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Ina Fried

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An LTE-Capable iPad Paves the Way for the 4G iPhone

If, as is expected, the next iPad adds support for faster LTE networks, it could give Apple the experience it needs to add similar capabilities into its flagship iPhone.

The Wall Street Journal says that the iPad that debuts next month will support LTE, the next-generation network technology being used by both Verizon and, more recently, AT&T.

Apple has traditionally eschewed early support for faster networks, instead preferring to let such technologies mature before adding them into the iPhone. But adding a new network technology first to the iPad makes a lot of sense.

First, Apple’s tablet packs a much larger battery than its phones, meaning that even if the LTE radio chips are still a bit more power-hungry than past cellular modems, it shouldn’t dramatically hurt battery life.

Second, the iPad isn’t a phone, meaning that Apple can work on 4G data without having to worry about things like call management and shifting calls.

Finally, Apple can afford to have its iPad support cellular networks that aren’t fully deployed. After all, many of its sales are still of the Wi-Fi only variety.

With the phone, Apple really wants any technology it supports to be widely usable. Why take a cost, size and battery hit, for example, if many of the world’s carriers don’t yet have LTE networks on which to run?

But, after getting a strong start in the U.S., LTE is rapidly gaining steam globally. Sprint, for example, plans to add an LTE network later this year, and many global carriers are also adding LTE support.

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