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Cheap iPads

Find the best iPad deals and cheap 3G data plans

iPads have always been top of the gadget wishlist, and the new iPad Air 2 is no exception, but iPads aren't MoneySaving by anyone's definition. If you must have one though, there are ways to save...

While prices don't vary much between stores, savings can be made with the 3G/4G models if you opt for the right data plan. This guide looks at the best available option.

Important! Ensure you know how to shop safely before trying these deals

DO's:
  • For safety, pay by credit card if £100+

  • Protect purchases under £100

DON'Ts:
  • Use unfamiliar sites without checking

  • Let your antivirus run out

Full DO's and DONT's

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 two large-screen iPad models, plus three iPad Minis. The newest are the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3. The original iPad, the iPad 2, the third-generation iPad (iPad 3) and the iPad with Retina Display (iPad 4) have now been discontinued by Apple. But you may be able to pick a second-hand one up cheap from eBay or a refurbished model.

The table below shows a quick comparison of each tablet's features:

Which iPad should I buy?

Model Display / screen size 4G ready? Chip Storage Price (RRP) More info
iPad Air
Retina display, 9.7in screen
Yes
A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
16GB, 32GB
From £319
iPad Air 2
Retina display, 9.7in screen
Yes
A8X chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor
16GB, 64GB, 128GB
From £399
iPad Mini

7.9in screen

Yes
Dual-core A5
16GB
From £199
iPad Mini 2
Retina display, 7.9in screen
Yes
A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
16GB, 32GB
From £239
iPad Mini 3
Retina display, 7.9in screen
Yes
A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
16GB, 64GB, 128GB
From £319

Here's a bit more detail about the different models:

iPad Mini

iPad Air

iPad 2

Tips for choosing your new iPad

Once you've chosen which iPad model you'd like, you'll need to consider other things, such as whether you want 3G web access and need a 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, the wi-fi only version is more suitable (and cheaper). Read below to help you decide whether you need wi-fi only or 3G and wi-fi.
  • Do you need Flash? Though great for browsing the web, Apple's iPads don't support Flash software for videos and audio, so you may come across broken pages where photo slideshows, videos and audio should be. The lack of Flash can also be a problem for gamers, though apps/games bought from the App Store are designed around this Apple 'flaw'.
  • Do you want to use it to make calls? One of the most exciting features of an iPad (2nd generation and above) 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:

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.

Do I need wi-fi or 3G web access?

Where to find free wi-fi access in the UK

What is 'tethering'?

What about iPad alternatives?

Cheapest iPad wi-fi only: Best deals

Here, you're just buying a bit of tech - there's no contract, so cheapest is best. The problem is there's very little price variance.

Apple has strict price controls, so the savings on new iPads are frankly derisory. The one minor option producing dividends is for those who collect Tesco Clubcard points.

Here's a table of the current cheapest deals:

Product Apple price Cheapest elsewhere Cheapest refurb iPad Cheapest with reward points
iPad Air (16GB) £319 at Apple* £319 at Tesco Direct*, Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis offers a 2 year warranty compared to the standard 1 year) There are no refurbs that are cheaper than buying a new one. Keep an eye on refurb iPads for more info £319 at Tesco Direct*, plus 319 Clubcard pts worth up to about £13¹
iPad Air 2 (16GB) £399 at Apple* £399 at Tesco Direct*, Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis offers a 2 year warranty compared to the standard 1 year) There are no refurbs that are cheaper than buying a new one. Keep an eye on refurb iPads for more info £399 at Tesco Direct* plus 399 Clubcard pts worth up to about £16¹
iPad Mini (16GB) £199 at Apple* £199 at Tesco Direct*, Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis offers a 2 year warranty compared to the standard 1 year) There are no refurbs that are cheaper than buying a new one. Keep an eye on refurb iPads for more info £199 at Tesco Direct*, plus 199 Clubcard pts worth up to about £8¹
iPad Mini 2 (16GB) £239 at Apple* £239 at Tesco Direct*, Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis offers a 2 year warranty compared to the standard 1 year) There are no refurbs that are cheaper than buying a new one. Keep an eye on refurb iPads for more info £239 at Tesco Direct* plus 239 Clubcard pts worth up to about £9¹
iPad Mini 3 (16GB) £319 at Apple* £319 at Tesco Direct*, Argos*, Currys* and John Lewis* (John Lewis offers a 2 year warranty compared to the standard 1 year) There are no refurbs that are cheaper than buying a new one. Keep an eye on refurb iPads for more info £319 at Tesco Direct* plus 269 Clubcard pts worth up to about £10¹
¹ Clubcard points can be quadrupled for maximum rewards - read Boost Tesco Clubcard points for more info. ² Prices change on Amazon very quickly. All prices correct as Fri 30 Jan.

