iPads have been top of the gadget wishlist for years, and the latest iPad Pro will be no exception. Yet iPads aren't MoneySaving by anyone's definition. If you must have one, here are a few tips to help keep the costs down...
While prices don't vary much between stores, savings can be made with the 3G/4G models if you choose the right mobile data plan. This guide looks at the best available options.
Getting an iPad: Need-to-knows
Apple's iPads are without doubt the world's most popular tablets. Like all Apple products, though - they don't come cheap. So think long and hard before parting with your cash.
An iPad is not a pocket money purchase, so think carefully before deciding to buy one.
There are three large-screen iPad models (iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro), plus three smaller iPad Minis. The newest are the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4.
The table below shows a quick comparison of each iPad's features:
Which iPad should I buy?
|Model||Screen size||4G ready?||Chip||Storage||Price (RRP)||More info|
|iPad Air 2||
A8X chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor
16GB, 64GB, 128GB
|iPad Mini 2||
A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
|iPad Mini 4||7.9in||Yes||A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor||16GB, 64GB, 128GB||From £319||iPad Mini 4*|
|iPad Pro||12.9in, 9.7in||Yes||A9X chip with 64-bit architecture and M9 motion coprocessor||32GB, 128GB, 256GB||From £499||iPad Pro*|
The following models have all now been discontinued and are no longer sold by Apple, but you may find a second-hand one on eBay, or a refurbished model:
- iPad (original version)
- iPad 2
- iPad 3
- iPad 4
- iPad Air (original version)
- iPad Mini (original version)
- iPad Mini 3
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Tips for choosing your new iPad
Once you've chosen which iPad model you'd like, you'll need to think about whether you want 4G internet access and need a mobile data plan. Consider the following:
- Wi-Fi or 3G/4G? If you plan to use your iPad while out and about, you should opt for the 3G/4G and Wi-Fi model. If you'll just be using it at home, Wi-Fi only is more suitable (and cheaper). Read below to help you decide whether you need Wi-Fi only or 4G and Wi-Fi.
- Do you want to use it to make calls? One of the most exciting features of an iPad is FaceTime, a video-calling app. However, FaceTime only works with the latest Apple technology so you won't be able to ditch your mobile yet.
- How much data do I need? The amount of data you'll need will depend how you plan to use the iPad. Here's a general guideline to help you figure out whether you're above or below average in data usage terms:
If you're worried about your usage, there are a number of free apps that you can download from the App Store that can help you track the amount you're using. Read the data usage section in the Cheap iPhones guide for more info.
With all iPad models, the 4G + Wi-Fi version costs considerably more than its Wi-Fi only counterpart. So there's no point in going for for the 4G model unless you're going to use your iPad on the go (or in places where free Wi-Fi isn't available).
Yet if you travel a lot and want an "always on" connection, the 4G model - which uses a mobile internet signal to get you online - is really the only option. As free Wi-Fi is available in public places across the UK, it pays to consider whether you really need a 4G version.
Where to find free Wi-Fi access in the UK
If you have Wi-Fi at home, you can get online on your iPad through your wireless network. The iPad will usually find a network on its own, so it's easy to set up.
You're not limited to using it just at home, as Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up everywhere these days. From coffee shops and pubs to fast food joints and train stations, Wi-Fi is fast becoming the norm, and any hotel worth staying at should have free Wi-Fi. McDonald's outlets, Wetherspoon pubs and Starbucks coffee shops all offer free Wi-Fi.
Read our Free Wireless Internet guide for more info.
Tethering effectively turns your mobile phone into a wireless mobile router. It uses the 4G signal on your phone to power the web on your laptop, tablet or e-book reader.
You'll need to have a 4G handset and a mobile tariff that supports tethering. You can set your phone up to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, which you can then use with other Wi-Fi devices, including the Wi-Fi only iPad, to get online wherever you are.
Once set up, any data you use comes off your phone’s mobile data allowance.
Will it cost me extra to tether to my iPad?
Whether you can tether depends on the tariff you have. And as your internet usage on the iPad will count towards to your mobile data allowance when tethering, it's important you make sure you don't go over this allowance - otherwise it could be costly.
Below are links to each of the main providers' tethering pages:
- Tethering for Vodafone customers
- Tethering for O2 customers
- Tethering for EE customers
- Tethering for Three Mobile customers
- Giffgaff - Goodybags only support tethering with smartphones, not iPads
- Tesco Mobile - currently doesn't support any tethering.
