OK, so you have a brand spanking new iPad 3G, or at least on the way. But you want to get it on a SA cellular network. Sounds simple enough right? Not so fast – there are a few things you need to take note of.
First off, the iPad ships with a new type of sim card slot, which is made for a newer standard, called Micro SIM. It is essentially just a smaller version of the sim card we currently use in our phones, called Mini SIM. If you compare the two, you will see that the Micro SIM doesnt actually use any new circuitry to make it smaller – it just gets rid of even more of the plastic around its edges. Here is a small illustration if you want to see what I am on about.

MicroSIM vs MiniSIM
MicroSIM vs MiniSIM

Now the good news is that Vodacom and MTN pledged to have Micro SIMs available – the major reason being that iPhone 4 also uses it as well, and the need to be ready for that potential cash cow once it reaches our shores. In this piece I will focus on Vodacom, seeing as I am comfortable with them (not always happy though), and I know their product range. First off, you can go to any Vodacom SP shop, and jsut order a Micro SIM. I went to one and they had it ready for me within 3 days, for a cost of R50. Not bad.
Of course there is the DIY approach. You can take a SIM Card and cut the sides so that they fit the new Micro SIM slot. While I can see it not being a very hard job, I cannot say I feel to comfortable doing it, seeing as I dont wont to risk the SIM card getting lost inside the iPad – you cannot simply open it after all. But if you feel confident, good for you!
Another area where the iPad can create some problems is that it doesnt have any type of dial pad, so you are going to need some way to load up data bundles. I know you can get a 3G data contract, but then you are just being a a sucker. Buying data bundles prepaid work out much cheaper, and you have the added benefit of spreading your data costs over 60 days if you plan well enough. So here is the strategy I am using.

  1. Buy any Vodacom prepaid SIM card. They go for next to nothing at most supermarkets. Mine cost a princely sum of R1.
  2. Take the SIM card, with your ID and a proof of residence to any Vodacom shop. You have to go through RICA in order to activate the SIM.
  3. Order a MicroSIM – this will take a few days to arrive. I reckon they will become much faster in future, especially after September when the iPhone 4 is here. Alternatively if you are brave, you can cut the SIM card to fit the iPad.If they have theMicroSIM in stock, hold on, dont activate it yet.
  4. Go to Vodacom’s website, and register for their online services. Just click “Register” at the top of the page. Got through the process, they should send you a SMS to confirm, so….
  5. Put your normal SIM card in any cellphone, type the PIN, and wait for the SMS to come through. Using that password, log into the Vodacom site.
  6. Go to Vodacom, and do the SIM switch to Micro SIM. Put the MicroSIM in the iPad. It might take a few hours to activate.
  7. Load credit onto the number. Trick is to get credit where you dont have to phone out or type in any codes. Remember, you cant phone or SMS or type cellular numbers into the iPad. I use ABSA – you can go on Internet Banking and transfer prepaid credit to any number. You can also do it from their ATMs. Many other banks do this as well, as long as they dont give a voucher with PIN code. You want the credit to be automatically loaded.
  8. Go to Vodacom’s site again, login, and click on bundles. From there, you have a selection of data bundles to choose from. Just a tip – these bundles last for 60 days. The bundles are also cheaper per meg if you buy larger bundles at once. Example – it makes more sense to buy a 600meg bundle every 60 days than a 300 meg bundle every month. My tip is to buy on the first of a month, and then recharge the bundle every 60 days.
  9. On the iPad, go to Settings, General, Network, Cellular Data Network, and then change the APN to: “internet” – without the quotation marks.

And after this exhaustive process you ought to be online. If you want to load more data, just go through steps 7 and 8. Of course you can skip this whole process and get a contract, but thats something I think you are smart enough to avoid. I dont buy data contracts in SA, our prices are still going to fall in the future, and you dont want to be stuck in a 24 month contract. But that just my opinion. You might have a good reason to choose otherwise.
Lets hope Vodacom can also integrate the payment method that other networks are doing overseas once the iPad comes to our shores officially…

  1. I’ve got a 3G Ipad, I used a normal prepaid SIM cut down to MicroSIM, it works perfectly. In terms of loading up data bundles, one can do that via the http://www.vodacom4me.co.za site. One can load up cash onto the SIM via Internet banking or at a ATM. Even though cutting the SIM is not ideal it did save me time and money not having to do a SIM swap. It should be noted that with an adapter you can use a MicroSIM as a normal SIM, that a pater though needs to ordered from overseas as I can’t find anyone locally that sells them.