Spotted any other deals? Share your suggestions in the forum discussion.

Cheapest iPad with Retina Display wi-fi + 3G: Best deals

If you want web access away from home, you'll need an iPad with Wi-fi + 3G. Below are our top picks - if you need more help choosing the model, eg, what size, see our tips for choosing an iPad.

Cheapest overall deal: Buy an iPad with Retina Display 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 £429 to stump up for the tablet outright, see the deal below.

Package details Provider Upfront cost Monthly cost Data allowance Overall Get deal
£429 for 16GB
from Tesco*
£5/mth 500MB/mth £549
over 24 mths
Go*
£7.50/mth 1GB/mth £609
over 24 mths
Go*
£12.50/mth 3GB/mth £729
over 24 mths
Go*

What's the deal? Buy the iPad directly from Apple*, and get a Sim-only Gigabag data plan from cheap mobile provider Giffgaff*. For £5/month you'll get 500MB of data, £7.50/month will give you 1GB, and £12.50/month gets 3GB.

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 3GB 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 £5/month option with 500MB is cheapest, we found iPhone users often use more than this on their mobiles in a month. So unless you're going to be using the iPad's 3G 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 (this is not the cheapest way to get the iPad though).

Package details Provider Upfront cost Monthly cost Data allowance Overall Get deal
£129 for 16GB from Three* £25/mth 15GB/mth £729 for 16GB over 24 mths Go*

What's the deal? With this deal from Three Mobile you'll get 15GB of data to use a month, on a 24-month contract, at £25/month. The 16GB iPad with Retina Display* is available for £129 upfront.

Who's this suitable for? This deal is 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.

Get a refurbished iPad wi-fi+3G

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 £70+ on the retail price.

Refurbished iPads from Apple should be in 100% working condition, though they may, as Apple says, "exhibit some minor cosmetic imperfection, such as scratches, marks or discolourations". It also says they may not be in the original packaging. You can order a refurbished iPad 2 (a discontinued model) from Apple*, with free delivery. Stock levels change daily, so check back regularly.

All these refurbished iPads come with a one-year Apple warranty. Apple high street branches do not stock refurbished iPads, but staff can help with any problems.

The Argos eBay outlet* often has refurbished iPads too, though like Apple, stock is limited and changes on a daily basis.

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.

Because all new Apple products require a micro Sim (a mini version of a normal Sim card), make sure you order a data plan with one. The Sim-only data plans below are available with a micro Sim.

Three Mobile

Get 10GB of data for £15/month

Three Mobile micro-Sim

What: iPad micro Sim-only 10GB
Cost: £15/month

Contract: 1-month rolling

Should you need a bit more data than 3GB, Three Mobile* offers a Sim-only deal which gives you a 10GB for £15/month on a one-month rolling contract.

If you use over your allocated 10GB, you'll be charged 10.2p/MB for the remainder of that month until your contract rolls over.

Giffgaff

Data plans from £5/month for 500MB

Giffgaff Gigabag micro-Sim

What: Giffgaff micro-Sim Gigabag
Cost: Priced from £5/month

Contract: 1-month rolling

Super-cheap mobile network Giffgaff offers a range of Sim-only "Gigabag" data plans which can be used in any tablet PC, including iPads. They all have a rolling, one-month contract.

  • 500MB* £5/month for 500MB
  • 1GB* £7.50/month for 1GB
  • 3GB* £12.50/month for 3GB

Giffgaff Sim cards now come as "snappable" dual Sims, so they will work in tablets which require a micro-Sim and tablets which just require standard a Sim.

Warning! If you use up your allocated allowance before your Gigabag expires, Giffgaff will notify you and give you a 50MB buffer for free. Once you run out of your buffer allowance, you'll be charged at 20p/MB until your Gigabag renews.

Spotted any other deals? Share your suggestions in the forum discussion.