Apple Offers New iPad '3' Refunds to Australia Customers Over 4G LTE Claims; Is The UK Next?

 @redletterdave
on March 28 2012 11:56 AM
China
A Chinese boy sold his kidney to buy Apple iPad and iPhone. Reuters

After the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) won a battle with Apple after alleging the Cupertino, Calif.-based company was misleading customers about its third-generation iPad, authorities in other countries, including the UK, Sweden and Denmark, are all now looking to assess the compatibility of the new iPad with local 4G LTE networks.

Now that Apple is granting refunds to Australian customers unhappy with their iPads, other countries want to know if their customers should deserve refunds too. The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed on Tuesday that it is investigating complaints of Apple's misleading 4G claim.

We are aware of the news from Australia regarding the iPad 4G marketing claim, an ASA spokeswoman told Pocket-Lint. Without going through due process we can't say whether the [UK] ad is likely to be problematic. If anyone has concerns about the iPad ad then they can lodge a complaint with us and we will establish whether or not there is a problem under the Code.

The UK's Advertising Code says that all advertisements must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information or by presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible or ambiguous way. This code is similar to the terms used in Australia, which did in fact win its argument with Apple, giving unhappy iPad customers a chance to refund their money.

When Apple launched the new iPad on March 16, the company only announced international LTE carriers for Canada, including Rogers, Bell and TELUS. But on the Australian and UK webpages for the new iPad, it clearly states that the Wi-Fi + 4G model can roam worldwide on fast GSM/UMTS networks, including HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA. When you travel internationally, you can use a micro-SIM card from a local carrier. The problem is, if you use a micro-SIM card in Australia, the UK, or any number of countries, you won't get the high-speed 4G LTE network.

Other countries are bound to start investigating these claims too, which would be a major blow to Apple's overseas reputation. Customers are already frustrated with the fact that they receive new iPads and iPhones weeks after they're released in the U.S., but this latest frustration could put international customers over the edge.

Sweden and Denmark are also reportedly considering investigations, after agencies within both countries received several complaints from customers about 4G connectivity. Even though Sweden carries broad LTE coverage, the new iPad isn't supported on those networks.

One may rightfully ask if the marketing of the new iPad is misleading, said Marek Andersson, a lawyer with the Swedish Consumer Agency. The question is whether this information is clear enough in Apple's marketing.

Even if Apple doesn't offer refunds to the European countries, it will at least need to correct its language and clarify the 4G LTE terms of the new iPad. But given Apple's history, it will likely allow disgruntled customers to refund their new iPads, but only within a certain time frame. Australian customers have only 14 days to claim a refund after buying their new iPads.

Apple's History With LTE

The new iPad is the first iDevice to use the 4G LTE network, but analysts believe Apple wanted to include the high-speed network in the iPhone 4S, and failed. LTE features significantly higher download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies, but previous implementations of LTE in smartphones tended to ravage battery life, which was a major complaint from users. If Apple wanted LTE in the iPhone 4S at the time, it would have been forced to increase the phone's thickness to accommodate a larger circuit board and a bigger battery. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a company earnings conference call in April 2011, said first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.

The iPhone 4 PCB [printed circuit board] is already incredibly small, not leaving any room for an extra chip to enable LTE without shrinking the size of the battery, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and CEO of Anandtech.

Fortunately, Qualcomm recently unveiled the fifth iteration of its new chip, which supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, HSPA+, EV-DO, embedded GPS, and LTE on TDD and FDD networks worldwide. The chip works with Android and Windows 8 devices, and while the new iPad doesn't use this chip, there's a high degree of likelihood that this will be the same chip inside the next iPhone, the iPhone 5.

The Drain of 4G LTE

Apple users get their first taste of LTE in the new iPad, but choosing this option is costly. Compared to the Wi-Fi-only iPad models that cost $499, $599 and $699, the 4G LTE versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. Unfortunately, 4G LTE isn't a one-time payment; you will continue to pay for access to this network for as long as you own the iPad.

While 4G LTE connections produce a seamless browser and tablet experiences, new owners are learning that streaming data over the network is very costly. It may be fast at streaming video, but the reality is that data plans aren't designed to handle so much bandwidth.

AT&T offers 250 MB of data for $14.99 a month, 3 GB for $30 a month, and 5 GB for $50 a month. Similarly, Verizon Wireless offers 1 GB of data for $20 a month, 2 GB for $30 a month, 5 GB for $50 a month, and 10 GB for $80 a month. If this wasn't expensive enough, owners get charged an additional amount -- between $10 and $20 -- for each gigabyte that exceeds the user's monthly cap.

In a profile by The Wall Street Journal, many AT&T and Verizon customers came forward with their stories of how the new iPad shot through their data plans.

Brandon Wells got the new iPad last Friday, started wirelessly streaming March Madness games the next day and by Saturday night was out of gas, The Wall Street Journal reported. Two hours of college basketball-which he viewed mounted to his car dashboard and live at tournament games-had burned through his monthly wireless data allotment of two gigabytes.

The reason LTE is so expensive? For the exact same content, LTE uses twice the amount of data as 3G networks.

Verizon estimates that streaming [regular video] over an LTE connection runs through 650 megabytes an hour, The Journal said. That's double the amount of data used streaming the same video over a 3G link, because the fatter pipe lets more data through. On top of that, the new iPad's sharper screen will encourage some users to view videos in high-definition, which uses 2 gigabytes an hour on a 4G connection, according to Verizon.

Other Features In The New iPad

If countries like the UK, Sweden and Denmark get refunds for the new iPad, customers will be missing out on some other incredible features besides 4G LTE. 

The new iPad features an improved camera, a bigger battery, and a dual-LED backlit system that powers an 2048 x 1536 true HD Retina Display that displays 3.1 million total pixels. The display features 44 percent greater saturation of colors than its predecessor. Apple's dual-LED solution makes the iPad's screen noticeably brighter, but it also apparently solved several puzzling issues with heat dissipation and battery consumption.

The new iPad runs on a A5X chip, which relies on quad-core graphics to power the high-definition graphics evident in the brilliant Retina Display, but the chip is not the rumored A6 chip many were hoping for. Apple also managed to maintain 10 hours of battery life in the new iPad, including 9 hours on 4G.

Furthermore, the new iPad can act as a personal hotspot, which can host up to five devices. The iPad is also 3G world ready, meaning the user can roam around the world and pick up 3G with no problems.

Apple also upgraded its rear camera for better photos, even though taking pictures with a bulky iPad isn't really ideal. However, Apple's new iSight camera features 5-megapixels on the backside, and includes face detection, white balance, and an infrared filter with advanced optics. And, of course, Apple outfitted the iPad HD with auto-focus, video stabilization and full 1080p HD video recording.

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