Can I get an unlimited data only plan for iPad and tablets?

iPad

Question

I need a SIM plan with unlimited internet, so I can use my iPad on long journeys. I know Three do unlimited phone plans, so can I get one and use it in my tablet? If not, where can I get an unlimited data-only SIM plan?

Laura, via email

Our expert Duncan says...

Laura got in touch with us to ask us whether she could use a Three unlimited phone plan in her tablet, or find an unlimited data-only SIM plan.

Short answers: no you can't, and there aren't any. And yes, that sucks. That said, there some big data options that might do the trick, which we'll go into in a sec.

Let's look at each question more fully.

Can you use a Three All You Can Eat SIM card in your tablet?

Unfortunately, Three does not allow you to use your unlimited data SIM card in any device other that a phone. It's pretty explicit about this on its site, where it says:

"Swapping your SIM out of your phone and putting it into anything else that's not a phone, like a dongle or tablet, isn't allowed on any of our voice plans or on Pay As You Go, and we could suspend your service if it's detected."

So that also means Mi-Fi or portable mobile broadband gadgets are out too. Sadly, you can't even get unlimited data if you take an All-you-can-eat SIM and turn your phone into a personal hotspot (see our guide on mobile tethering for more information), as Three will only let you use up to 30GB a month. In fairness, that's quite a lot, but it's still not unlimited.

Find out more about mobile tethering

Now, it's worth noting that other operators do let you use some phone plans in your tablet - Talkmobile, for example. But these all offer fixed usage - you won't find an unlimited phone plan that allows you to use it in your tablet. 

So if you want big data on iPad (or other tablets), then I'd say you should get a data-only plan. Which brings us to…

Child with iPad

Can I get an unlimited data-only SIM?

I'll be honest, it feels pretty grotty to pile more bad news onto the stinky stack of disappointment, but here goes. There aren't any unlimited data only SIM plans available from major mobile networks. It feels like there should be, and yet…

Your best bet then is to choose a plan that has lots of data - you may be able to find one that matches your usage adequately, even if you tend to watch a lot of data-hungry video while out and about.

The easiest way to go about this is with this simple 3-step plan.

1. Use our guide to data usage to work out how many GB you need a month
2. Compare data SIM deals with our mobile comparison service
3. Choose a deal and follow the link to find out more information or - if you think it suits you - buy it

Obviously, the more data you want, the more you'll have to pay. Remember that you can always add a bit more data allowance if you run out, but then costs start piling up.

Compare data-only SIM deals now

Data only SIM deals for heavy users

Here's a general idea of what data SIM plans are available from the major networks:

  • Three mobile broadband SIMs go up to 20GB
  • O2 plans go up to 15GB
  • Vodafone does plans up to a massive 50GB!
  • EE offers up to 32GB
  • giffgaff does 'gigabags' up to 1GB - not a good choice if you need big data
  • Talkmobile lets you use your phone plan in a tablet, and offers up to 15GB - though it's only 3G
  • Virgin Mobile data only SIM plans go up to 8GB

Click the provider name to go through to a more detailed guide, where you can learn all about tariffs, deals and extras, as well as our honest opinion on the pros and cons.

Other guides you may find useful

Hopefully that helped Laura (and anyone with a similar question). If you need a bit more information on anything discussed, take a look at these guides:

To find out more about data only SIMs, this garish orange button will do you right:

Find out about data only SIM deals

To see our picks for the best SIM-only phone plans the month, endure the orangeness below:

Compare SIM-only phone deals

And finally, to compare mobile deals… well, just obey the orangey button of guidance:

Compare mobile deals

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