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Apple and Their Possible 4G LTE Marketing Problem

wireless_icon.pngIt came as a bit of a surprise when Apple announced that the new iPad would come equipped with 4G LTE technology. The reports leading up the the announcement were indecisive, but ultimately we got our answer in the form of snappy 4G networking.

I had briefly alluded to the problem that building 4G LTE into the new iPad might cause, in my piece outlining what we could expect at the then-forthcoming iPad announcement. That problem involves consumer expectations, and how Apple might handle them.

For most, the inclusion of 4G LTE in the new iPad would indicate that later this year the new iPhone would receive the same upgrade. After all, 4G rumors have been surrounding the iPhone for a couple of years now.

That is where the possible problem lies. I really don’t mean to make a sensationalist story out of this, but the pent up hype of a 4G iPhone, and the inclusion of 4G in the new iPad, may set up expectations that the (presumably) forthcoming iPhone update (holiday season I think) will have 4G built in. The problem is, it is questionable as to whether 4G technology will be small enough and energy efficient enough to fit into a device the size of an iPhone.

I think the technology will be small enough, and I think Apple knows that the 4G iPad sets up that expectation. But, with as little as we currently know about the next-generation iPhone,it is just as likely that 4G will not be included. As we move into fall, we will undoubtedly know more

If it turns out that Apple does not include 4G in the next iPhone, I think we will see a lot of disappointment from both the press and the general public. The press would be more vocal, as they always are. Sensationalism seems to be the trend these days.

The public’s reaction is something that Apple will have to either brace for, or hope turns out better than what reality will likely hold. So, the easiest way, I believe, for Apple to get out of this, is to include 4G.

If 4G LTE is as energy-inefficient as was last reported, battery life on the iPhone will suffer– a concession I cannot see Apple making. That is, unless Apple has some magic battery technology up their sleeves. I doubt this, because, to get the same battery life out of the new iPad as Apple did with the iPad 2, they had to increase the battery size by 70%. This casts doubt on a iPhone at a similar size as the current iPhone.

As suggested by our own Patrick Jordan, Apple will likely need a bigger battery to power 4G, and this may be when they decide to increase the screen size, and the overall size of the device itself, with the inclusion of a bigger battery that would allow for the 4G connectivity. It sounds messy, but it might be Apple’s excuse to build a bigger iPhone. I doubt this scenario, but it’s within the realm of possibility.

In short, I think the new iPad’s inclusion of 4G LTE has setup an expectation that the new iPhone coming later this year, will have 4G as well. With that said, there are three scenarios: the new iPhone maintains the same form-factor, battery life, and magically receives 4G connectivity– Apple’s engineers would have to be wizards.

The next scenario would involve a larger iPhone, in one or more dimension, to house a bigger battery that would maintain similar battery life to the current iPhone. This could mean a larger screen size is on the way. The last scenario is one in which the new iPhone simply does not have 4G connectivity, and Apple handles consumer expectations accordingly.

It seems that Apple has a bit of a marketing challenge in front of them. Or maybe my assumption on the state of 4G technology is incorrect– I’m not an engineer by any stretch of the imagination. This very well may be a non-issue. My gut tells me Apple will pull it off and include 4G LTE without making the device bigger. Perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

Think I’m wrong? Have your own thoughts you would like to add? We’d love to hear what you think about this. Leave a comment below!

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  • Brandon

    Two things:

    1: Apple has to include 4G in the next iPhone. No questions asked. If they don’t – android marketing is going to eat them alive. For the next year after that all you will hear about (and see) is demos about how slow “the real web” is on the iPhone and how fast the web is on anything besides the iPhone. True most people aren’t going to care about ads until their friend makes their fancy iPhone look like a turtle when they go to check football scores at the bar.

    2: Screen size is the second area of weakness they are going to have to address. Android phones are running (an unscientific) average of about 4-4.5″ screens. I went to the extreme end of the spectrum and have one with a 5.3″ screen (Galaxy Note). I can tell you without any question – I will not in the foreseeable future go back to a 3.5″ screen. Apple can only play the “retina display” card for so long. Pretty soon its again going to come down to a pair of friends sitting around and one friend shows off their gorgeous iPhone retina display at 3.5″. And the friend across the table shows them a screen that’s just as beautiful to look at – but it’s also a hell of a lot easier to see because it’s got the extra real estate. 5.3″ is extreme (and I wouldn’t want Apple to go there) – but I’d say 4.2″ should be their minimum target size.

    • Renknman

      Agreed. I can’t see Apple not going to LTE with the next iPhone. I don’t think they “have” to go with the 4+ inch screen size. Plenty of consumers are perfectly happy with the 3.5. Having said that, I WANT a bigger screen size in the 4+ range. For me, the screen size is the ONLY reason I ever consider looking at another phone other than an iPhone right now.

    • Alex Jordan

      I agree with Rob. Just because some want a bigger screen, doesn’t mean Apple will make a bigger screen. They vetted the 3.5-inch design internally and found that it was to their liking. Comparatively, other companies sling out a bunch of model and allow the “market” to decide.

      As for your first point, you’re exactly right. I had not thought of that. Apple is quickly being outgunned on the 4G front.

  • ConcordMike

    Hope everyone doesn’t mind my chiming in about 4G, but with all that cash on hand, I think I would have bought one of the telecoms and tailored it to the needs of the iPhone, iPad etc.

  • Rafael Palacios

    My bet is 4G in a phone of similar size than iphone4.
    Then, a clever software solution to turn 4G on and off easily (not the 7 steps required to turn off 3G and return to Safari).

  • Peter

    Here in the UK we won’t have a decent 4G network for a decade or more so I hope that the iPhone 5 only has 3G to save on battery drain. If, like me, you live in the countryside in the UK you can’t even get 3G – smoke signals are the fastest way of communicating in our advanced technological society.

  • mark

    it’s not about what apple wants but more about what people want in a device. I switched over to a galaxy note. The screen size is awkward at first, but it is something that you love to work with overtime. having said that, personally I think that apple needs to increase their screen size and if they don’t that will be there biggest downfall. I would like to stay with this is my opinion but he can’t compete with other phone devices that have larger displays because fact of the matter is the screen is too small it’s hard to read. The expectation of 4G LTE is a no brainer.