If you've bought an iPad with 4G/cellular capabilities (we discuss whether that's a good idea in our 2015 iPad buying guide) or a new iPhone, you need to buy and install a SIM card. Here, we explain which SIM card you need for each model of iPad and iPhone, as well as showing you how to install/insert the SIM card into your iPad/iPhone. as well as discussing Apple’s own-brand Apple SIMs, compatible with the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 4. Read next: iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus) release date and feature rumours
How to put a SIM card into an iPad or iPhone: Which SIM do you need for each iPad model (and iPhone model)?
The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4, Apple's most recent iPad tablets, use a smaller SIM card called a nano SIM, but older iPads have used different types of SIM. Here's a list of the iPad models and the SIM cards they use:
- iPad 1: micro-SIM card
- iPad 2: micro-SIM card
- iPad 3 (with Retina display): micro-SIM card
- iPad 4 (with Retina display): micro-SIM card
- iPad Air: nano-SIM card
- iPad Air 2: nano-SIM card
- iPad mini 1: nano-SIM card
- iPad mini 2 (with Retina display): nano-SIM card
- iPad mini 3: nano-SIM card
- iPad mini 4: nano-SIM card
While we're at it, here are the SIM cards that each iPhone uses:
- iPhone 1: mini-SIM card (often simply called a SIM, but smaller than a full-sized SIM - see below for more details)
- iPhone 3G: mini-SIM card
- iPhone 3GS: mini-SIM card
- iPhone 4: micro-SIM card
- iPhone 4s: micro-SIM card
- iPhone 5: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 5c: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 5s: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 6: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 6 Plus: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 6s: nano-SIM card
- iPhone 6s Plus: nano-SIM card
Information sourced from this Apple support page. This Wikipedia page has more information on the various SIM types, including the much larger full-sized SIM card. The SIM in the iPhones 1 to 3GS is technically a mini-SIM, but it's often referred to as simply a SIM, including in the Apple support page previously linked. However, if you look at quite how massive the full-size SIM is, you'll realise it would be hard to get them mixed up.
What's the difference between a mini-SIM, micro-SIM and nano-SIM?
Just size, really - the quantity and shape of the plastic mounting around the actual important chip bit (those are technical terms). Here's a photo of the three kinds of SIM, with an iPhone SIM-tray tool for size comparison.
From left to right: nano-SIM, micro-SIM and mini-SIM card (the last is often just called a SIM).
How to put a SIM card into an iPad: What's an Apple SIM?
With the launch of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple also announced its own Apple-branded SIM. Cellular carriers should be worried, as the idea of the Apple SIM is to abolish overpriced international data charges by making its’ SIM compatible with a number of carriers around the world – over 90 countries and territories in total, according to the company. If you buy an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 or mini 4 with cellular connectivity from an Apple Store in select countries (UK and US included) you should automatically be given an Apple SIM, unless you request otherwise.
From here, you can choose from either Everything Everywhere (EE) or GigSky in the UK for your cellular data, with the ability to switch between the two whenever needed (note: you’ll have to set up different accounts with different data plans for each network). Then, lets say, you want to travel to the US – once you get there, simply sign up to one of the supported US carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile an GigSky) and pay local rates for your data allowance instead of paying (rather extortionate) data roaming fees from your UK carrier. If you go abroad often for work or play this is a great option to have, especially as one of our writers came back from a trip to Turkey recently with a £115 data bill!
How to put a SIM card into an iPad or iPhone: How to get the right SIM
The easiest way for most people will be to simply ask an Apple employee when buying an iPad at an Apple Store, as Apple usually has access to data providers’ SIM cards in-store and should be able to set you up. If you haven’t bought your iPad from an Apple Store, the easiest option is to simply call your carrier, or the carrier you’d like to be registered with.
If you're taking out a plan for the first time, you'll obviously need to tell the provider which model of iPad you're using, and they will issue you the correct SIM card. And even if you're transferring a data plan from an old iPad to a new iPad which uses a different SIM - going from the iPad 4 to the iPad Air 2, for example - then you just need to go to your nearest branch and ask to swap. They shouldn't charge you a penny.
However, if there isn't a branch of your provider nearby and you don't want to wait for a new SIM to be delivered (ring them and see how long this will take) then it is possible to do some DIY to convert a larger SIM into one of the smaller sizes.
It's a similar story when it comes to iPhones; if you buy your iPhone outright from Apple, the company will be able to offer you a variety of SIM cards (contract and pay as you go) for your iPhone in-store. Alternatively, you can use the above information regarding SIM card sizes and call your carrier to request one if/when needed. If you're upgrading from an iPhone (or any other phone) that's still in contract, you can call your carrier to get a new SIM card but you'll probably have to part with some cash in the process. Alternatively, you could cut the SIM down to size yourself - which we show you how to do tomorrow.
See also: 117 best iPhone and iPad games
How to put a SIM card into an iPad or iPhone: Cutting down a mini-SIM and turning it into a micro-SIM
To turn a mini-SIM into a micro-SIM you just need to cut away the plastic around the chip - but it's worth warning the casual techie that one slip of the scalpel here will ruin your SIM, so be aware of the risks (and difficulties) before getting started. Nevertheless, it's a manageable DIY job. It's worth noting that SIMs used in iPhones and iPads are different, with iPad data SIMs enabling faster internet speeds than a standard iPhone SIM, and that iPhone SIMs probably won't work with an iPad.
The best plan is to download a template that will show you where to make the cuts. Such templates are freely available on the internet, but this one is as good as any. Then you can cautiously file down the sides until the SIM fits neatly and securely into the SIM tray of your new device.
Finally, if this doesn't appeal, you could buy a cutter to do this for you - search for 'micro sim cutter' on Amazon or a similar site and you'll see plenty of cheap options.
Read next: iPad Pro release date rumours
How to put a SIM card into an iPad or iPhone: Cutting down a micro-SIM and turning it into a nano-SIM
In theory converting a micro-SIM into a nano-SIM is more difficult because nano-SIMs are actually flatter than micro- and mini-SIMs, as well as having a smaller area. But the difference is so small (mini and micro SIMs have a thickness of 0.76mm, whereas nano-SIMs are 0.67mm thick) that it shouldn't be a problem.
Here's a template that shows how to cut down a micro-SIM card into a nano-SIM.
How to put a SIM card into an iPad or iPhone: Insert the SIM
Assuming you've got the SIM you need, all that's left is to open the SIM tray on the iPad (we'll be using an iPad Air, but the process is the same for iPhones too) and pop in the SIM.
The SIM tray will be on one side of the iPad or iPhone - on the iPad Air it's on the same side as the volume control buttons, and is the case with most iPhones too.
Take the SIM tray tool that was provided with the device and poke it into the little hole - gently at first, then steadily harder until the SIM tray lifts clear.
The SIM tray will poke out a little way. Grab it with your fingers and pull the SIM tray out. (On iPhones you'll notice that there's some writing on the back of the SIM tray. This is your IMEI number.)
If everything has proceeded correctly, you'll notice that the slot in the SIM tray is the right size for your SIM card. Because of the single chopped-off corner, it will only fit in one way around, so you don't need to worry about inserting it upside-down or the wrong way around. Pop it in, then reinsert the tray.
The iPad will briefly read 'Searching...' while it connects up to the carrier, but you'll soon have access to 3G/4G services.
For more advice on setting up a new iPad, see our tutorial feature: Guide to getting a new iPad up and running.
Read next: How to put an iPhone into DFU mode