I often see a lot of questions about the iPad 3G and travel. Some people want to know if they can use their iPad 3G services in the country they are traveling to and what that involves. Here we cover the iPad 3G in terms of travel and compatibility.
iPad 3G Information. Travel And Compatibility
If you are going to be traveling and you own an iPad 3G with active service from either AT&T or Verizon then one of the things on your list before you go is to figure out your connectivity options for the location you are traveling to. You might have questions such as, “Can I use my 3G services in another country?”, “What will it cost?”, or “How Do I use roaming data?”.
One thing to realize is that this is going to be different based on the carrier you chose (or will choose) when you get your iPad 3G. Currently, you have two choices: AT&T 3G or Verizon 3G. In fact, here is a guide I wrote on the iPad 3G data plans and pricing.
The difference between Verizon and AT&T is that Verizon runs on the CDMA network and AT&T is on GSM. This does make a difference. Here we will start with AT&T information and then move on to Verizon. Hopefully this will help you make better decisions when traveling and save you some headaches and money.
AT&T iPad 3G Travel Information
With AT&T, you are going to be on their 3G GSM network. This also means that your iPad will have a SIM card in it. If you look on the side of your iPad 3G you will notice a little tiny slot with a hole in it. This is where your micro-SIM card is located. The SIM card, which actually means Subscriber Identification Module or Subscriber Identity Module is what holds your phone setting information allowing you to connect to the data network. And when you bought your iPad, it should have also came with a tiny little tool you can use to remove the SIM card.
Now when you sign up for 3G service with AT&T, you can do it right on your iPad and the SIM card is now active and talking to AT&T which gives you access to the data (expensive as it is). This is great but what happens when you want to travel? Well, here are some options:
- Add an International Data Plan
- You can get a prepaid SIM card
- You can just plan to use WiFi and turn your 3G OFF
The first option is definitely not recommended. International roaming charges for data can be extremely costly and if you see the resulting bill it may be more than what your iPad cost in the first place. When you go into your iPad Cellular account settings, you will note that you can add an International Plan. This will allow you to purchase data for your travel but just be aware that it’s costly.
Additionally, you can call AT&T or go into your local store and have them get this set up for you. Once you get to the country of your choice, you can contact an AT&T store for more information or you can use one of the options below for getting a micro-SIM card that is pre-paid (to control costs) or if you will be there for awhile, get on a plan that works for your budget.
The second option is getting far more popular and can be a better option for keeping costs under control. Since your iPad 3G is “unlocked”, this means that you can swap out your micro-SIM for another one. This also means you can swap it out for one that will work in the country you are traveling too.
There are many services that offer these additional SIM cards online. I found one on this site that offers micro-SIM cards for over 100 countries.
Here are some additional sites I found:
One SIM card had a great live chat for customer service so I used it and they said I would need the “International Micro SIM Card” for the iPad 3G.
The last option is to just choose to use WiFi and even that can be sketchy but it is certainly the best option for saving money. If you do this, make sure you turn OFF your cellular data settings on your iPad 3G or you remove your SIM card altogether if you are sure you will not be using that type of data. This assures that there is no way to accidentally incur roaming charges.
If you are traveling to the USA from another country you can also get 3G services but one thing to be aware of if you go into an AT&T store to get a micro-SIM card is that you will need information like a credit card, phone number, or address (perhaps a family or friend) in order to get the micro-SIM and have it activated.
Verizon iPad 3G Travel
Verizon uses a CDMA (and LTE) network for their 3G and 4G services so you will notice that your Verizon 3G iPad does not have a micro-SIM card. This is where things get a little sticky. With the Verizon iPad 3G you cannot simply take out the SIM card and place another one into it when you travel internationally.
I did a ton of digging and what you can do is contact Verizon before you travel to find out if the country you are going to has CDMA. If they do then it appears Verizon can either put you on an International data plan or you will incur roaming charges (costly).
The best option here sounds like the AT&T iPad 3G for those that travel internationally. You can easily get a micro-SIM in the country you are going to and there are far more countries that offer GSM 3G services. For those on a budget, the best option would be to get a pre-paid micro-SIM card (at one of the sources above) and then you don’t have to worry about going over your data limit.
What has your experience been with your iPad and 3G overseas? What worked the best?