The iPad Won't Suck Up Data With HD Video Because It Can't

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While everyone's busy freaking out over how the New iPad would eat away data plans in seconds playing videos, they should really be freaking out about how that 4G LTE won't support that video the first place. One of the benefits of having the new iPad run on 4G LTE is that the faster network is so powerful that it handle streaming HD video -- at least in theory. At those speeds, however, the iPad would " burn through a basic 2-gigabyte-per-month data plan in about four minutes," notes Slate's Will Oremus. (Yahoo's Barb Dywad gives it 10.) That is indeed very scary-sounding -- think of all those data overage charges! -- but it would be much scarier if the iPad ever reached that theoretical 73 mbps speed. More likely, if it works like other devices on that network, it won't ever get up that high.

We won't know how the iPad performs until Apple releases it in a few weeks. But, looking at how other devices have done on LTE, we can get a good idea of how the iPad will do. And it's definitely not that fast. Looking at a bunch of different tests, it doesn't look like it will ever reach that 73mbps level. 65 mbps was the very fastest we ever saw from the site Android and Me. But, results varied dramatically from test to test, as this Gizmodo roundup from about a year ago shows. It has MSNBC clocking in at a 32.8 but Engadget getting 7.14. And, let's not forget that these are maximum speeds. Sites that reported averaged results, had much lower speeds. Take a look at this Gotta Be Mobile chart, averages are hovering at the 10-15 mbps mark.

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From these tests, it seems very unlikely that the iPad will ever get to high enough speeds to play anything that requires that many mbps. Oremus even admits this way down in his column. "You’d probably have to be standing on top of the cell tower, and be the only person using it, to reach 73 Mbps. Moreover, such speeds are unnecessary for most purposes," he says. " High-definition streaming video, for instance, requires about 50 Mbps, according to industry strategist Chetan Sharma." Even at 50 mpbs, most iPads most of the time will have a hard time streaming HD video.

So Oremus has the Internet all freaked out for something that will never happen. "Just be careful how much you indulge in that immersive experience, or you might find your first AT&T or Verizon bill unexpectedly immersive as well," he wrote, probably knowing full well this would never happen. Instead, maybe we should wonder why Apple's selling us products with features that don't exist. If Apple says our iPad can run HD video, it should. 

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