Sunday, May 13, 2012

Under pressure, Apple re-labels its iPad from 'wi-fi + 4G' to 'wi-fi + cellular'

After taking much criticism because its LTE-capable iPads only work on American and Canadian LTE networks, "dropping down" to HSPA+ in other countries, Apple has modified the description of its "new iPad" in its stores in some countries. Instead of calling those iPads as "wi-fi + 4G," as it had been, Apple is calling it "wi-fi + cellular."

The change appears in the U.S. Apple Store, for example. Thus far, the change has been noted in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, U.A.E., Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Ireland, and Hong Kong online stores.

Apple is also changing signage in its retail stores, as well.  We expect it will require its carrier partners to do so, also.

It's a change from Apple's history with the iPad. All iPad and iPad 2 models with cellular connectivity were referred to as “iPad wi-fi + 3G.” The cellular-equipped model of the 16GB iPad 2 that Apple still sells is called “iPad 2 wi-fi + 3G.”

However, in some countries, especially Australia and the U.K., Apple took major hits over its claim of 4G, since only in the United States and Canada was LTE supported, on a total of 5 carriers (Verizon, AT&T in the U.S., and Bell, Rogers, Telus in Canada). Elsewhere, the device supports HSPA+ and GSM.

Although it liked to advertise 4G for its new iPad, Apple made sure to place disclaimers in some stores. In particular, in Australia, which is where Apple has taken the most flak for its 4G claim, the store has long had the following explicit message regarding the new iPad's 4G moniker:

"This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and WiMAX networks. For service from a wireless carrier, sign up for a simple, month-by-month plan on your iPad and cancel anytime without penalty."

Of course, now that 4G name is gone.

This may - or may not - be a response to Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission. The ACCC wanted Apple to remove the 4G label on its new iPad. In fact, in Australian federal court in mid-April, the company said that the iPad is compatible with data networks run by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone

“which are 4G networks in accordance with accepted industry and regulatory use of the descriptor ’4G’ ... The iPad with WiFi + 4G is a device which performs in accordance with the descriptor ’4G’ in terms of data transfer speed ... The descriptor ’4G’ ... conveys to consumers in Australia that the iPad with WiFi + 4G will deliver a superior level of service in terms of data transfer speed (consistent with accepted industry and regulatory use of that term), and not that the iPad with WiFi + 4G is compatible with any particular network technology promoted by a particular mobile service provider in Australia.”

The 4G reference with regard to networks that are not LTE-based comes via the ITU, which in December of 2010 backtracked on some earlier statements and allowed the use of 4G for HSPA+. Many call that sort of 4G, faux-G or faux 4G, however.

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