Why I regret not getting LTE on the iPad Air 2

Despite paying extra for the LTE option on every tablet I've purchased in recent years, I decided to forgo the LTE option for the iPad Air 2. Bad move.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on
I have been paying extra for the LTE option on every tablet I've purchased in the last few years. I own two Kindle Fire HDX tablets and an iPad Air with 4G/LTE. They all share 10GB of pooled data on my Verizon account. My purchase of the iPad Air 2 a few months ago was the exception to my LTE-required rule, and I regret it.

I work remotely every day of the week and long ago I grew tired of regularly doing so at venues with either no hotspot or Wi-Fi so poor it impeded my ability to work. After doing that for far too long, a few years ago I decided that all tablets purchased going forward would have LTE.

This has served me well, especially with the iPad Air I bought soon after they were released. The iPad Air quickly became my daily system and LTE was a factor. The iPad could do everything I needed in a highly portable form. I stopped fighting with poor Wi-Fi, and only used it in venues I knew had good wireless. Everywhere else it was powered by LTE.

When I recently purchased the iPad Air 2, it was primarily for the purpose of covering it for ZDNet. I was still happy with the older iPad Air and planned on keeping it alongside the sleeker iPad Air 2.

Since I was keeping the older iPad, at the time of purchase of the iPad Air 2 I decided to save a little money and go Wi-Fi only. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus shortly before this, and with the Handoff feature of iOS 8 I figured I could use the phone as a hotspot for the LTE-less iPad.

That worked well at first but I soon began to tire of using the phone's LTE with the tablet. Connecting the two is easy enough by simply tapping the iPhone in the iPad Air 2 network list. With Handoff activated, that single tap turns on the iPhone 6 Plus in the gear bag, turns on the personal hotspot, and auto-connects the iPad to it; at least that's the way it's supposed to work.

Unfortunately, what is making me regret having to do that -- due to the lack of LTE on what is my main mobile system -- is the delay of getting everything going and getting to work. Sometimes the Handoff isn't an instant connection, and the iPad takes a little while to pair with the iPhone.

It doesn't help that every once in a while the iPad fails to initially connect to the iPhone's personal hotspot. An error dialog box appears on the iPad indicating connection with the iPhone failed and I have to start the process again. It's not a long process, but when I'm in a hurry to jump online with the iPad Air 2 it is very annoying.

Once the iPad Air 2 taps into the LTE connection of the iPhone 6 Plus, there is regularly a lag before the iPad can actually do something online. It's not every time, and it's not a long period before the connection completes, but it's just enough to aggravate me when I need to get busy. This is a work system for me and any obstacle to taking the iPad Air 2 out of the bag and quickly getting to work is too much for me.

I still have the iPad Air with LTE and due to my aggravation some days I take it and leave the iPad Air 2 in my office. On those days I love having LTE but regret not having the thinner, lighter, faster iPad with me. While the size difference and different CPUs in the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 don't seem significant, in reality it is noticeable.

Recently I've experienced random sync failures in Evernote that I've determined are related to personal hotspot use. Evernote syncs when you close the app which is vital to my work, as I am in and out of the app all day. Recently, it's failed to sync several times and at first I thought the problem was with the app.

It turns out it was due to the fact that the tether between the iPad and iPhone drops when you don't do anything online for a while. Evernote doesn't give a warning when the sync fails and you're not in the app, so I think it has synced when it hasn't. This is reason enough to make the omission of LTE on the iPad Air 2 a major failure of mine.

The situation has me seriously considering selling my Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 and getting one with LTE. It would be an even trade on my data plan because if I do this I'd sell the iPad Air. The LTE iPad Air 2 would simply replace the iPad Air on the plan.

The lesson I've learned from this is to never go cheap on my main work system. Spend the few extra dollars and have the ability to work online from almost anywhere. The same applies to memory. If you can afford more memory, get it.

Note: To answer the inevitable questions I'll get asked, the two iPads get similar battery life. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's running LTE all day or Wi-Fi; both have at least 40 percent in the tank after long hours of heavy use. My 10GB monthly data pool is never in danger of running out, even with all-day LTE usage.

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