Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

jdw13

macrumors regular
Original poster
Oct 2, 2015
128
19
Boston, Maine, Chile
I've been using WiFi-only iPad for a few years and make/receive phone calls over WiFi and understand that you can do this with the cell models too. My question is what is source of the data-only restriction on the iPads is cell data capability? Is it marketing decision from Apple, a restriction from cell providers, or some other consideration? It may seem naive of me, but I cannot find a discussion of the reasoning of this restriction anywhere online. I must not be looking in the right places, or asking the right questions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: boston04and07

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 601
Sep 8, 2011
4,161
1,236
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
I've been using WiFi-only iPad for a few years and make/receive phone calls over WiFi and understand that you can do this with the cell models too. My question is what is source of the data-only restriction on the iPads is cell data capability? Is it marketing decision from Apple, a restriction from cell providers, or some other consideration? It may seem naive of me, but I cannot find a discussion of the reasoning of this restriction anywhere online. I must not be looking in the right places, or asking the right questions.
You can use Wi-Fi Calling, but the plan has to be set up on an iPhone. I don’t have a cellular iPad but my “guess” is that it does require Wi-Fi, won’t work using mobile data.

You can also use SMS/MMS messaging but it’s forwarded from your iPhone; the phone doesn’t need to be nearby but it does need to have cellular service.

As far as “why” you can’t do this without an iPhone… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m sure there’s some reason, but Apple hasn’t shared it.
 

jdw13

macrumors regular
Original poster
Oct 2, 2015
128
19
Boston, Maine, Chile
Thanks, I'm pretty sure I understand what you can do, and how you can make WiFi "data" calls.
I do tether my iPhone to my Macs and my iPad.
Seems to me that iPad hardware should be capable of making the same cell phone calls as iPhone, and privacy is not a problem when you use a headset. (Recall iPhone has speaker option, too.)

Why does the software prevent using the iPad as a cell phone?

My guess would be it is mostly a marketing decision, as FCC licensing would seem possible with sufficient effort on Apple's part. (iPad can be considered to be positioned between a laptop and cell phone.) Just wonder if there is any other logic to this restriction, or if FreakinEurekan has the answer with "Apple hasn't shared it."

For me, I would prefer an iPad with GPS chip and full cell phone functionality over having both iPad and cell phone. Perhaps I am in minority, and the size of the iPad is an issue for most people.
 

rui no onna

Contributor
Oct 25, 2013
13,727
11,414
Is it marketing decision from Apple, a restriction from cell providers, or some other consideration? It may seem naive of me, but I cannot find a discussion of the reasoning of this restriction anywhere online. I must not be looking in the right places, or asking the right questions.

Quite likely a result of negotiations between Apple and US carriers so Apple can offer relatively affordable iPad-only data plans.

Also, the iPhone is Apple’s cash cow so they probably don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize that revenue stream.

In SE Asia, I’ve seen Asus tablets and USB 3G modems (with software for PC) that can be used to make/receive cellphone calls so definitely not a technical limitation.
 

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 601
Sep 8, 2011
4,161
1,236
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
I’d like to not carry my phone OR an iPad with me… I do use my iPad (mini 6 most of the time; 12.9” Pro with Magic Keyboard when I’m typing anything much longer than this post) FAR more often than I use my phone itself. The one thing that always gets me grabbing the phone, though, is taking pictures. The 12.9 has a decent camera but it is a bit huge 😉

My cellular Apple Watch would be a decent always-on-me replacement for the iPhone if it did two things:
  • Link to my MFi hearing aids for phone calls & media streaming
  • Link to my car for Wireless CarPlay
And of course the primary reason it doesn’t do either of those, I’m sure, is battery limitation. So if battery tech improvs to the point that I could do several hours of streaming/CarPlay with nightly charging… I’d be happy! Then improve the camera on the iPad mini and maybe, I can eliminate the phone. Wishful thinking.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigMcGuire

JMStearnsX2

macrumors 6502
Jun 14, 2020
282
491
I have a friend that does this, he uses his cellular iPad mini for calls and texts using a 3rd party voip app. He has a number that rings both his home voip phone and his iPad mini, so he can answer from wherever. The only drawback he has is, that he needs to wear his headset to talk on the iPad "phone" unless he wants it on speaker, since the iPad doesn't have an earpiece.
 

