How to get 3G data on a Wi-Fi iPad

The iPad is a great portable device, and it's designed to work best when connected to the internet. With this in mind, Apple sells a iPad with Cellular connection (3G & 4G) for mobile internet browsing as well as the regular Wi-Fi only model.

You may have opted for the cheaper Wi-Fi iPad thinking that you'd never need to connect to the internet on that device. However, what if a few months down the road you start wishing you had paid £100 more to get a cellular model. 

In fact you'll need to pay much nore than the additional £100 - you'll also pay for the data you use. Using an iPad with a built in SIM card is a lot like using an iPhone, you typically get the SIM card with the iPad, and sign up for a monthly or yearly contact. Some network providers enable you to sign up for daily tariffs.

Luckily you don't need a 3G/4G iPad at all, as long as you have an iPhone you can share its connection with your iPad.  

How can I get 3G on my iPad via my iPhone?

"How do you get 3G/4G data on a Wi-Fi only iPad?" is a question many of our readers ask. It's actually perfectly possible to share an internet connection with your iPad from your iPhone using a feature called "Personal Hotspot". You get all the benefits of cellular iPad with the cheaper Wi-Fi model.

Personal Hotspot enables you to share the single SIM card (and contract) from your iPhone. So as well as saving on the price of the iPad, you also pay less per month.

Here's how to set up a Personal Hotspot on an iPhone and share the internet to your iPad:

How do I create a Personal Hotspot on an iPhone

You create a "Personal Hotspot" using your iPhone, and share the data connection with an iPad using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot turns your iPhone into a wireless router, so you connect to it as you would any other wireless hotspot. Whereas Bluetooth creates a direct connection.

To do this perform the following steps on the iPhone:

1) Tap Settings > Personal Hotspot.

2) Set Personal Hotspot to "On".

3) Check the bit where it says "Other users can look... under the name [name of Wi-Fi hotspot]."

4) Tap "Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth."

5) Tap "Password" and enter a password (it must be at least 8 digits long).

6) Tap "Done."

Creating a Personal Hotspot on an iPhone

To connect the iPad via Wi-Fi:

1) Open Settings on the iPad.

2) Tap "Wi-Fi".

3) Choose your iPhone name from the Wi-Fi list.

4) Enter your password.

Note that the Wi-Fi symbol next to your iPhone name in the list will be two linked circles, rather than the usual radio button.

Sometimes you might find it easier and more reliable to share the connection via Bluetooth than Wi-Fi. Follow these steps to connect your iPhone to your iPad and share the hotspot via Bluetooth.

To connect the iPad via Bluetooth:

1) Set up the personal Hotspot on your iPhone as in the first sequence.

2) Tap "Settings" and "Bluetooth."

3) Ensure that the Bluetooth setting is switched to "On."

4) Choose your iPhone from the Devices list.

5) Both the iPad and iPhone should display a message with a number on it. Check that the number is the same on both devices.

6) Click "Pair" on both the iPad and the iPhone.

You should now be able to use mobile data from your iPhone to your iPad, and use the internet and web as normal. As you use the data connection on your iPad the iPhone will display a blue banner at the top of the screen with "Personal Hotspot: 1 Connection." Tapping this blue banner at any time takes you to the Personal Hotspot settings so you can quickly disable the Personal Hotspot.

You're not supposed to share a Personal Hotspot to your iPad all the time, so it'll disconnect when you connect to another Wi-Fi or Bluetooth device. It's worth noting that it won't re-connect automatically either, you need to go through the process of opening up the Personal Hotspot settings and connecting from the iPad (and you can only connect when you are on the Personal Hotspot settings screen, and when your iPhone is awake - not in sleep mode).

Connecting an iPad to a Personal Hotspot via Bluetooth

Problems with setting up a Personal Hotspot

There are a couple of things you should be careful of when sharing a personal hotspot:

> Check if your mobile phone contract supports this feature, if not you could be charged separately for the data (and data bought by the MB can be very expensive).

> Some mobile phone companies allow data sharing as an add-on or extra service. If you do not have this it may interfere with your Phone. Three (3) for example blocks all data on your iPhone if you attempt to set up a Personal Hotspot without an add-on. You can only use your iPhone to access the internet by turning it off and on again.

> Be careful of the amount of data you use. The iPad can use more data than the iPad (and a Mac even moreso). So be sure to use it as needed and switch it off when it's not required.

What if I don't have an iPhone?

If you don't have an iPhone then you can look into sharing the data from your mobile phone to an iPad. Both Android and Windows phones enable creating a Personal Hotspot in their own settings, although if you have an older phone you should be careful which contract you're on (and if it charges a lot for data).

If you don't have a phone with a good data connection then you can also invest in a mobile 3G hotspot device, like this Three MiFi. You can purchase a SIM card for this and use it to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot that you carry around with you. They're pretty neat and you can use them for all your devices, not just the iPad.