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Apple Gives Up on iPad 4G Label

Apple Gives Up on iPad 4G Label
May 14, 2012 4:21PM

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Apple "is yielding to the will of the Australian market and its courts," said analyst Jeff Orr, a tablet market expert. "Rather than try and fight the government, Apple realizes that it can be a good citizen by changing its packaging to align with local policies." Apple has begun marketing new iPads as "Wi-Fi + Cellular" instead of "Wi-Fi + 4G."

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Throw another Apple on the barbie, mates. In a concession to complaints from consumers down under, Apple is no longer claiming overseas that its newest iPad can deliver 4G long-term evolution (LTE) high-speed data.

New iPads equipped for mobile broadband access are now labeled for sale as "Wi-Fi + Cellular." The change came after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (similar to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission) took the computer giant to court because the iPad's top mobile connection speed doesn't meet that country's definition of 4G.

'A Simple Term'

The Financial Times of London reported that the United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority had been in ongoing discussions with Apple about whether its ads promising 4G were truthful since 4G networks are only in the initial stages in much of the world.

Apple argued that the iPad connects with HSPA+ networks, which are marketed sometimes as 4G in the U.S.

The Sydney Morning Herald cited the change as a victory for the ACCC, saying Apple released "a statement that because telecommunications companies "do not all refer to their high-speed networks with the same terminology" it had therefore "decided to use 'Wi-Fi + Cellular' as a simple term" which describes all of the networks supported by the new iPad."

The International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations-affiliated agency, in 2008 classified 4G as data speed of 100 megabits per second for fast mobility and 1 gigabit per second for pedestrians. Few carriers today can deliver that kind of speed. AT&T and Verizon Wireless promise LTE speed of 5 to 12 megabits per second for uplink and 2 to 5 mbps for downloads. Sprint promises up to 10 mbps for its WiMAX network .

The ITU definition seems to be in flux, however. In October 2010, it announced that two new technologies, "LTE-Advanced" and "WirelessMAN-Advanced" had "successfully met all of the criteria established by ITU [radiocommunication sector] for the first release of IMT-Advanced global 4G mobile wireless broadband technology."

A short time later, the ITU declared that WiMAx, HSPA+ and LTE could also be called 4G.

Good Corporate Citizenship

Apple first addressed complaints in Australia that the device was not 4G by offering refunds for a limited time and posting notices in stores saying 4G speed was not available in some areas, but apparently decided it worthwhile to shift marketing gears.

"The company is yielding to the will of the Australian market and its courts," said analyst Jeff Orr, a tablet market expert at ABI Research. "Rather than try and fight the government, Apple realizes that it can be a good citizen by changing its packaging to align with local policies."

But Orr said it was unlikely that this change would amount to any action by U.S. regulators as more and more devices stamped 4G roll into the market here.

"We do not expect U.S. regulators or politicians to become involved in the marketing of '4G,' " Orr said.

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