If in doubt, contact your mobile provider. It'll be able to tell you if there are any charges for tethering, charges for going over your monthly data allowance (helping you avoid potential bill shock at the end of the month), and talk you through the set-up process.
What about iPad alternatives?
iPad aren't the only tablets on the market. There are plenty of alternatives that cost a lot less. Most technology giants offer their own version, including Samsung, Google, Amazon and LG. You can find out more about those in our cheap tablets guide.
Cheapest iPad Wi-Fi only: Best deals
With a Wi-Fi only iPad, you're just buying the tablet - there's no contract, so cheapest is best. The problem is there's very little price variance.
Apple has strict price controls, so the major reputable retailers all generally charge the same amount for their iPads and discounts are rare. One minor option producing dividends is for those who collect Tesco Clubcard reward points.
However, we do occasionally see a new voucher or code that can get you an iPad discount. When this happens, it's usually a very short-lived deal, but where possible, we'll update this section of our guide with all the details.
Here's a quick summary of the best iPad prices from major retailers:
|Product||Apple price||Cheapest elsewhere||Cheapest with reward points|
|iPad Air (16GB)||Discontinued||£299 at Currys*, Argos* and John Lewis* (John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||N/A|
|iPad Air 2 (16GB)||£349 at Apple*||£349 at Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||£349 at Tesco Direct*, earn 349 Clubcard pts worth up to about £14¹|
|iPad Mini 2 (16GB)||£219 at Apple*||£219 at Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||£219 at Tesco Direct*, earn 219 Clubcard pts worth up to about £9¹|
|iPad Mini 4 (16GB)||£319 at Apple*||£319 at Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||£319 at Tesco Direct*, earn 319 Clubcard pts worth up to about £13¹|
|iPad Pro 9.7in (32GB)||£499 at Apple*||£499 at Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||£499 at Tesco Direct*, earn 499 Clubcard pts worth up to about £20¹|
iPad Pro 12.9in (32GB)
|£679 at Apple*||£679 at Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis*(John Lewis provides a two-year guarantee at no extra cost, compared to the standard one-year warranty).||N/A|
Prices checked at 10.32am on Mon 25 Apr. Table excludes online marketplaces, eg, Amazon, as their prices frequently change. Yet they're often cheapest, so always do your own checks with MegaShopBot.
¹ Clubcard points can be quadrupled for maximum rewards - read Boost Tesco Clubcard Points for more info.
Apple for Education* is a scheme that gives students, their parents and school staff as much as 15% discount on Apple products, including iPads. The discount on iPads is relatively small, eg, iPad Air £306 (so only 4% off) but as Apple deals are so rare this can often make going direct to Apple the cheapest option for students.
See our Apple Student Deals blog for more about how you can get it.
It's possible to get a refurbished iPad for a bit less than a brand new one, and there's little difference in condition. You stand to make savings of £50-£70+ on the retail price.
Refurbished iPads from Apple should be in 100% working condition, though Apple says they may exhibit some "minor cosmetic imperfection" such as scratches, marks or discolouration. It also says they may not be in the original packaging.
You can order a refurbished iPad Air or iPad Mini from Apple refurbished iPads* with free delivery. Stock levels change daily, so check back often.
All these refurbished iPads come with a one-year Apple warranty. Apple high street branches don't stock refurbished iPads, but staff should be able to help with any problems.
The Argos eBay outlet* often has refurbished iPads, though like Apple, stock is limited and availability can change on a daily basis.
Spotted any other deals? Share your suggestions in the forum discussion.
Cheapest iPad Air 2: Best 4G deals
If you want mobile internet access, you'll need an iPad that's Wi-Fi + 4G. Below are our top picks - if you need more help choosing a model, see our tips for choosing an iPad.
Cheapest overall deal: Buy an iPad Air 2 and use a Giffgaff Sim card
Best for those who can pay upfront cost, though limited data
The cheapest way to get your hands on an iPad with data is to get the tablet and data plan separately. This comes with a high upfront cost though, so if you don't have £££s to stump up from day one, see the deal below instead.
What's the deal? Buy the iPad from Tesco*, and get a Sim-only Goodybag data plan from cheap mobile provider Giffgaff*. For £12/month you'll get 2GB of 4G data, £15/month will give you 4GB, and £18/month gets 6GB.
Who's this suitable for? Getting the iPad and data separately is the best option, if you can cough up for the high inital cost. If you think you will use more than 6GB of mobile data in a month though, consider the deal below from Three Mobile.
