Apple gives in: iPad 3 drops '4G' tag to avoid lawsuits

Apple gives in to regulatory pressure by removing any mention of "4G" from its websites, after hundreds of complaints that the iPad 3 will not connect to high-speed networks.

In silence and without comment, Apple has quietly dropped the "4G" tag from its new iPad 3 tablet in favour of the legal-friendly "Cellular" term.

The Cupertino-based tablet maker had faced litigation in Australia and criticism from a number of European consumer groups after it was found the 4G-capable devices would not work outside the United States and Canada, despite no change in global marketing.

Apple's U.K. and Australia online retail stores have both replaced the "4G" tag in favour of "Cellular" to appease both consumer groups, Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the UK's Advertisement Standards Authority (ASA).

The ACCC said Apple had deceived its customers for claiming the new and shiny rectangle could access Australian 4G networks. Apple responded by saying it will make it clear that the iPad 3 will not work on 4G networks.

Apple had even tried to change the term '3G' into '4G' in a bid to avoid the complaints. Terms like '2G', '3G' and '4G' are not industry-defined, and speeds can vary across networks.

Apple has now made it crystal clear that Australia's 4G networks are not compatible with the tablet with a clear statement on its website (see above).

In the U.K., a number of complaints by customers pushed the ASA into acting against Apple for its misleading advertisements. The regulator had received "dozens of complaints" from customers, and had pushed for Apple to remove any mentions of "4G" from its websites. It should come as little surprise considering Britain has yet to see its mobile networks divide up its 4G spectrum without bickering furiously about it.

Some networks had even opted to avoid litigation directed at them by including stickers to inform potential buyers that the new iPad will not work on existing 4G networks, or even 4G networks that don't even exist yet.

This should come as bittersweet news for consumers. Apple has already sold millions of iPads across the U.K., Europe and Australia, while the vast majority are unaware that they will not be able to connect to high-speed mobile broadband networks.

Most iPad 3 buyers will not return to the stores with their tablet to demand a refund. While Apple cowers in the face of trans-Pacific litigation and regulatory fire, it revels in the vast profits it has generated amid the controversy.

It's a win for consumers, but it's an even greater win for Apple. It has now complied with both Australian and U.K. regulators, and will likely follow suit in other countries it has a presence in.

Apple did not comment at the time of writing.

Image credit: ZDNet.