Taking Your Data Plan to a New iPad

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Q. How do I copy my existing monthly prepaid cellular data plan to a new iPad?

A. Your wireless carrier should have specific directions for transferring the data plan you’ve been using on your old tablet to a new model; Android and Windows tablet owners may want to start there was well. In the case of the iPad, you might be able to transfer your plan from the old tablet to the new one right in the settings, without having to fuss around with the hardware.

After you have gone through Apple’s sequence of steps for setting up a new iPad out of the box, tap open the Settings app on the home screen. On the Settings screen, choose Cellular Data on the left side and Set Up Cellular Data on the right. If your previous iPad uses a compatible SIM (subscriber identity module), you should see an option to transfer your existing plan over to the new iPad through your wireless carrier’s network. You need to know the user name and password for your account with the carrier to complete the move and activation process.

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Depending on your wireless carrier and iPad model, you may be able to transfer your existing data plan to a new iPad by going into the Cellular settings and using the account-transfer option, left, or by popping the SIM card out of the old iPad and inserting it into the new one. Credit The New York Times

If you do not see the option to transfer an existing data plan, contact your carrier for advice or visit Apple’s support site — which has its own instructions that might work, but you need to know which type of SIM card each tablet uses. Over the years, Apple has changed the style of SIM cards it uses with its various iPad models. The original iPad from 2010 through the fourth-generation model released in 2012 used micro-SIM cards.

The iPad Mini, the iPad Air, the iPad Pro and the “fifth generation” iPad (the model with the 9.7-inch screen that Apple still sells) use the smaller nano-SIM cards, but the more recent models in those iPad lines also support Apple SIM cards. These Apple SIMs do not start out tied to a particular company, but let you select your preferred wireless carrier when you set up the iPad. The second-generation iPad Pro with the 12.9-inch screen — along with both the 10.5-inch and 9.7-inch iPad Pro models — use embedded Apple SIM, but also come with a nano-SIM tray. Once you remove the SIM card from an older iPad, you can open this tray and stick in the card to transfer your current cellular account to the embedded SIM card on the latest models.

You need to have an active data plan already associated with that nano-SIM card, though, because if you put an empty card into the nano-SIM tray, the iPad will pop up a message about incompatibility and tell you to sign up for a new plan. (To set up a new cellular account on a new iPad, go to the home screen, tap the Settings icon, select Cellular and then “Set Up Cellular Data.”)

If both iPads use the same SIM card size, fully power down both tablets, pop out the card and swap them before you turn on the iPads again. If the old iPad has a micro-SIM and the new one uses a nano-SIM, Apple suggests visiting your wireless carrier for help.

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