iPad WiFi-Only or Cellular for International Travel ?

Discussion in 'iPad Tips, Help and Troubleshooting' started by PreYeah, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. PreYeah macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #1
    Hi, i wanted to ask if anyone here has had to internationally travel with their iPad and which was more convenient for your experience: a wifi-only or cellular model?

    I bought the iPad Air (32 GB, Space Gray, wifi only) in November 2013 to replace my 2008 MacBook Pro (which is on it's last leg) only cause of the Air's large screen and keyboard compared to those of the Mini. Although it's portable, I feel like it's really only portable enough to carry around my apartment. I've taken it on a few trips to San Jose and Houston (I live in Florida) and it fit nicely in my purse but now I'm starting to feel like it may be too big to constantly carry it around on vacations.

    Recently I got the craze to try out the iPad Mini with Retina which I bought (32 GB, White and Silver, wifi only) and I absolutely love it. It has a much nicer form factor and the screen feels softer to the touch than the iPad Air.

    My questions are:

    I want these iPads to last me for the next 5+ years and I know in this time, I would also like to travel internationally. Since I'm within my 14-day trial period, I'm considering trading the wifi-only Mini with Retina for a Mini Retina + Cellular so I have the option of being connected if I'm to travel internationally (using the foreign country's local carrier's nanoSIM cards). It's astounding how in this day and age, there still isn't a lot of free wifi in airports and hotels (A hotel in Hawaii offered wifi but for 30$ a day).

    If I was to get a cellular iPad Mini and travel internationally (in my case, outside the US), it would be cheaper to use the local carriers but would it be worth it or are data plans still expensive in continents like Europe and Asia compared to that of the US. Do most countries in these places offer LTE, and if not, are they up-to-date in selling nanoSIM cards so they fit in the latest iPad's sim-tray?

    Also, as far as using the latest cellular iPads within the US , I have heard that (for the most part) any US carrier's nanoSIM card will work regardless of buying the AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile model. Is this true? If getting a cellular iPad is a good idea and if I want to pay as I go and not subscribe to a monthly data service, which is the safer carrier to choose? Would a TMobile nanoSIM card work on an "AT&T model" iPad? I heard the AT&T iPad is more flexible.

    Thank you very much!

    PS- I know tethering an iPad to my phone (iPhone 4S) is another way to go but I get no reception on my phone when I'm outside the US since I use Virgin Mobile and it's not factory unlocked. I think it uses CDMA although there is a sim tray but I don't think putting another carrier (a US carrier or a non-US carrier)'s SIM card would work.
     
  2. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    Jul 17, 2008
  3. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #3
    Definitely go for the cellular model if you plan on traveling. The nice thing about it is unlike your phone (which is bound to support less LTE bands), the iPad is more likely to have LTE coverage in other countries.

    As long as your international carrier of choice offers at least the iPhone 5 or iPad mini (1st gen), then they're bound to have Nano-SIM cards. I went on vacation to the Philippines last Christmas and I was able to get a Nano-SIM card package for $8.75 and that includes $7.50 worth of credit. I added $17.50 more credit so I can sign up for the 30-day unlimited LTE feature package for $25. All our phones only worked on 3G over there and speed was just around 1-2Mbps so the iPad ended up being our wifi hotspot. I think I used around 30-40GB total on the iPad during that trip (peak speed 30Mbps, 10-15Mbps typical). Imagine how much the roaming charges would be like on AT&T and Verizon. :rolleyes:

    The iPad Air and rMini models used in the states across the 4 carriers are the same. However, some carriers have anal-retentive activation policies (Verizon and Sprint, to be specific). My suggestion is to get a "Verizon" iPad. They have the best LTE coverage among the 4 major carriers and it's far easier to drop in an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM on a "Verizon" iPad than it is to do the reverse. I think a good plan would be to get a "Verizon" iPad then get a T-Mobile SIM for $0-0.99 for 200MB free data. That way, you always have some internet on the iPad via T-Mobile and in areas with poor coverage, you could always switch to the Verizon SIM.
     
  4. PreYeah, Jun 19, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014

    PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #4
    Thank you for taking the time to reply and for your detailed repsonse, rui :) Most likely I will buy one Apple-refurbished, unfortunately it may mean a waiting game since they are currently only selling the AT&T models. If say I want to activate the Verizon SIM card, would I have to do it in the Apple Store? I hear some carrier-cards only activate if it's done at the Apple store.

    I will most likely go with the rMini in white and silver. Does anyone know if the white LTE plastic piece on the back get dirty and is prone to discoloring ? I did a Google search on this but didn't find any real answers. Thanks again!
     
  5. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #5
    Activation, that depends.

    If you get a "Verizon" iPad for use with Verizon SIM card, then you can activate in the comforts of your own home by going to Settings >> Cellular Data on the iPad.