Anything else? It's a one-month rolling contract, meaning you can cancel at short notice.
Though the £12/month option with 2GB is cheap, we found iPhone users sometimes use more than this on their mobiles in a month. So unless you're going to be using the iPad's 4G just for emails, it's wise to get one of the larger plans.
Lowest upfront cost: iPad and data bundle from Three
Best for those who want to spread the cost, with high data
If you want an iPad but don't have the cash for it upfront, you can spread the cost of the tablet (slightly) over a contract with a monthly data plan.
While more affordable upfront, this is not the cheapest way to get an iPad - paying a higher monthly amount and less upfront normally costs a lot more over the duration of the deal.
What's the deal? You'll get 15GB of data to use a month, on a 24-month contract, at £38/month. The 16GB iPad Air 2* is available for £29 upfront.
Who's this suitable for? Those that either haven't the cash to pay for an iPad outright, or for those that want more mobile data than the plans from Giffgaff above.
Anything else? We reckon 15GB/month is more than enough data, but if you exceed this you'll be charged 10.2p/MB. If you're worried about your data use, though, it's worth installing a usage monitoring app. See below for more info.
Got an iPad? Cheapest Sim-only
If you already have an iPad but no data plan, getting a Sim will allow you to access the web whenever, and wherever, you are.
1GB allowance for £4.94/mth, plus 100MB free to try
MobiData – Cheap for low users
Contract: 1-month rolling
New and existing customers can bag a free Sim from MobiData*, which runs off the Three network. If you want to try it out before you commit, it offers a trial with 100MB/mth of free 4G data to use in the UK or abroad (see its coverage map) for three months with no contract.
MobiData's basic plan gives a 1GB monthly allowance for £4.94/mth – one of the cheapest we found for any mobile broadband plan when we checked. A gigabyte's not a huge amount, though. MobiData also offers 5GB/mth for £14.94 but this isn't as competitive.
Delivery is free and the Sim should arrive within three days of ordering. If you use more than your allocated data allowance that month it's 2.5p/MB.
15GB allowance for £25/mth
iD Mobile – good for heavy users, only a one-month contract
Contract: 1-month rolling
Should you need more data, iD Mobile* offer other Sim-only deals, one of which gives you 15GB of data for £25/month on a one-month rolling contract - pretty good if you get through a lot of data. If you want to opt out you'll have to give 30 days' notice.
Spotted any other deals? Share your suggestions in the forum discussion.
What can you do with 1GB of data?
If you've got a phone tariff with 1GB of mobile data, as a rough guide, you'll be able to do one of the following, or a mixture (eg 1,000 emails with photos and 30 YouTube videos):
- Send 1,000,000 emails without attachments
- Send 2,000 emails with photos attached
- Visit 10,000 simple sites like Twitter or your favourite blog
- Visit 3,000 rich content sites like bbc.co.uk, guardian.co.uk or yahoo.co.uk
- Download 50 low quality or 12 high quality music tracks
- Watch 120 YouTube videos, about 4.5 minutes long
What can you do with 3GB of data?
If you've got a phone tariff with 3GB of mobile data, as a rough guide, you'll be able to do one of the following, or a mixture (eg 3,000 emails with photos and 180 YouTube videos):
- Send 3,000,000 emails without attachments
- Send 6,000 emails with photos attached
- Visit 30,000 simple sites like Twitter or your favourite blog
- Visit 9,000 rich content sites like bbc.co.uk, guardian.co.uk or yahoo.co.uk
- Download 150 low quality or 36 high quality music tracks
- Watch 360 YouTube videos, about 4.5 minutes long
What can you do with 5GB of data?
If you've got a phone tariff with 5GB of mobile data, as a rough guide, you'll be able to do one of the following, or a mixture (eg 5,000 emails with photos and 150 YouTube videos):
- Send 5,000,000 emails without attachments
- Send 10,000 emails with photos attached
- Visit 50,000 simple sites like Twitter or your favourite blog
- Visit 15,000 rich content sites like bbc.co.uk, guardian.co.uk or yahoo.co.uk
- Download 250 low quality or 60 high quality music tracks
- Watch 300 YouTube videos, about 4.5 minutes long
How to complain about a purchase
If you're not happy about a product or the service you receive, you should first contact the retailer in person, by phone, or in writing. However, if you're still not satisfied, then...
Free tool if you’re having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it for free to the relevant ombudsman or trade body.