Buying an iPad involves multiple decisions. Do you need the extra power of a Pro model or the added portability of a mini? What screen size, storage allocation and colour finish do you want? But many people skip past the final step, which is deciding whether or not the device should be 4G-capable. We believe that is a mistake, and that 4G can be a valuable upgrade – as well as enabling you to buy on contract and spread the cost.

In this article, we explain the advantages of 4G over Wi-Fi-only iPads, and help you work out whether buying a 4G iPad on contract is the right decision for your needs.

Should you get a cellular iPad?

Many people regard iPads as Wi-Fi-only devices that are primarily designed for home or office use. But this is not necessarily the case.

It’s true that, by default, each iPad model can get online only by connecting to a Wi-Fi network. And that can be a pain. An iPad is a powerful tool for work and play, but as soon as you leave home you lose half of its features. Web browsing, email, social media, YouTube, Apple Music and other streaming services, online games, collaborative work tools: if you’re commuting, travelling or otherwise away from a Wi-Fi router to which you have access, you can forget them all.

But you can avoid this by choosing a Wi-Fi + Cellular model instead, which will then be able to use a high-speed 3G or very high-speed 4G connection to get online when Wi-Fi isn’t available. (Cellular is a blanket term which also includes the other types of cellular connection your iPad will use if it cannot locate 3G or 4G.)

The advantages of 4G

With a 4G iPad in your bag, you have all the advantages of a larger screen without being tethered to your home or work router. It’ll cost more than a Wi-Fi-only tablet, but if you spend a significant amount of time away from home and the office it could well be worth it.

Because 4G is a real step up in versatility for an already versatile device. A cellular iPad is the best of both worlds, combining the portability of a smartphone with the productivity of a laptop - you can quite happily leave your laptop at home and work on that all-important presentation or coursework assignment right on your iPad. Your tablet is as free as your smartphone, and you can use online services anywhere in the UK with a 4G signal.

You’ll get all your iMessage conversations and have access to your iCloud documents too, anywhere in the country. And the increasingly open nature of Apple’s application ecosystem means the iPad is increasingly work-ready, with access to applications such as Microsoft Office, Dropbox and Salesforce – not to mention the multitasking features added to the iPad as part of the free iOS 11 software update, which make it easy to switch between word processing, image editing and communication apps, and move files, documents and photos between them by simply dragging and dropping with a fingertip.

Buying on contract

We’re all used to the idea – and advantages – of buying a smartphone on contract. But buying a 4G iPad on contract can be just as appealing.

It’s more convenient, for one thing. Instead of buying the iPad from one retailer and then getting a SIM and signing up for a data plan separately, you can get your contract provider to handle everything.

But the greater benefit for many will be that the cost of the device (and your chosen data plan) is spread over 24 months. Contracts are a great way of getting the latest model today, without having to spend the full cost right away, and if you were worried about the extra cost of adding 4G, this should set your mind at rest.

With a contract you can pick up a tablet just as easily as a smartphone, and often at a lower price: O2 stocks many models of the iPad 9.7in, iPad Pro 10.5in, iPad Pro 12.9in and iPad mini 4 starting at £31 per month, and its affordable monthly contracts go down in price once you’ve paid off the cost of the device itself. O2 Gurus are on hand to provide advice tailored to your iPad of choice.

You should consider your options carefully before buying an iPad. But a 4G iPad on contract, with its greater power on the go and convenient payment plan, makes sense for a lot of buyers.