Why you shouldn’t buy that Wi-Fi only iPad and how to know the right iPad for you

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Tablets are starting to take center stage as productivity and entertainment tools of choice for most people. The iPad is no doubt the king of tablets. In fact the name iPad has become synonymous with tablets so much so that vendors in down-town Kampala mention iPad even when they’re selling Android or no-brand tablets.

But what’s the right choice of tablet for you?

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Not all people are familiar with technologies zipped inside of these gadgets. As such, I know a couple of users that have bought the wrong choice of tablets simply because they didn’t bother to find out what technologies run their shinny gadgets. Don’t just walk into a store and ask for an iPad. These devices are made for the American/European markets, but Africa is unique.

When you buy an iPad, you will most likely want to connect to the internet to download, update Apps, create an Apple ID, surf the web, send emails among other things. This is usually the tricky part for first-time iPad owners because it’s then that they realize they might have bought the wrong kind of iPad.

So lets break it down.

Wi-Fi Only vs 3/4G LTE

iPads come with various versions and various specifications. I won’t delve into the processors, RAM, Camera and all, rather I’ll get into the most important specs that will determine whether or not that iPad will work for you — connectivity options.

Every iPad comes with Wi-Fi, 3 or 4G LTE  (lets call this cellular connectivity) or both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. With Wi-Fi only iPads, you can only connect to the internet through a wireless hotspot. The wireless hotspot can be got from your work place, a wireless 3G router like the Huawei B683 from Orange, or by doing internet sharing with your smartphone. In short, you can’t get internet without a Simcard with this kind of iPad. Because it’s a little technical setting up your personal wireless hotspot, we discourage buying Wi-Fi only iPad if you live in Africa unless of course you are comfortable with the technical stuff.

Then there other iPad versions that support both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity although they are somewhat more expensive. With these, you can get internet directly from your network through a Simcard. No need of setting up your own wireless hotspot or tether with a smartphone although you can still do this to access internet on your iPad. Make sure that iPad is unlocked or is bought directly from your local network provider, otherwise prepare to incur unlocking costs.

GSM Vs CDMA

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles) are shorthand for the two major radio systems used in mobile devices. GSM is the world’s most prolific mobile standard (a standard being a set of rules and suggestions about how a mobile network should work). We won’t bore you with technicalities here. What’s important is to know which network supports which standard. Fortunately most of our networks here to support GSM and WCDMA according to this technical network sheet shared with us from Rogers Bambino. Hence, your iPad will most likely work with MTN, Orange, UTL and Airtel networks. 

How to know your iPad version

So how does one tell the version of iPad they have and whether or not they support cellular  connectivity? Here’s the various iPad model numbers and order numbers. The model numbers are on the back of the iPad.

Apple iPad Wi-Fi (Original) 16, 32, 64 GB

The wi-fi only iPad configurations are assigned model number A1219.

MB292LL/A is the order number for the 16 GB configuration. The 32 GB configuration is assigned MB293LL/A and the 64 GB configuration is assigned MB294LL/A.

Apple iPad Wi-Fi/3G/GPS (Original) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi/3G/A-GPS iPad configurations are assigned model number A1337.

MC349LL/A is the order number for the 16 GB configuration. The 32 GB configuration is assigned MC496LL/A and the 64 GB configuration is assigned MC497LL/A.

Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi Only) 16, 32, 64 GB

The wi-fi only iPad 2 configurations are assigned model number A1395.

MC769LL/A is the original order number for the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB configuration in black is assigned MC770LL/A and the 64 GB configuration in black is assigned MC916LL/A. The original 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are assigned MC979LL/A, MC980LL/A, and MC981LL/A, respectively. On March 7, 2012, Apple discontinued the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations and assigned new order numbers of MC954LL/A and MC989LL/A for the black and white 16 GB configurations, respectively.

Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi/GSM/GPS iPad 2 configurations are assigned model number A1396.

MC773LL/A is the original order number for the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB configuration in black is assigned MC774LL/A and the 64 GB configuration in black is assigned MC775LL/A. The original 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are assigned MC982LL/A, MC983LL/A, and MC984LL/A, respectively. On March 7, 2012, Apple discontinued the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations and assigned new order numbers of MC957LL/A and MC992LL/A for the black and white 16 GB configurations, respectively.

Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi/CDMA/GPS iPad 2 configurations are assigned model number A1397.

MC755LL/A is the original order number for the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB configuration in black is assigned MC763LL/A and the 64 GB configuration in black is assigned MC764LL/A. The original 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are assigned MC985LL/A, MC986LL/A, and MC987LL/A, respectively. On March 7, 2012, Apple discontinued the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations and assigned new order numbers of MC755LL/A and MC985LL/A for the black and white 16 GB configurations, respectively.

Apple iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi Only iPad 3 configurations are assigned model number A1416

MC705LL/A refers to the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in black are MC706LL/A and MC707LL/A, respectively. The 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are MD328LL/A, MD329LL/A, and MD330LL/A, respectively.

Apple iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS iPad 3 configurations are assigned model number A1430

MD366LL/A refers to the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in black are MD367LL/A and MD368LL/A, respectively. The 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are MD369LL/A, MD370LL/A and MD371LL/A, respectively

Apple iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE ) 16, 32, 64 GB

The Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS iPad 3 configurations are assigned model number A1403

MC733LL/A refers to the 16 GB configuration in black. The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in black are MC744LL/A and MC756LL/A, respectively. The 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB configurations in white are MD363LL/A, MD364LL/A, and MD365LL/A, respectively.

Image: Cnet