Spaceboi Scaphandre

macrumors 65816
Jun 8, 2022
1,104
2,986
I've been using WiFi-only iPad for a few years and make/receive phone calls over WiFi and understand that you can do this with the cell models too. My question is what is source of the data-only restriction on the iPads is cell data capability? Is it marketing decision from Apple, a restriction from cell providers, or some other consideration? It may seem naive of me, but I cannot find a discussion of the reasoning of this restriction anywhere online. I must not be looking in the right places, or asking the right questions.

Because Apple doesn't let you use one as a phone for some contrived reason. Plain and simple

 

Ludatyk

macrumors 601
May 27, 2012
4,392
3,145
Texas
Why does the software prevent using the iPad as a cell phone?

My guess would be it is mostly a marketing decision, as FCC licensing would seem possible with sufficient effort on Apple's part. (iPad can be considered to be positioned between a laptop and cell phone.) Just wonder if there is any other logic to this restriction, or if FreakinEurekan has the answer with "Apple hasn't shared it."
Its as what @rui no onna mention
Quite likely a result of negotiations between Apple and US carriers so Apple can offer relatively affordable iPad-only data plans.
And you have to take into account… traditionally phones has been the defacto use for communication, tablets are used primarily for consumption. I think its a matter of the roles that society has given both the phone and tablet that has dictated iPads are for data purpose only.

For me, I would prefer an iPad with GPS chip and full cell phone functionality over having both iPad and cell phone. Perhaps I am in minority, and the size of the iPad is an issue for most people.
You are not alone… I would prefer cell phone functionality and I’ve done it before with the iPad Mini few years ago, but it was mostly an hack (via Google Voice). As of now, I have a cellular iPad Pro… and it helps me stay connected to the Apple Ecosystem.
 

jaytv111

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2007
820
602
You can use Wi-Fi Calling, but the plan has to be set up on an iPhone. I don’t have a cellular iPad but my “guess” is that it does require Wi-Fi, won’t work using mobile data.

You can also use SMS/MMS messaging but it’s forwarded from your iPhone; the phone doesn’t need to be nearby but it does need to have cellular service.

As far as “why” you can’t do this without an iPhone… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m sure there’s some reason, but Apple hasn’t shared it.
You can use Wi-Fi calling over the iPad’s cellular. Wi-Fi calling doesn’t care about what network you’re using, as long as it’s fast enough, and every 3G and higher network is good enough, well unless there’s too much network congestion but that also applies to regular phone calls.
 

boston04and07

macrumors 68000
May 13, 2008
1,695
741
Technically, the iPad already does have a very rudimentary phone capability for wifi calling. However, I’ve always wanted a standalone wifi calling “Phone” app, with synced call logs and access to voicemail. I use wifi calling allllll the time on my iPad - literally every day - and these additions would be absolute game changers for me. I‘ve been requesting this for years! They can somehow make it work with the Apple Watch, so I can’t imagine it would be impossible for the iPad.
 

boston04and07

macrumors 68000
May 13, 2008
1,695
741
My biggest problem is the iPad's lack of access to Apple Fitness and health data. I can't help but assume that this is intentional. lol.

Seriously, so true! I’ve been requesting this for years. The data is already synced and stored via iCloud (so if you have two iphones on the same account, health and fitness data does sync). There’s no reason whatsoever to keep it from the iPad - they just need the UI to display it. It’s our very important health data - they shouldn‘t bar us from viewing it on our own devices.
 

Richard8655

macrumors 68000
Mar 11, 2009
1,700
1,154
Chicago
With the Google Voice app installed on a cellular iPad, phone calls can be made without WiFi using cellular data. GV only needs an internet connection and includes a dialer. But a Google Voice phone number and account (both free) would be needed.
 

Tesla1856

macrumors regular
Jul 25, 2017
202
57
Texas, USA
Cellular iPads have a phone number. But there is no phone dialer app or any way to access voice phone functions.
Really? That's weird.

I always figured you could use a BT headset with a cellular-capable one like a phone. Maybe Siri can dial for you? I never tried it because iPads don't fit in your pocket so easy. l just use iPhone Personal Hotspot when beyond WiFi range.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.