w/ cellular and while its not activated because I’m mostly from home, I’m comfortable with in the situation where I’d actually out and about I can add it to me plan for relatively cheap and know that its got a good connection if I have no WiFi.

To echo @tjluoma it sucks how much more expensive cellular models are.

Yeah. I’m super-light on data when I’m out doing things, because I developed my data habits back in the day on the non-unlimited carriers and then on Ting where everything was based on usage.

It’s almost unheard of for me to go over 1 GB - but if I do, it charges me $14 per gigabyte for overage. And in the rare situation where I went over, it would be work-related and therefore cost-justifiable.

If I find myself blowing the data cap away on a regular basis I could always just get the $45 unlimited plan too. But so far, no need. :slight_smile:

Yeah, especially this time around when it’s another $20 on top of the typical $130 extra.


I purchased my iPad Pro in 2019 with wifi and cellular, on the basis that I am going to be constantly out and about. There would be better convenience of having cellular, than tethering to my phone. I didn’t active the cellular, I figured I would enable/disable when needed. Well, the world changed since then. There was never a situation where cellular would have been more helpful to me than tethering for what I was doing. I don’t use wifi outside my house, I would rather just tether. I am already thinking of picking up an iPad Mini…and I might go back to doing wifi-only again. After learning my lesson with the iPad Pro (albeit circumstances were different), but I essentially paid an extra $200 for a feature that I “might use”, then if said feature is used, add the carrier price for having an extra line….

First Mini I owned was mobile enabled as I purchased it like I would a mobile phone - was free as part of the contract.

Second one I had, I didn’t bother.

Did I miss it the second time? Occasionally yes.

In my previous job, where they purchased me a Wi-Fi only standard iPad, they also purchased me a mobile 4G router which was my tethering, but it worked more reliably. These days, that would be sufficient I think, especially where a reasonable amount of travel I was doing recently was across sections of the UK with poor signal, so I’d be lucky to get a signal at all!

How often will you find yourself in situations without Wi-Fi @webwalrus? I haven’t used a cellular iPad in years and I’ve never had an issue with tethering. Then again, I use the iPad mostly at home with Wi-Fi and only need to tether occasionally. I can see the benefit of the cellular option if you take the mini out a lot - travel or work - but on the other hand in those contexts I don’t see why you couldn’t tether? When I’m out and about with an iPad I’m never without my phone.

I have had no problems with tethering. A few years ago I had a cellular iPad (don’t remember which generation). My most recent purchases, including current M1 12.9, have been wi-fi only. While I don’t rely on it too much (5-6 times/month for a couple of hours at a time), I have had very few issues. For my use, I don’t miss cellular option.

Many say cell is the only way to go. I don’t agree. At least my own experience has proven otherwise.

Don’t second guess the purchase! Enjoy your new iPad

I think it really depends so much on each person. I bought cellular on my first iPad, and almost never used it. The 5 since then have all been Wi-Fi.

I end up tethering, and for the most part it is fine. The times it isn’t are more from poor cell service (passenger driving through mountain roads). But I am in Wi-Fi range almost every time I want internet. If i travelled more for work I would buy cellular.

I think it depends on your circumstances. Prior to the recent unpleasantness we would often be on the road for 2-4 months at a time in our motorhome. Campground wifi is undependable at best. If not for the cellular connection in our iPads we would rarely have decent connections. Tethering can be a pain and we have limits on tethering data but not iPad cellular data. If we need tethering for our MacBooks we can tether to all 4 devices to get plenty of data.

I adore my $20/month unlimited 5G data. it is extremely convenient for me. if you think you need it now, don’t wait. you should have a device that does EVERYTHING you want.

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I absolutely love having cellular built into my iPad and won’t get one without it. It is so much easier than tethering to my cell phone. Also, it used to be true (probably still is?) that the cellular devices have GPS built in, which is huge for me.

But ultimately, it’s for ease of use. I use the T Mobile pre-pay plans and it works great.

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I have always used the principal that if it is a mobile device it should have cellular.

Only that way you can use it truly mobile. Connecting to hotspots is not always safe and they are often very slow or demand your data.

I have had cellular iPads right from the start.

Luckily unlimited data in the UK is quite affordable, and I have used it extensively. Tethering drains your phone battery. A pocket wifi or portable hotspot is definitely the preferred option.

As it is a new order, I would return and opt for a cellular one. You won’t regret it.