Buying an iPad or tablet

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying an iPad or tablet

Before you meet the seller...

  • Make a list of features mentioned in the ad and remember to ask about each one individually
  • Decide beforehand what you'll use the device for. Internet? TV? Apps? Gaming? Music? Reading?
  • Will you use it at home (in which case you only need WiFi capabilities) or on the move (in which case you’ll need 3G or 4G for mobile internet)?
  • Do you have WiFi (wireless, cable-free internet) in your home? Few if any tablets will have a slot for an internet cable, and any tablet is severely limited without internet access
  • On the plus side, most hotels, bars, libraries and restaurants have WiFi that your tablet can access.

The differences in iPad models

  • Apple’s iPad was first released in 2010
  • It has had six generations (iPads 1-4, followed by the iPad Air 1 and 2). iPad 1 is still usable, but some newer updates and apps are not available
  • The differences between generations can be subtle, but generally the older the iPad is, the heavier it is, the fewer new features are available, and the less memory it has
  • If you want to use a camera, check it is a model with a camera
  • The iPad mini is a smaller version of the iPad, the iPad Air are thinner, lighter versions


  • Tablets offer many of the same capabilities as iPads, usually for a lower price
  • While they offer the same services (internet, music, podcasts, video, gaming and so on), iTunes is not available, nor are some apps
  • Because tablets are so commonplace, quality varies wildly.
  • Some are cheap for a reason, with limited features, glitches and short life-spans.
  • Be sure to research brands, models and user reviews if you’re unfamiliar with a brand or model
  • However, some tablets are high end and come with their own specialties and advantages. Amazon’s Kindles are perfect for avid readers; Google’s Nexus frequently improves itself with updates; Microsoft’s Surface is a popular work tablet; Samsung’s Galaxy is small and has great processing power; and Nvidia’s tablets have a great gaming reputation.

Android vs Apple

  • Android is the most popular operating system for tablets that aren’t iPads, which are made by Apple. (An operating system simply refers to the menus, buttons and shortcuts on a tablet)
  • Android often operates differently from the iPad system, with more ‘swiping’ and ‘pinching’ of the touchscreen as well as just tapping the screen
  • Android systems are more similar to a PC, while Apple iPads are similar to Macs.
  • While Android can be more easily changed to meet individual needs, Apple products are often considered more user-friendly
  • Many keen gamers prefer Android because they offer a wider variety of indie games and re-releases of classic games (depending on the tablet’s capabilities). 

When meeting the seller...

  • Check the tablet is the same model as the one advertised
  • Check it has the features and apps advertised, and test all of these
  • Test the keyboard, internet connection, apps and games
  • Check the screen for scratches, dead pixels (discoloured squares that don’t leave the screen) and water damage
  • Use the ‘Settings’ button (a grey box with a picture of interlocking cogs) to check WiFi, memory and security settings. Much of the information you need can be found in the ‘About’ button at the top of the Settings menu.

What to ask the seller

  • How old it is, how much memory it has and what its battery life is like
  • Batteries can become run down over time, but can be replaced. Ask how long the battery lasts, if it has been replaced and how much a replacement might cost
  • Make sure you have the right to return the device to the seller if it’s faulty
  • Ask about the warranty. How old is it, has it been renewed and is it transferable from one user to the next? 


  • Memory is measured in Gigabytes (GB), and varies from tablet to tablet. One GB can hold a 90-minute, standard-definition movie; about 200 songs; or a small handful of app games
  • Bear in mind, though, that updates can use much, much more than that. 
  • Remember that you won’t just be using your tablet for one thing. As well as entertainment files like TV and music, your tablet could soon fill up with photos, email, useful apps and more.

Important extra details

  • Original packaging and a receipt are important for warranty reasons
  • Make sure all of the peripheral items are included, especially chargers. Don’t depend on old chargers you have for similar products, as they often change from one generation to the next
  • If it’s a tablet or iPad with 3G or 4G, then you might want to use your own sim card from your mobile network, so test your sim card works with the tablet
  • Some tablets are ‘sim-locked’, which means they can only use the original sim
  • Check compatibility with other products. You might want to link your phone or computer’s information with your tablet, but that’s often only possible with the same brand.