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Is it theoretically possible that with the existing hardware in a cellular iPad model that software for the device could enable it to become a large iPhone (make phone calls + send receive texts through cellular system)? or is there a hardware limitation that would prevent this. For this question, assume a GSM carrier (i.e. T-mobile) and an iPad Air with cellular

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Yes, it is theoretically possible. For example, the first iPad Air in the cellular version has the same baseband modem IC chip that the iPhone 5 has.

However please note that it is not possible for a third party app to in any way "activate" or "reconfigure" the voice capabilities through that chip. Only Apple could, theoretically, add cellular voice capability to the iPad. In my opinion, that is not likely to happen at all.

You can add voice capability to the iPad using methods other than a cellular carrier - for example via traditional VoIP or cloud services such as Skype and similar.

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  • Agreed: not holding my breath for Apple to deliver this capability. Unlikely Cydia or similar will deliver. – gatorback Aug 22 '19 at 1:32
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One aspect missing from your question: there is no iPhone?

If the plan is completely replace an iPhone with an iPad, jksoegaard is spot on.

If the idea is to supplement an iPhone with the iPad, then, with the same Apple ID in the iCloud & FaceTime settings you can have the iPad act as a secondary device. This option does not require cellular on the iPad, but does require an internet connection of some kind including cellular data. (Initial set up of the option does require a local wifi network.)

Make and receive calls on your Mac, iPad, or iPod touch

You likely thought of this, but just wanted to make sure we didn't miss something that might help.

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  • Thanks for being thorough. A second phone SIM card with voice / data: 917-XXX-YYYY. It would be nice if was able to receive text messages at 917-XXX-YYYY. Even better if it could receive calls at 917-XXX-YYYY Assume no iPhone for this thought exercise. – gatorback Aug 22 '19 at 1:31
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    If the iPad's cell plan includes MMS, you should be able to add the phone number in the Messages send/receive settings, but iMessage may expect an iPhone and not work (guessing). If this becomes a reality using jksoegaard's apps, like Google's free-call service, make sure you research 911 calls. If it's your only way to call, that feature might, literally, save your life. And nothing says you can't use more than one VoIP service: one free, one paid or whatevs. Even with Tetsujin's funny contribution, using an iPad as a phone with wired/bluetooth headset/hands-free car stereo is not a bad plan. – D. Geren Aug 22 '19 at 3:01

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