It's high time for a MacBook Air with LTE

It's high time for a MacBook Air with LTE

Summary: The iPad has an LTE option. So does the iPad mini. It's high time for that option on the MacBook Air.

TOPICS: Mobility, 4G, Apple, Laptops
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

I love my 11-inch MacBook Air. Even so, there's a glaring omission that keeps it from being the best laptop around. It's 2013 and it's downright ludicrous that there's no option for wireless broadband, aka LTE, for the Air.

Having 4G LTE in a laptop is nothing new and there's no obvious reason why the MacBook Air doesn't have wireless broadband as an option. The Air is one of the most portable laptops in existence and as such is the perfect candidate for integrated LTE.

Apple, you've put the hardware for LTE in the iPad and even the tiny iPad mini so surely there's plenty of room in the MacBook Air. I understand that the iPads use different hardware than the Intel package in the Air, but even so it must be something you can easily do.

Earlier this year I spent a few months using Google's Chromebook Pixel, and I found the hardware to constitute one of the best laptops I have used. The Pixel has nice hardware but my designation of best laptop was helped greatly by having LTE inside. Without LTE I would not feel the Pixel is the best.

I tweeted this on Thursday. And, after thinking about the lack of LTE, I believe this is not accurate:

If you produce a MacBook Air, 11-inch is my preference, with 4G/LTE inside I would buy one in a heartbeat. I don't think I am alone in that regard, and I'll bet you'd sell more than a few of them. With LTE inside, that tweet would accurately reflect my thoughts on the MacBook Air.

I have LTE in my iPad. I have LTE in my iPad mini. Why can't I have LTE in my MacBook Air?

I'm sitting in a cafe writing this on my MacBook Air that is tethered to my iPad mini for the fast LTE connection. It works well, but if the Air had LTE I wouldn't be forced to use the iPad mini as a personal hotspot. 

I want to pull the MacBook Air out of my bag and just get to work. It should look for a configured Wi-Fi network, and if unavailable, connect via LTE. I shouldn't have to think about it nor do anything to get online. Just like I do with the iPad and iPad mini. As I did with the Chromebook Pixel.

Having LTE on a laptop is very important when travelling. On my last business trip I brought the Chromebook Pixel and the LTE was a life saver. My hotel Wi-Fi was abysmal and the LTE stepped in and kept me moving right along.

Shared data plans are becoming commonplace which makes it more likely that buyers will pay extra for the LTE feature. I have the iPad and iPad mini on my Verizon plan, so adding a MacBook Air would be an affordable option. I probably wouldn't have chosen the LTE option on both iPads without the shared data plan. 

I don't know who needs to see this to make this happen. Perhaps Jony Ive, or Tim Cook? Whoever needs to get this done, please do. It wouldn't hurt to add the LTE option to the MacBook Pro either. You are surely aware that your competitors, every single one, offer LTE options. You are trailing all of them in this area.

I believe you'd sell the option perhaps far more than you realize. Whatever has kept you from adding LTE so far is not a good enough reason. As stated, your competitors can do it so there's no excuse for you, Apple. Just do it already.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, 4G, Apple, Laptops

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  • LTE

    If they do, it better be in the next 14 days so I can return the 13" I bought last night and get one of those!
  • Apple will be working on an ARM 'MacBook'

    Apple has got to be working on a laptop running ARM processors with iOS.

    It's only a matter of time, and the logical product to start with is the Macbook Air, and then later migrate the architecture to MacPros (which would be renamed).

    Once its running on ARM with a reworked iOS, then you'll get all those connectivity goodies like LTE and gyroscopes and GPS and barometers etc etc.
    • An Arm "MacBook"

      So, basically an ipad with a keyboard glued to it?
      • Not quite

        It would run OS X, a la Windows RT except with full capability.
        • In time, maybe

          I would agree with you James, even though @Vbitrate claimed iOS.
          But even though that have 64bit arm chips, they still don't have the power of the intel chipsets, nevermind the fact that the entire OS X OS and all applications for it would probably have to be re-compiled for arm.
          Then drop Intel chips? Or have to versions for everything?
        • They will have better luck with Intel

          Switch iOS to Atom. the Mac on ARM will take a significant performance hit. They might be able to filed a low end Mac but everything else will be lost.
          • Ugh, field not filed

          • Xcode

            IOS is all Xcode anyway it would be transparent.
          • An ARM laptop seems inevitable

            It's only a matter of time before OS X gets merged with iOS.

            When the transition happens, they'll start from the bottom end, where the MacBook Air is now.

            Yes, it is surprising that MacBook Air doesn't already have portability features like LTE and sensors. There's no reason a laptop like the 'Air' shouldn't have all those things like a tablet does.

            But if Apple adds all that to its laptop now, those efforts will be wasted when Apple's laptops transition to iOS (probably in a couple of years). The other thing is, according to many reports, OS X is rotting on the vine somewhat, and many OS X developers have been taken off it and moved to iOS, as Apple rushes to add improvements to iOS.

