Use iPad as a Phone – Tools, Tips, and Tricks

Want to buy a new iPad Air and pay nothing for it? Kill your voice service. It’s possible — right now.

Next year, I’m thinking of ditching the iPhone and just carrying an iPad. The iPad Air is much smaller and lighter. Here’s how I plan to accomplish this:

NEW! Hear my audio commentary about using an iPad as a phone:

The iPhone 7 Plus Elephant in the Room

New! The iPhone 7 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen and some landscape User Interface views not available on the smaller / older iPhones. If you are looking into getting an iPad it might be a viable alternative.

iPads Can Now Make / Receive Regular Phone Calls (with an iPhone Nearby)

With the introduction of iOS 8 iPads (and Macs) can make and receive calls through an available iPhone connection. If you want to keep your iPhone and just want calling features on the iPad, this is now available. It works great too. When you get a call on your iPhone, your iPad will also ring. You can talk through the mic on the iPad. You can also make calls using the Contacts app on the iPad. Pretty handy.

The iPad Vertical Messenger Bag Matters

What's in my bag - iPad, Apple Earbuds, small messenger bag

Mid-size messenger bag… not great for everyday use… pretty bulky

I recently purchased a V7 light vertical messenger bag¬†and it’s perfect for carrying an iPad plus a few other things like business cards, earbuds, and a phone. You can see how much smaller it is compared to a normal / mid-size bag. The V7 vertical messenger bag has a nice durable canvas material (kind of like outdoor tent material) and in gray it’s really stylish with black accents. It also comes in black. Plus, it’s only $15.

Small vertical messenger bag for iPad

V7 Small vertical messenger bag for iPad is great for everyday use – light, not bulky

Remove Voice Plan – Mobile Phones

Removing the regular voice service should save me around $50 / month. This will pay for a new iPad Air just in the first year. Plus, the audio quality will be better using FaceTime Audio / Google Voice / Hangouts instead of cellular voice. Plus, iPads have much better battery life than iPhones.


Google Voice has some handy features like voicemail transcription and call forwarding. It can send received text messages through email as well.

Disadvantages of Using iPad as iPhone

There are a few thing you lose, but I am willing to make some sacrifices.

  • Portability
  • Better camera present in iPhone (the iPad camera isn’t bad – 5MP vs 8MP, but you lose the Flash)
  • No vibration feature (used for some games as well as receiving calls)
  • True 911 services (I’m looking into alternatives)
  • Can’t work with an Apple Watch (at least not yet)

What To Do With an Old iPhone?

IPhones have wifi built-in, so you can still make and receive calls using the Google Hangouts app. Also, you can activate the hotspot functionality on the iPad and take the iPhone with you when you go places. It should work within 30 feet or so of the iPad.

If you don’t want that old iPhone you could sell it on eBay, give it to a family member, or trade it in at a department store like Walmart, Target, or even the Apple store. I think retailers are getting smarter in their thinking that users want the latest tech and the old tech needs to be unloaded in a way that gives some value to existing customers.

The camera on the iPhone 4/5/5S is better than the iPad, so you may want to keep it around just as a camera. Plus, iPhones make pretty good iPods for night-time listening.

People have mentioned that you can make emergency calls with deactivated iPhones. You may want to see if this is the case and keep that old iPhone for 911 service.

Still Not Sure You Want to Use Your iPad as a Phone? New Options From AT&T

If all this seems like too much for you, AT&T is making it cheaper to keep your existing iPhone after your contract expires. Stiff competition is lowering costs a bit.

Want to Use an iPad as a Phone but Don’t Care About Cost?

If you have an iPhone and voice plan already and want to use the iPad as a phone, you can. Newer iPads can be configured to link to your phone number. So when someone calls your iPhone voice number, it will ring your iPad wherever you are. Not just on the same network. If cost is not an issue for you, this is the best option. Note that you won’t get voicemails – you need to call your voice number and use the keypad to get your voice messages.

Share Your Experience

Using you iPad as a phone? Share your experience in the comments below and help others make the transition.

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