clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New iPads Support Multiple Carriers on the Same Device

The new iPad has a fingerprint sensor, better camera and faster processor. But one of the biggest changes wasn't even mentioned onstage.

Perhaps the biggest news about the latest iPads didn’t get even a mention onstage.

The cellular-equipped versions of the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 can be bought with a single SIM card that supports multiple carriers, meaning that customers don’t have to decide at the time of purchase which cellular carrier they want. Customers buying previous versions of the iPad were bound to one carrier from the outset, since the SIM card was only compatible with that service.

That under-the-hood improvement — along with Touch ID — is the most visible change for the iPad Air, which also gets a faster processor and improved cameras. It also supports Apple Pay for online shopping, but because the new iPads lack an NFC chip like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it can’t be used to pay for goods in a store. The iPad 2 mini retains the same thickness, but adds the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

In the hand, they feel almost identical to their predecessors.

As for the single-SIM card cellular capability, so far AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are signed up for the new option, as is Britain’s EE. More carriers are expected over time.

Apple mentions the new option on its website.

“The new Apple SIM is preinstalled on iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi+Cellular models,” Apple said on the site. “The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you—with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.”

Update: If you are wondering about Verizon, customers can use the same iPad to access Verizon’s network but it requires a separate SIM card.

In the past, customers could pick their carrier but had to choose an iPad model that only worked on that carrier’s network.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.