Posted by: Mark Hawkins | February 3, 2010

iPad. LTE. Any connection?

In the bygone days of last week Apple unveiled a new device. Remember? (I’m late to address this post, sorry).

People got excited, then most got disappointed, like a build up to a big sneeze that never came. Ah ahh… AHHH..

Oh. Really? That’s it?

A bigger iPhone / iPod Touch akin to a netbook with an integrated touchscreen keyboard, a beautiful high res screen, nice curves, all the whizzy apps, bells and whistles you’d expect from an Apple device. And much MUCH more of course. (Just not sure what that is yet).

“It has, you know, phone capability too I suppose?” an onlooker feigned only nonchalant interest (the pedant), while a handful of us clamoured round a screen to coo at the iPad’s dimensions and specs.

“Erm, no,” came the eventual reply.

Big enough for a nice touchable screen, high quality enough to comfortably read books, so we’re told, lovely for games. But no Adobe Flash (for ostensibly respectable sounding reasons), and no phone.

No phone. Is this important? Moreover, is the fact that it hasn’t been considered as important by Apple, itself important?

Long Term Evolution (LTE) generally says all connectivity will ultimately one day switch completely from cellular to internet protocol connectivity, VoIP etc. How long term is that, exactly? If Apple is turning its nose up already?

IS Apple turning its nose up already?

While Apple has contracted with AT&T for supply in the US and a UK deal is probably pending, these deals concern 3G connectivity provided by the carriers, not mobile voice.

If Apple have already grown sniffy or at least distracted away from the jigsaw piece of mobile voice, (although of course they’ll stick with it for now, upgrading the iPhone every now and then), others will too.

Perhaps others already are. See Google’s new Nexus One phone for details; itself merely casting a sideways nod to the mobile networks.

You could counter that the iPad is simply too large for a neat mobile voice experience. Holding it next to your head for any length of time would be arduous and look silly. There’s the key reason there’s no phone element to it. There is no LTE connection. Perhaps I invented it, not being able to resist writing some sort of blog post about the iPad.

However, the iPad can download and use any of the growing range of VoIP applications available on Apple Stores, thanks to in-built microphone, speakers / headphone dock, and wifi connectivity. So there’s nothing stopping it from being used for a voice telephony experience in the same way you might use Skype on a netbook.

Either way, a mobile voice power shift of sorts has begun, lines are being drawn and tectonic telecoms plates are starting to creak.

It should still be a while until the VoIP threat looms with any deep mass market ferocity – it remains common to encounter people who haven’t heard of, don’t use or are unaware of Skype; despite their exasperating suitability. Added to which, each mobile operator and stakeholder in one of the world’s most profitable markets will understandably use every tool at their disposal to contain the shift for as long as possible.

For now though, we might just start to consider changing Long Term Evolution, to Medium to Long Term Evolution. How quickly things move from here is down to us.

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