            Just like PC sales are waning, so are Mac OS X sales. Battery life is very important with laptops (especially for a light one like the AIR), and ARM still gives better battery life than Intel.

            Apple is very invested in ARM. It keeps promoting the 'desktop power' of ARM. It has its own ARM design house to make the A7. I can see where all this is headed.
        • That'd be a horrible idea

          What would the benefit be for the end user? Battery life at the expense of being able to do almost anything is not a good trade off.
          Michael Alan Goff
    • Working On It, Yes

      I'm sure it's running in a highly secure room somewhere. Whether it makes it out as a product is far from guaranteed. I would guess it gets as much engineering attention as it takes to get it to run, but not so much that it would not take at least 12 months to polish into a real go-to-market product. The first item on the "Why are devoting resources?" list: to have an alternative to Intel.

      Here's a wack-a-doodle idea: its BootCamp runs Android.
    • A MacBook Air running Mac OS X on Intel is FAR MORE POWERFUL than ...

      ... iOS running on ARM. MacOSX, Windows, and Linux are all full-function operating systems offering preemptive multitasking.

      This offers a level of power and flexibility not available on iOS, Android, or Windows RT.

      In short, the MacBook Air is a REAL computer. iOS and Android are toys by comparison - with very limited capabilities. This makes them very simple to use but very limited.
      M Wagner
      • Re: full-function operating systems offering preemptive multitasking

        This has nothing to do with running on ARM instead of on x86.

        In fact, all "big iron" heavily multitasking systems run on RISC CPUs, just like ARM. History shows, that the x86 architecture has always been a nightmare for "preemptive multitasking" operating systems.

        What might be really holding Apple from moving off Intel CPUs is Thunderbolt, but I will not be surprised if they have "architectural license" for it by virtue of co-authoring the spec, just as they have architectural license for ARM, and are not using ready-made building blocks for their CPUs.

        Oh, and by the way, iOS is just as preemptively multitasking, as is OS X. They have always been the same OS. Just with a different API set, most notably the UI.
        • Wrong

          "In fact, all "big iron" heavily multitasking systems run on RISC CPUs"


          "I will not be surprised if they have "architectural license" for it by virtue of co-authoring the spec"

          Highly doubtful

          "Oh, and by the way, iOS is just as preemptively multitasking, as is OS X."

          • Re: Wrong

            Hehe, you were compelled to declare my statements wrong? Great!

            "In fact, all "big iron" heavily multitasking systems run on RISC CPUs"

            Please, provide your facts to prove this is wrong.

            "Oh, and by the way, iOS is just as preemptively multitasking, as is OS X."

            Please, provide your facts to prove this is wrong.

            As for Thunderbolt, until it gets public, it is of course covered under NDA, so we can only speculate here.
    • Mac laptops have a few of those sensors already.

      Sudden motion sensor? It's nothing more than an accelerometer. There's also supposedly a gyroscope.

      If you look up MacBook sudden motion sensor apps, you should find a small list of these on a couple of websites.
  • cellular is a nightmare for manufacturers

    If you produce an device with embedded cellular, you are severely limiting the markets where it can sell.

    This is, I believe the primary reason Apple made the iPod Touch when they introduced the iPhone and why companies such as Microsoft avoid adding cellular to their devices.

    It is not the additional cost to support cellular, but the certification (regulation) requirements. Adding 3G/LTE to the device also means that you may never, ever be allowed to sell it in certain markets. Or, you will be forced to go via "telco" type sales channels in some markets.

    Otherwise yes, it would be nice to see more portable notebooks with integrated cellular, even if LTE is far from universally available (but 3G is almost).
    • Good answer, danbi.

      Besides, most everyone has a smartphone now with WiFi Tethering options. Even James uses that option with his iPad Mini and MBA combo on occasions.
      • It was a stupid answer. One we expect from an Apple fanboi.

        Apple has the resources, know how, and experience with building LTE equipped products. Other companies do it. There's no reason Apple shouldn't.

        One thing I will say is once Apple starts to include it the Apple fanbois will change their tune (again) and it will become the best thing since sliced bread.
        • Um, I can think of a perfectly obvious reason

          Why would anyone actually need it? There's not a mobile provider in the western world that doesn't make small USB key 4G modems. Since a Mac is a full computer that can run these pretty much as soon as you plug them in, why would anyone need this?

          Not sure if people have noticed this about Macs, but they don't tend to come with every blinky, flashing doodad under the sun, particularly when those things are easily added on. There's no DVD/BlueRay on a Macbook Air. No ice cube maker. No floppy disk drive. No Bernoulli cartridge slot.

          if you need your blinky flashy things built into the box, Apple is probably not your computer vendor. For those of us who are agree with a fairly spartan, practical approach, Apple can meet our needs.