Apple ditches “4G” name for iPad

iPad has changed its marketing of the “4G” iPad after complaints it was not compatible with 4G services in all countries where it was on sale. But the company has stopped a little short of admitting it was at fault.

As we’ve previously covered, the new iPad was marketed as coming in two version: “Wi-Fi” and “Wi-Fi + 4G.” The problem was the feature only works where the 4G signal is broadcasted over the 700MHz and 2100MHz ranges. In some countries those aren’t used for 4G, a prominent case being Australia where those frequencies are earmarked for over-the-air digital television broadcasts.

Legal and regulatory threats led Apple to come out with a series of dubious defenses to the claim, covering most possible reasons except for what would have been a more convincing “hey, it’s 4G in a lot of places and heck, it’s a bit of a hassle to change the branding everywhere else.”

After initially suggesting there was no room for confusion and that the availability of the 4G speeds had been made perfectly clear, Apple came out with a real killer excuse: it effectively argued that most cellphone networks exaggerate what counts as 4G and that the problem is that Australia’s Telstra is just a little bit too honest. It said that the service that Telstra provides that does work with the new iPad could easily be billed as 4G.

The problem with that argument is that not only does Telstra not bill this service as 4G, but that it has a separate, faster service under the 4G banner.

Apple had already agreed to make local advertising clearer, specifically pointing out in advertising that the more expensive model is not compatible with Australia’s 4G services.

Now it has concluded that the “4G” name simply isn’t viable, and that using or not using it on a local basis is too much trouble. Instead it has completely rebranded the device as “Wi-Fi + Cellular.” Website buyers will now see details of the compatible networks and services in their country.

According to Apple, the change is simply because different companies use different terms for high-speed services and that “+ Cellular” is the easiest way to accurately describe the expensive model’s added feature.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which had already began court action, said the change would mitigate Apple’s behavior, but didn’t “deal with any past conduct” and that the legal action would continue.

That said, as long as Apple is happy to refund any buyers who felt misled, it’s hard to see how a court would impose any further punishment — this does come across more a case of lack of care and attention rather than a deliberate marketing scam.


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