Using a Tracfone SIM in an iPad with Celluar

I recently tried using my Tracfone SIM card in my iPad with Cellular. It worked.. But is this a good way to connect your iPad to the internet? Let’s find out.

One of my viewers recently asked me if it was possible to use a Tracfone SIM card in a cellular iPad. Turns out I was able to and I’ll share the details in the article and the video below.

The idea is to use a Tracfone BYOP SIM card in an iPad, instead of buying a separate SIM and tablet data only plan. I suspected this would work, but there are a number of details to be aware of.

First your iPad needs to be compatible with the cellular network your SIM uses. That is going to depend on the iPad model you have. You’ll need to check the specs of your iPad model to see if it is compatible with the network you want to use. Tracfone has BYOP SIM cards for the AT&T, T-mobile, and Verizon towers. Note while you can activate Tracfone AT&T and T-Mobile SIM cards by just using the SIM card serial number, you’ll need both your device’s IMEI (serial number) and the SIM card serial number to activate a Verizon SIM. Your iPad will likely come back as not eligible or compatible for activation.

Next, when you put an active SIM in your iPad, the APN needs to be set properly for the iPad to connect to the internet. The APN is just a name that is normally entered into your iPad’s cellular settings. There is a catch however. Normally, there is a place in the setting to add the APN, but the way the iOS works is that in many cases, the iPad will detect the SIM you inserted and automatically set up the APN. This is great because it sets up automatically. Except sometimes it doesn’t work. Worse, when most times when the iPad sets the APN it also automatically hides the APN setting so you cannot simply edit it. In this case you need to install an APN configuration profile from the Web.

I have an iPad Air from 2013, it uses iOS12.something, it doesn’t support iOS 13. My model came with a T-Mobile SIM card. I didn’t check but if I recall it was the same model used for AT&T. I also currently have an active Tracfone BYOP SIM card for the AT&T towers that I am going to use.

Once I inserted my Tracfone SIM the iPad recognized it as an AT&T SIM card. You can see that in the settings. The display showed a 4G connection. That isn’t an LTE connection however. Some time after the connection changed to full LTEW so my iPad is compatible with the AT&T network. Cool.

Unfortunately, my iPad automatically set up the APN for AT&T, not Tracfone AT&T. It also hid the place to change the APN setting. This meant I need to install an APN carrier profile from the internet. You could probably find a link to this somewhere on tracfone.com but I decided to install one from a website http://unlockit.co.nz. Load that page using the Safari browser on your iPad, and use the APN changer to download the APN.

The APN needed is RESELLER. Choose the option for USA and the carrier STRAIGHT TALK (RESELLER). Tracfone owns Straight Talk and both services use the same RESELLER APN for the AT&T towers. Note that there is one option for Tracfone in the list. I suspect that is for the Verizon towers however.

Tap the create APN button and download the APN to your iPad. After that go into Settings and Install the profile. At this point you should be able to turn off Wi-Fi and use the cellular connection to browse the web. Don’t forget to turn Wi-Fi back on later.

So yes, this did work for me, but is this worth using? Maybe.

Tracfone charges $10 per GB of add-on data, so this may be good for casual or occasional use, but it’s not a solution if you need a lot or unlimited data. Tracfone data remains on your account from month to month, it does not expire as long as your account is active. Tablet data plans typically monthly and include fixed or unlimited data that expires at the end of each month. If the cost to keep your tracfone SIM active year round is low enough, this could be a low cost solution.

Personally, I think using Mobile Hotspot is easier if you have that option. The latest versions of iPhone and iPad make hotspot very easy to use.

While I have not checked the details, I suspect that the Tracfone Terms and Conditions of Service do not allow the use of their BYOP SIM in a tablet. I considered this an experiment I tried to see if it would work, and it did for me. If you decide to do this, it’s up to you. Keep in mind that you may not be able to reach out to Tracfone customer service with any problems you have, and I suppose if they really don’t want you doing this they could suspend or terminate your account.

See my youTube video here:

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