The term "cellular" may have gone out of fashion with the prevalence of smartphones, tablets, and various mobile data technologies. However, Apple is taking one step back in terms of branding and marketing, due to complaints over its "4G" moniker on its new iPad.
'4G' Around the World
While the Apple iPad is the most popular tablet in today's enterprise market, it's also the leading tablet in the consumer space. The latest iPad is certainly built to spec with the latest in consumer and business mobile broadband needs, supporting 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE). LTE supports speeds up to 30 Mbps in real-world scenarios, and improved latency, relative to previous 3G and 3.5G technologies.
However, not everyone will enjoy 4G speeds on the new iPad, even with 4G technologies being rolled out globally.
Not all regions and carriers around the world are using the same LTE standards used by the major U.S carriers. With varying standards used in different countries, mobile carriers and broadband providers have been using the term "4G" to market a wide array of services that use technologies such as WiMax, TD-SCDMA (in China), and even 3.5G technologies like HSPA+.
As such, consumers have been complaining that their new iPads could not connect at 4G speeds. Unfortunately for Apple, government and advertising regulatory bodies have taken heed. Apple has gone as far as to give refunds to customers in Australia, for instance, but it does not seem to be enough.
The UK's Advertising Standards Association has launched an investigation after receiving more than 40 complaints. Likewise, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has sued Apple for misleading advertising.
This has led Apple to rename the data-enabled iPad to the "iPad WiFi + Cellular" in certain regions, such as Australia, the UK, Canada, UAE, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Ireland, Malaysia and Hong Kong, among others. What's interesting is that Apple has taken the "cellular" nomenclature in its U.S. branding, too -- perhaps for consistency with other markets.
A quick check with Apple's online store should confirm whether the change has taken place in your country.
"Carriers do not all refer to their high-speed networks with the same terminology," Apple said in a statement, adding that they have "decided to use 'wi-fi + cellular' as a simple term which describes all the high-speed networks supported by the new iPad."
Apple says this does not change the fact that the Apple can connect wirelessly through various means. "The advanced wireless features of the new iPad have not changed."
Some industry observers have criticized Apple's move to market its new iPad with a "4G" name in the first place, knowing that the LTE standard only has limited support at this time. Additionally, Apple's decision to change to "Wi-Fi + Cellular" seems to be an admission that marketing the new iPad as a 4G device was a mistake in the first place.
Either way, cellular data connectivity should be enough for consumers in regions where the rollout of true 4G technologies is still limited. As such, Apple's switch to "cellular" would help highlight the iPad's data-connectivity capabilities, regardless of technology.