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iPad models equipped with wireless mobile data connectivity (3G or 4G+LTE), regardless of generation, are "unlocked" and not tied to a carrier in the United States. In theory, iPad models may be locked in other countries, however.
However, just because the iPad typically is sold unlocked does not mean that any specific version of the device will work on all carriers.
Original iPad & iPad 2
It is worth noting that even though the GSM-based original iPad and GSM-based iPad 2 models are not locked, the devices do not support the Verizon CDMA 3G network nor does either support the 1700 MHz UMTS/HSDPA frequency used by T-Mobile for 3G in the US. Likewise, the CDMA-based iPad 2 does not support GSM networks like AT&T's and is not intended for use on networks other than Verizon's in the US.
Even though the original iPad and GSM-based iPad 2 models are not locked to AT&T Wireless, the devices are not hardware compatible for 3G with other US wireless carriers. However, either should operate via the slower 2G standard over T-Mobile (assuming that one is willing to prepare a "trimmed" Micro SIM card).
CDMA authentication is more complicated than just switching SIM cards on a GSM network, and as a result, using a CDMA-based iPad 2 on a network other than Verizon's in the US -- like Sprint or Cricket -- was a challenging task. However, following the hack of the CDMA-based iPhone 4 to run on Cricket, it's not surprising that clever individuals have hacked the CDMA-based iPad 2 to run on Cricket as well.
iPad 3rd Gen
Like its predecessors, the iPad 3rd Gen line is not locked to a carrier.
However, the 4G+LTE version for AT&T specifically supports the 700 MHz and 2100 MHz 4G LTE frequencies as well as UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). This model is available around the world for a variety of carriers, but as it only supports 4G LTE frequencies in the US (on AT&T) and Canada (on Bell, Rogers and Telus) it only will work with 3G networks in other locations, which led to legal troubles for Apple in some countries.
In the US, the Verizon version specifically supports just the 700 MHz 4G LTE frequency. It also supports CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz), UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz).
The iPad 3rd Gen version for AT&T also can use T-Mobile, but only on the company's slower 2G network.
iPad 4th Gen & iPad mini
Like all previous iPad models, the iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini models still are not locked to a carrier. However, LTE capabilities are different and each configuration is limited to carriers that support a particular LTE band.
Specifically, the A1459 iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS) and A1454 iPad mini (Wi-Fi/AT&T/GPS) mostly intended for use in the US on AT&T and in Canada on Bell, Rogers and Telus -- support LTE bands 4 and 17 as well as GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz).
In the US, the A1460 iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) and A1455 iPad mini (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) are intended to work only on Verizon and Sprint. However, these models also are available from a large number of other carriers around the world. Specifically, both support 4G LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 13, and 25, as well as CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz), GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) and UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz).
Definitely make sure that the iPad you purchase is compatible with specific carriers of interest, but in general, the A1460 iPad 4th Gen (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) and A1455 iPad mini (Wi-Fi/Verizon & Sprint/GPS) are compatible with more carriers worldwide.
Originally, the iPad only was available for purchase direct from Apple and "select resellers" (in the United States, Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart were among those selected). However, Apple now allows all Apple Authorized Resellers to sell the iPad.
To buy a new or used iPad -- free of sales tax -- please visit site sponsor PowerMax.
The original iPad was designed entirely in-house, and like the iPhone before it, the design team no doubt included the late Steve Jobs, Apple CEO; Jonathan Ive, the director of Apple's Industrial Design Group; and Scott Forstall, Apple's vice president of Platform Experience.
However, it is important to recognize that the iPad was created by a team of dozens of designers, engineers, and programmers.
Like the pre-iPhone 4 iPhone models, the original iPad and iPad 2 models use the Helvetica font for the interface. Like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, the iPad 3rd Gen, iPad 4th Gen, and iPad mini models all use Helvetica Neue.
iPod models released prior to the iPhone use either Chicago, Espy Sans, or Myriad and use Helvetica after the release of the iPhone.