New iPad: Why you should never buy an LTE tablet

March 17, 2012

The Verge’s Sean Hollister says that the new iPad is not only a magnificent device, but also a nice reminder of how horrible data plans are:

Apple's new iPad is magnificent. The screen is superb, the processor is fast, and despite its newfound LTE cellular connectivity, the battery life lasts. And yet, I’d never, ever recommend you buy an LTE tablet, or any other integrated cellular device that doesn't make calls. Why? The powers that be have colluded to place arbitrary restrictions on your data which don't make any sense.

Take FaceTime, for example, which doesn't work on the iPad over LTE. You know what works just fine? Two iPads, with one piggybacking off the other's LTE mobile hotspot. Or an iPad tethered to an LTE smartphone. Or a portable hotspot like an LTE MiFi, which can serve other devices as well. (Or Skype.) Remember the PS Vita’s 3G model, which can't play online games over cellular? Hook it up to an LTE hotspot in an area with good connectivity, and you'll have no such trouble. But on the flip side, if you don't pay for that integrated 3G plan and your hotspot dies on the road, your Vita won't get so much as a status update and your iPad won't even be able to check important email.

To Verizon or AT&T, it's the same exact data, and to you it's a perfectly crisp, smooth video call out in the field or a game on the go, with no need to bump elbows at a local Starbucks or stay at home. But because our cellular carriers have realized that they can charge us extra for each individual device we connect to their network, cap mobile downloads, and influence software providers not to place strain on the network, you end up paying more for less and enduring arbitrary restrictions when you buy devices with integratedcellular. The answer, for now, is to buy a portable hotspot or a tethering plan instead, but the tradeoffs don’t make sense. Why don't carriers make it worth our while to buy devices with embedded cellular radios?

If you know where I'm going with this argument, chances are you've heard it before: the FaceTime issue underscores a massive debate about net neutrality that's been going on for a long while. If carriers acted like dumb pipes for the data they transport — as they more or less do when you use a mobile hotspot, which is almost indistinguishable from Wi-Fi as far as your device is concerned — then, the argument goes, you'd just pay for the data you use, regardless of what content that data carries or the path it takes to get to your tablet or handheld. The counterargument is typically that carriers need to manage their network, lest it get overwhelmed by the traffic of millions of additional FaceTime users and the like. Still, that's easily solved: simply charge for the actual amount of data actually used — basic supply and demand — and let users throttle themselves.

The Associated Press compares the new iPad with older models:

Apple started selling its new iPad in the U.S. and several other countries on Friday. Here’s a look at the key differences between the new iPad, the iPad 2 and the original iPad.

New iPad tech specs:

• Prices: 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only model for $499, 32 gigabytes for $599 and 64 gigabytes for $699. 4G models cost $130 more.

• Screen size: 9.7 inches diagonally

• Thickness: 0.37 inch

• Weight: 1.44 pounds (1.46 pounds for 4G model)

• Screen resolution: “Retina display,” 2048 by 1536 pixels

• Cameras: 5-megapixel camera on back and a low-resolution camera on front, for videoconferencing

• Video recording: high-definition (1080p — comparable to the resolution of a 40-inch flat-panel TV), up to 30 frames per second with audio

• Battery life: 10 hours.

• Dual-core A5X processor (quad-core graphics subsystem)

• U.S. wireless carriers: AT&T, Verizon Wireless

• U.S. release date: March 16, 2012

iPad 2 tech specs:

• Prices: 16-gigabyte model with Wi-Fi for $399, 3G-capable version for $529 (Originally same as new iPad pricing)

• Screen size: same as new iPad

• Thickness: 0.34 inch

• Weight: 1.33 pounds (1.35-1.36 pounds for 3G models)

• Screen resolution: 1024 by 768 pixels

In other iPad news, the radio show “This American Life” says that the source material of an episode about an Foxconn iPad factory was “partially fabricated,” The Verge reports:

This American Life has retracted an episode that focused on working conditions inside a Foxconn iPad factory, calling the source material "partially fabricated." The episode — the most popular in TAL history with over a million streams and downloads — was partially based on the work of artist Mike Daisey, who apparently lied to PRI fact-checkers about his experiences visiting Foxconn's facility. Some of the lies were discovered during an interview with Daisey's Chinese translator, who disputed the facts presented in his show and on the air.

A new episode of This American Life detailing the issues and what happened airs later today, with an MP3 of the broadcast available Sunday. Host Ira Glass is taking full responsibility for the error, saying that he's "horrified to have let something like this onto public radio."

Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

For his part, Daisey does not seem to be contrite at all, with a statement on his blog saying that his work is "not journalism" and "operates under a different set of rules and expectations" from a show like This American Life.

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical - enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.

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