Is It Worth Getting a New iPad Air on a Plan?

Is It Worth Getting a New iPad Air on a Plan?
Image: Apple
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If you’re thinking about ordering the new iPad Air, you’ve got an important decision to make: do you want a cellular model, and if so, do you want to buy it on a plan?

As with every iPad, the new iPad Air comes in two varietals. There’s the stock standard Wi-Fi-only model, or the pricier option with 4G and 5G connectivity. If you’re thinking about buying an iPad on a plan, the cellular model is your only choice – the telcos naturally won’t sell you a device you can’t stick in a SIM in.

Buying an iPad Air on a plan spreads out the damage to your wallet across 24 or 36 months, rather than facing one lump sum. Considering a cellular iPad Air starts at $1,159, paying that off over three years rather than paying it all upfront may not be a bad idea. In fact, we’d recommend going for the three-year repayment option. iPads last forever, and most of us upgrade tablets at a much slower rate than we do our phones.

If you were to pick up the 5G iPad Air on a 36-month repayment term, you’re paying roughly $32 per month before you add on plan fees. For comparison, if you were to divide the cost of the Wi-Fi-only iPad Air across three years, it’s equivalent to $26 per month. Going for the cellular model only represents a $6 or so premium each month.

Of course, you also need to factor in plan fees. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer the new iPad Air on a plan, and their cheapest plans are all identical: $15 per month with 5GB of data. No matter which telco you pick, you’ll pay approximately $47 per month for a 64GB iPad Air on a 36-month plan.

For comparison, here are their 24-month options:

While 5GB isn’t a lot of data, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all support data sharing across mobile and tablet plans. For example, if you’re a Telstra customer on an Upfront mobile plan and you add an iPad Air plan to your account, you’ll be able to use your mobile data on your iPad Air. And you’ll still get that bonus 5GB. The same holds true for Optus and Vodafone postpaid plans.

As such, sticking with your current telco for an iPad Air plan tends to be the best option when it comes to value – especially if you’re someone who doesn’t tend to use your entire data allowance each month.

If you’re looking for an iPad Air plan with more data, here are the largest 36-month options from each telco:

And here are the largest 24-month options:

It is worth considering your individual needs before taking the plunge though. A cellular iPad Air can certainly be convenient. You’re always connected to the internet, wherever you are. You don’t need to try and find WiFi or connect it to a portable hotspot when you’re on the go (which also saves battery on your phone).

If you’re mostly using your iPad Air at home or an office, it’s probably not worth springing for a cellular iPad Air. But if you’re a regular traveller, want a device to use on public transport, or don’t work from a fixed location, opting for a cellular iPad Air becomes a much more appealing choice, as does buying it on a plan.

Buying an iPad Air on a plan makes the most sense for those who already have an account with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone (and are happy to stay with them), and will genuinely use it on the go. It’s also not a bad way to avoid spending over $1,000 in one go.

If you buy an iPad Air on a plan and decide you no longer need cellular service, you can always cancel the SIM part of your plan. This does however mean paying out the remainder of your tablet’s repayment fees in one lump sum.

Alternatively, you can always buy a cellular iPad Air outright and then add in your own data-only SIM for connectivity. Here’s a selection of data-only plans with at least 50GB:

Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia’s phone and internet comparison website.