The Disappointment to Expect From the iPad's 4G LTE Network

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Future iPad owners are all excited because the LTE network promises faster data speeds without battery compromises -- or, so said Apple during the product unveiling. But before going out and buying Apple's 4G LTE iPad, users should understand that 4G LTE is more of a work in progress than a fully realized super-fast wonderful data reality. Sure, there is reason for some excitement since LTE has proven faster than 3G and 4G networks, but don't let expectations get too high for the new network.

So. Many. Outages. Verizon's network is experiencing one right now, actually. It had one a few weeks ago. And it had them throughout December. The network just isn't that reliable. AT&T hasn't had as bad of a track record as Verizon. And, actually runs faster than Verizon's, at least according to this recent BGR test. But, AT&T's network works in fewer locations. Bringing us to disappointment number two.

LTE Isn't Everywhere. Below we have two maps on the right, Verizon's data coverage, on the left AT&Ts. The red and blue are 3G coverage, what the iPhone runs on. And the yellow dots represent 4G LTE availability -- very tiny bubbles of America. Verizon has more options than AT&T, though AT&T just announced a slew of new cities. Neither is that impressive and neither will work abroad. And, even where the network exists, coverage is spotty: See previous point. 

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Nobody Knows How Fast It Really Is. LTE is certainly a faster option than the 3G stuff out there. Apple mentioned a potential 73mbps -- enough to run HD videos. Looking at speed tests, we doubt it would get that high -- the highest we saw clocked in around 65 mbps. But, tests have shown speeds all over the place with upload speeds as low as 1.2 mbps and download speeds as low as 7.14 mbps. Even the lows are faster than 3G speeds, with AT&T maxing out at 2.75 mbps for downloads and .36 for uploads and Verizon ranking at 1.01 for downloads and .47 mbps for uploads. 

It Might Suck Up Battery. Apple has promised that the new iPad gets the same battery life as the iPad 2 -- even with the faster chip and faster network. Apple even put a bigger battery, making the tablet a smidgen thicker and heavier, to accommodate the upgrade. But, as reviewers have noted, nobody will really know the deal until they get more than 30 seconds to play with the thing. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.