    If you get an "AT&T", "T-Mobile" or "Sprint" iPad for use with Verizon SIM card, it gets a bit trickier. You'll need to call customer service or go to a Verizon store and ask if they'll activate the iPad or SIM card for you. You might need to call several times to get a more amenable customer service rep. Another option, if you have access to a "Verizon" iPad that takes Nano-SIM, you can also activate your brand new SIM card on the "Verizon" iPad and once it's activated, just move it over to your "AT&T", "T-Mobile" or "Sprint" iPad.

    AT&T and T-Mobile both embrace the GSM model so it's easy to swap between these two carriers. It's just Verizon and Sprint that are a pain (Sprint more so than Verizon).
     
  6. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2014
    Location:
    Portland / Seattle
    #6
    OP, I take my iPad Air or iPad 3 - both VZW LTE models - with me when I'm overseas and sometimes use data or just wifi. I do get local SIM cards (micro for the 3, nano for the Air which also fits my iPhone 5).

    Kudos to rui for his info, I'd like to add a few bits that are specific to VZW iPads only:
    • First, don't worry so much about LTE - most foreign carriers have pretty fast 3G.
    • Second, you won't have to deal with VZW at all if you don't want to as their iPads are carrier-unlocked AND you want to get PAYG SIM cards.
    • Third, you can get a temporary add-on to your VZW plan for international data, but it won't be cheap!!!
    • Fourth - and this is important - for PAYG SIM cards use the unlockit.co.nz website to configure the iPad's APN to the network you'll be using, remembering to use it again to configure its APN back to VZW when you return. I also use the site to configure my iPad or iPhone to ATTWS when I'm needing to use that network.
    Oh, and fifth - have fun!
     
  7. Yptcn macrumors 6502a

    Yptcn

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2012
    Location:
    Paris
    #7
    If you have to possibility to buy you iPad abroad it might make things easier.
    I live in France and bought my cellular mini here. When I went to NY , I just bought a sim card ( TMobile once and ATT the next time) popped it in and it worked . No free WiFi in the hotels there....

    On the other hand , when travelling in South America ( Bolivia & Peru ) and in India , I had free WiFi everywhere ;)
     
  8. GalFriday macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Location:
    Northeast US
    #8
    Good luck with that. Not that the devices themselves won't still be working 5+ years from now (although you'll probably have to pay for battery replacements at some point, depending on how heavy your usage is) but Apple support for devices and iOS versions is finite.There will be a point when you won't be able to update to the latest version of iOS and will find you can't install/upgrade certain apps because your device isn't running the latest iOS, so be aware of that. Electronic devices are not meant to last for over 5 years like you want. Sure the original iPad is still around and works, but it's slow, runs outdated software, and can't use many of the latest apps.
     
  9. rui no onna macrumors 601

    rui no onna

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2013
    #9
    This really is one of the more annoying issues with older devices. On the other hand, if you're already happy with the way your apps work and don't need to upgrade them and are not reliant on internet/streaming services which may require newer versions of apps to function, you should be fine. One thing I do though is to keep a backup of my old apps in iTunes in case I ever need to do a restore.

    Currently, the oldest iPad at home is iPad 3 64GB (~2 years old) which is kept at iOS 6.1.3 for performance. Right now, there is only one app I use that requires iOS 7 (Disney Movies Anywhere) and not being able to use that on the 3 isn't really that big a deal. Eventually, I expect support for iOS 6 to cease but it should still work just fine for watching DRM-free MP4 videos, reading DRM-free CBR/CBZ/PDF comics and reading DRM-free EPUB ebooks. :)
     
  10. YMark macrumors 6502a

    YMark

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    Nov 7, 2008
    Location:
    Arizona
    #10
    My wife and I just returned from France and Spain and traveled with her cellular iPad. It was invaluable for using Google Maps for driving and even walking and using subways.

    I think we paid 9 Euro for 1Gb of data in France and about the same in Spain. We used Orange in France and Vodafone in Spain. Piece of cake.
     
  11. PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #11
    Thanks for sharing, YMark. Did you find that in France / Spain, the wireless was not free ? (Assuming you had to stay in hotels). I may be doing a trip to Spain / Portugal very soon.
     
  12. YMark macrumors 6502a

    YMark

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2008
    Location:
    Arizona
    #12
    I stayed mostly in apartments and a B&B. They all had WiFi. I did stay in a hotel in Paris and they had free WiFi but it wasn't the greatest. There are many free hotspots in Paris / Barcelona.

    The huge advantage to cellular for me was the use of Google Maps. This allowed me to use the GPS of the iPad to not only have driving directions but walking and public transportation (subway) directions as well. I used it like this in NYC last year as well.
     

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