Apple's next iPad may be a 4G game changer

Wed Mar 7, 2012 8:55am EST
 
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By Poornima Gupta and Sinead Carew

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc AAPL.O is betting a 4G-equipped iPad will tempt more U.S. consumers to pay extra to watch high-quality video on the go, and in turn, give Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc T.N a revenue boost.

Until now, Apple's fan legion has been reluctant to shell out extra money even for iPads with 3G connections. The cheaper Wi-Fi-only model -- with more limited Web access -- is by far the top-selling one today.

The newest iPad will be capable of operating on a high-speed 4G "LTE," or Long-Term Evolution network, according to a source familiar with the product. At speeds roughly 10 times faster than current 3G technology, that may go a long way toward banishing the sometimes shaky video quality of older devices.

Such a juiced-up device would help boost the telecoms market if consumers catch on and can be enticed to pay more, some analysts said. The global tablet user base already reached 67 million in 2011, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

"It's going to dramatically improve video consumption," said UBS analyst John Hodulik. "This is the device people want. They want the fastest speed. They want high resolution."

Apple, AT&T and Verizon declined to comment.

The Cupertino, California-based consumer device company is gearing up to unveil the iPad 3 on Wednesday, a faster and better-equipped version intended to thwart increasing competition from rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co 005930.KS and Amazon.com AMZN.O.

The new iPad will be "critical" to Apple if it is to continue to dominate the global tablet market, said Frost & Sullivan's analyst, Phil Harpur.   Continued...

 
A customer tests out an Apple iPad at an Apple Store in downtown Shanghai February 28, 2012.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria