I've just donated a secondhand iPad 2 to my grandmother, with the intent that she can use it as her first foray into email, and possibly other things, given time. She has very limited experiences with technology (she has used typewriters, but nothing really more modern), so I'm trying to keep everything as simple as possible.

In particular, I'm looking for an easy way to connect it to the internet. We both live in the UK, but I live some distance from her and am not able to easily get physical access to the iPad to set it up. She has no ADSL/broadband at home and I'd like to avoid the complexity of setting it up, and she has limited mobility and lives in a rural area so getting to a phone shop isn't really possible. It's a 3G iPad 2, so 3G seems like the obvious option. Because she lives in a rural area, however, 3G access seems limited - the only networks that seem to have coverage are Vodafone, O2, and Orange.

Is it possible to find an off-the-shelf, preconfigured SIM card that I can send her that she (or a friend) can just plug in? Ideally I'm looking for something with little to no upfront or ongoing configuration required on the iPad (or where I can do it in advance for her) to keep things as simple as possible. All the deals I've found so far seem to require configuration on the iPad, or ongoing top-up action on the iPad, which I suspect would put her off.

Alternatively, are there any other connectivity options I'm missing?

Edit: Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away before I had time to arrange this. So I won't be spending any more time on the iPad connectivity. Thanks everyone for your help anyway, much appreciated.

  • I don't know about the specifics of UK providers, but perhaps you could get in touch with the closest Vodafone, O2 or Orange store, have an account set up, and have them do the SIM set up? That way she could just bring the iPad in and they take care of any necessary set up?
    – robmathers
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 20:39
  • @robmathers good idea, but unfortunately she lives in a fairly rural area, and has limited mobility - hence the idea of the iPad and email! But might use this as a backup plan with another family member if I get desperate... Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 23:22

3 Answers 3


I have two ideas for you:

  1. There's a UK mobile network called Ovivo, basically, you order a sim with £10 on it once, and you'll have 500MB of mobile broadband for your grandma's iPad forever.

    She'll also be able to use the £10 for additional broadband if she runs out (either by pre-purchasing some — and maybe you could do that online for her), or it'll automatically take from it as credit.

    I think you can top up online with your card and manage everything for her. She'd just have to pop in the sim card.

    Ovivo runs on the Vodafone network as a MVNO — so has good signal.

  2. Alternatively, try GiffGaff (runs on O2 network), where you pay £5/month (no contract; you can stop anytime) for £500MB — Ovivo turns out cheaper; or £7.50 for 1GB.

    I think you can set up the actual account online from where you are; she'd just have to pop in the sim card.

Both are good value for money without any contracts, etc. You can stop/cancel at any time.

  • perfect, that was the kind of thing I was looking for. I'll look into them. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 23:23
  • Feel free to share anything you find out :)
    – Baumr
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 14:17
  • Just ordered a SIM from GiffGaff. Watch this space... Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 18:02
  • @AndrewFerrier, did you end up figuring all of this out?
    – Baumr
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 0:47
  • Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away before I had time to arrange this. So I won't be spending any more time on the iPad connectivity. Thanks everyone for your help anyway, much appreciated. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 9:46

Whats wrong with going to the next Vodafone/O2/Orange shop and getting a mobile data plan for her (e.g. this one or it's pay-as-you-use equivalent from Orange)? Then put the SIM into the iPad, set everything up and give it to her.

If you can't get access to the iPad so easily, select the data plan most suitable for her, document it in a way which she understands and send her to the nearest shop selling these kind of plans (with the iPad). They should be able to set it up for her.

OTOH I think it will be rather challenging to get her started without assistance, especially as she doesn't seem to be used to computers at all. Maybe a christmas trip is the better approach here.

  • Perhaps I wasn't clear (I have edited the question) but I don't live near her, so gaining physical access to the iPad will be difficult. I wanted to send her a SIM that's already working when she gets it in the post and requires no ongoing attention from her. Pay-as-you-go won't work if it requires her to top it up. If I buy a SIM on a monthly contract, will it need to be activated on the iPad? Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 20:23

You can get all the particulars of the iPad's radio (IMEI / ICCID / MEID as appropriate for the radio in that particular iPad) from the general settings (or by connecting it to iPhone Configuration Utility) and then walk into your convenient cellular store and have them set up service for that device and bill it to you. You can pre-screen coverage and support options before paying them money.

Mail the SIM card and she can then pop in the card or get a local teen to come over and assist her in setting it up. I have found a slice of pizza (or sometimes an entire pie) or equivalent an excellent motivator to get eager tech help to very remote locations. Food plus a person in need makes for a willing temporary labor force.

No iPad is carrier locked - so the worst that can happen is you messed up the digits or have the wrong radio for LTE/3G in certain portions of the globe. With an UK iPad and UK service, the chances of that are very, very low.

The only other option that hasn't been raised is just sending a WiFi to cellular router and skipping the iPad setup. Here, that option is far more costly and now you have two devices to manage so there are clear downsides to that option.

  • Mike, as I mentioned in the question, I can't get easy access to the iPad (I regret foolishly leaving it with her now, without setting up the internet access), so that technique won't quite work. But I am wondering about hiring a local techie to come in and set it up... Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 17:58
  • There just isn't a way to gain remote access to the iPad. Especially if you haven't already jailbroken it. Best wishes in getting it sorted. Worst case it could be posted back to you or have to wait for your next visit.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 18:01
  • bmike, thanks. My point is, I shouldn't need remote access - the only fiddly bit should be to install the SIM itself. Everything else should be do-able without hands on the actual iPad; but I can't yet find a provider that will actually provide a SIM I can just pop in with no configuration. Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 18:04
  • Apple's device works with any SIM that's active. You're dealing with a carrier issue - they are hesitant to issue SIM without knowing the IMEI to enter into their databases. You could get a friend to "donate" the info to you, but if the carrier checks, the service could fail or get terminated or mess up the device you have co-opted to borrow it's GSM hardware identification. I get your point, but also trying to document how things work so others can decide how this applies to them. Some carriers are sticklers for the details, others never check so YMMV.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 18:14

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