  2. Good tips. Went thru similar steps with my 3G iPad. It’s worth mentioning that FNB customers can buy and load data bundles directly from their Internet banking portal. Very handy.
    I cut my sim to MicroSim because it wasn’t officially available at the time. As long as the microsim fits snugly in the tray, you don’t have to worry about it falling out and getting lost in the device.

    1. Thanks for the useful tip. I was wondering whether I could just load data bundles directly from my internet banking. Now I know that someone has already tried this. 🙂

  3. Agree Minnaar, prepaid is certainly the way to go with an iPad. As use will probably vary, it’s also good to have the option to recharge data bundles only as needed, or as they expire.
    A slightly less cumbersome way to get a Micro SIM is through Flickswitch, who has pre-ordered Vodacom Micro SIMs and supplies them for R10 + shipping (or collection at the JHB office).
    There is also another managed prepaid option which is proving to be very popular specifically with iPad users. Called SIMcontrol, it’s basically a monitoring and recharge service. You pick a minimum data balance (i.e. 100Mb), and a recharge bundle (i.e. 600Mb). When the SIM balance drops below the minimum balance, the SIM is recharged automatically from your pre-funded purse. Pretty simple. All prepaid, and no lomg-term contract. More info here – http://www.flickswitch.co.za/products/simcontrol
    (Disclaimer: I’m an investor in Flickswitch. (But we are getting many requests from iPad users, so i’m posting info)

  4. Can anyone help me on this one please: We’ve got a back-up Vodacom contract based 3G USB modem (most of the time the bandwidth doesn’t get used..) – would it be possible to order a cloned micro-sim for that phone number that I could use on the iPad?? Is there anything else we should consider?
    Thanks in advance for all assistance/advice!

  5. @Joey
    You can easily switch the SIM card to a micro SIM one. You can just get it switched at Vodacom store. Your contract and data will just continue as usual.
    @Hein Koen
    Thanks man – will have to give it a shot. Sounds like a very good deal.
    Thats pretty good news. Thanks for the feedback.

  6. Fark, Vodacom don’t allow dual data SIM’s.. so I have to cut the existing SIM down, and hope when I do it, it will still work in the 3G modem (using the cut-off bit as a spacer) when I switch between it and my iPad.
    Anyone done something similar? Any tips/tricks/advice to offer?

  7. I got my iPad a few days ago and followed this guide to get me started on my 3G. Pretty useful post. Just an update from my side: I went to Vodacom in midrand and the process was similar…get a normal pay as you go SIM card and RICA it (this took 15min) and the SIM card cost five Rand only. Activate the card to get your cellphone number generated. You will need this when you apply for the micro-SIM because they process it as a SIM swop. The micro-SIM card cost one hundred and five Rand only. After this you will have to wait between 2-4hrs for the activation. In the meantime, load your data bundle
    by going to a vodacom outlet -all you need is the number given to you when you activated your initial SIM card. Buckle up and enjoy the ride…!

  8. Awesome post. I will be visiting SA next year with my iPad, and this will definitely be helpful!

  9. I liked your post, informative. I managed to get a Micro Sim card from Vodacom. R105.00 inc Vat.
    I was up and running not long after. Getting “Data” time seems to be my problem at the moment. Running on “Air time”. Unable to register number because I do not have a cell to take micro sim for “OTP”

  10. Wow! Thank you, followed your process to the dot, successful!!!! Im supposed to be good with everything mac, but I was getting crazy with this for days!!!
    Extra tip : If you go to Waynes World shop in Cresta, they have a “Micro Sim Cutter”. they’ll cut your sim for 50 rand (rip off, but at least it’s done properly)
    Tip 2 : keep the extra plastic from your Micro Sim, that way you can reassemble and re insert in a normal phone, 3g usb key, if need be.
    Thank you again!!!

