Why the iPad 3 will get 4G before the iPhone

Summary:Bloomberg says that the iPad's larger battery can better support the power requirements of LTE. While this sounds logical I don't think that it's the real reason.

Bloomberg, citing three people familiar with the product, dropped a doozy of a rumor on Friday about the iPad 3, noting that it will ship with a quad-core processor, retina display and an LTE radio capable of 4G data speeds -- and that it's coming in March.

The company’s manufacturing partners in Asia started ramping up production of the iPad 3 this month and plan to reach full volumes by February, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public.

While the retina display part of the rumor should come as a surprise to no one, the quad-core, LTE and March details start to bring the picture of the elusive iPad successor into better focus.

Many people are probably wondering why would Apple bring LTE to the iPad before the iPhone 4S, which was released in October 2011.

According to one of Bloomberg's sources, the main reason is because the iPad has a bigger battery and can better support the power requirements of LTE. While this sounds logical I don't think that that's the reason.

A more plausible reason is that Apple is waiting for mobile network technology to reach critical mass before putting it in its devices. The best example of this is Apple's launch of the original iPhone in January 2007 without a 3G radio. Apple opted for slower 2G (EDGE) data on the original iPhone despite 3G technology being available because it wasn't available everywhere. History then repeated itself in October 2010 when Apple released the iPhone 4S without 4G.

Another argument could be made for battery life. The newer, faster data networks (like 4G) usually require a higher-power radio, which in turn drains the battery faster (just ask any 4G phone owner) -- a bad user experience and a risk that Apple isn't willing to take.

I've also heard the theory that, in the case of the iPhone, Apple didn't want to include an LTE radio in the iPhone 4S because it would give a leg up to 4G carriers -- at the expense of 3G carriers. Apple doesn't want to empower the carriers in any way, shape or form. If you need evidence of this, consider that Apple doesn't allow carriers to silkscreen their ugly logos on the iPhone (like they do on every other phone). And if that wasn't enough, Apple released iMessage in iOS 5 -- which basically cooks the carrier's golden goose (SMS).

In addition to its larger battery, Apple can afford to take a bigger risk with the iPad 3 by including LTE because it's not the iPhone. When your iPad runs out of battery you might not be able to play Where's My Water? but it's not going to prevent you from making or receiving phone calls -- which can be a safety issue for some users.

The iPhone is such an important part of many people's lives that Apple's not going to bet its battery on a new and power-hungry radio -- like LTE -- I don't care how fast it is. The iPad, on the other hand, is still mostly a luxury device. It's like a second car, or a summer home, you don't need one to get by, but it sure is nice to have.

Like LTE.

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Mobility, Processors

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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