Do all iPads need a tariff?
If you plan to buy an iPad as a Christmas present or a treat for yourself, it isn't necessary to take out a tariff. Unlike a mobile phone, the iPad can be used without a contract and can connect to existing internet connections. In fact, only the 3G models can be used with tariffs; the more basic machines can only pick up on local WiFi.
What tariffs are available?
Just a few providers – Orange, T-Mobile and 3 – are offering contracts for fixed periods that include an iPad. These require you to sign up for a minimum of 24 months. However, if you already own a 3G iPad then you can opt for a SIM-only rolling monthly contract or a pay-as-you-go deal. A number of providers are offering these data packages, so there is more scope to shop around.
Can I get a subsidised iPad?
T-Mobile, Orange and 3 are offering iPads for less than £200 to customers who sign up to a two-year contract, although you will pay more for a top model. For example, they all offer the basic iPad with WiFi and 3G for £199, and then £25-£27 a month for your data – ie your browsing time.
How do I find the right tariff?
It's important to find a tariff that meets your data needs, otherwise your web use could be restricted, or you may be stung by hefty additional charges. It is also worth looking at the total price of a contact when deciding which is for you. Buying an iPad outright and then using only a pay-as-you-go or monthly rolling contract may give you greater flexibility for only a small amount more over the two-year period.
Is now the right time to take out a contract?
While 3 has only just released its iPad tariffs, bringing some much-needed diversity into the market, other companies are likely to follow suit soon. It may be worth waiting a few more weeks to see if the competition hots up and prices come down.