  11. Hey,
    If you buy a micro-sim, activate that, then do an air-time transfer from my exsisting phone to that micro sim. Can you still use that airtime to buy data bundles with or does this require input?
    Also is it neccassary to buy a new sim? Cant the micro sim not work as a clone of my exisiting cell or is this not reccomended.

  12. Thanx for this. I did exactly this. But —- how do we check the balance on our bundle.. Not having much luck from Vodacom

  13. There is a Vodacom iPad Recharge application on the iStore. You can view airtime and data balance, recharge your account and buy data bundles.

    1. @a07674c1e2d60c1b5a0cee39136c1826:disqus Please share the link to the app in the iTunes store

  14. Hi
    Thanks for the helpful info! The APN name was my missing link! Now the ipad connects nicely!
    Nice one

  15. Paid R19.00 for the Vodacom micro-sim swap, changed the APN to ‘ iphone.vodacom.za ‘ and my ipad2 was connected to the internet, happy days……………

    1. Oh man thank you. Was I struggling until I came across your post. My dad died recently, just after we bought him an ipad – now my mother will be using it but was really struggling to get it going; did not help anyone feel any happier! Thanks a mil.

    2. Does anyone just have a simple step by step process  of activating the sim card and acessing  the internet on ipad2.
      I have purchased the micro sim card: got the ‘telephone number’ assigned to the card, bought R 220 worth of airtime through internet banking. I have  full Vodacom Sa signal but cannot go on internet.

  16. cool info guys but if i could add some input > when i brought my i pad 2 opened it up and realised i neded a micro sim alls i did was take the micr sim holder out of the ipad and took some fine sandpaper
    and gently narrowed the size of my original sim then i jst slid it into the ipad without the micro sim holder and it works like a bomb havent had a days problem and if i want to recharche my data i jst pull it out with fingers pop it it my cell and transfer my airtime to data . simple no need for triming sims and complicating things .   

  17. i arrived from london on sunday 1st jan, picked up a micro sim for my ipad from the Oliver Tambo airport vodacom outlet with 500mb PAYG, and was surfing happily – until vodacom sent me a message on tuesday 3rd saying would i like to update my settings – foolishly i said yes, it changed the APN from wireless to ipad.vodacom.za  and i was then told i had run out of my 500mb (though i had only used 70mb); the local vodacom shop (after waiting nearly an hour while customers bought iphones and ipads) couldn’t help me as the service they needed was offline!!! they gave me a number to ring which answered after more than half an hour then lost the call (you would think vodacom could identify the caller and ring me back but no such luck), so in desperation i bought another 500mb – found i now couldn’t access the data service!!! so changed my APN setting back to internet and all was well – but i wanted to know if i had lost the original 500mb – so i phoned data services, waited over 40 minutes this time, and then lost the call again (vodacom on my cell too) – utterly frustrated, i read this post and found a suggestion somwhere that led to a vodacom app – but then found i couldn’t use it to register my ipad sim (note your tel number is your user name and they also need the last 5 digits of the sim serial number) – so did that on the PC via the vodacom portal – and could immediately see that i still had my first 500mb with just some used, and the the whole of the second 500mb – a very useful website – but I had also reset my cellular usage on the ipad when i loaded the first 500mb and found this matched the figure on the portal  – can’t understand why vodacom don’t suggest registering the ipad sim on their website as the portal information would have saved me enormous grief and helped me think vodacom provide an amazing service instead of hating them for their abysmal service on the telephone! and suggesting to change my network setting!!! if i hadn’t discovered the portal, i would have have switched to mtn for the future! 

  18. My ipad only has SD card slot,so how do i connect to internet using my phone sim card

  19. I have an MTN micro sim and works fine. the problem I am encountering is the connectivity speed. it takes for ever to browse in my iPad. i think i will have to try Vodacom this time around.

  20. hello please help me as am ready to throw my new ipad mini against the wall, bought the nano sim card and rica but i still don’t know the number, the voacom consultant told me that its active but i cant access the internet or preload it or do anything with it

  21. So I just got my new iPad Pro with a FNB sim. I loaded data and had lots of fun on my new toy, but how do I check my data balance?

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