New iPad Lacking Sprint Support May Have Been Timing Issue

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's new iPad includes 4G support from AT&T and Verizon, but not Sprint. That might have been due to choices on Sprint's part.

In the United States, Apple€™s new iPad supports 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) through AT&T and Verizon.

But Sprint is missing from the iPad carrier lineup€”a conspicuous absence, given how it offered Apple€™s iPhone 4S from the outset. Nor is Sprint an unknown in the tablet space, given how it already offers a small selection of devices including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

€œAt this time, Sprint is not a carrier for Apple€™s iPad products,€ a Sprint spokesperson told eWEEK March 13. €œWe have nothing to announce at this time.€

The lack of the new iPad on Sprint could have something to do with the carrier€™s longtime investment in WiMax for its 4G technology, as opposed to LTE. That decision stemmed from Sprint€™s need to quickly create a 4G footprint in the United States. However, even Sprint CEO Dan Hesse admitted in 2010 that WiMax would €œlikely€ end up dwarfed by LTE, which was supported by Verizon and AT&T.

€œWiMax was a tried, true, tested 4G technology,€ he told an audience at that year€™s CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas. €œLTE will most likely be the larger of the two 4G standards, but for us, we couldn€™t wait. Because of our spectrum position, we have the option to add other technologies later, but this allows us to get into this technology quickly.€

In mid-2012, Sprint will start offering 4G LTE technology in major markets such as Baltimore, Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas and San Antonio. The first 4G LTE devices on the carrier€™s network will include the Galaxy Nexus, running Google Android 4.0 (€œIce Cream Sandwich€).

In light of that, Sprint€™s absence from the new iPad launch might have been a factor of timing: Had its 4G LTE network activated a little earlier, it might have become the third carrier to join Verizon and AT&T in offering ultra-speedy service on the tablet. Nonetheless, Sprint could still offer 4G support for the iPad later this year.

Scheduled for release March 16, the new iPad includes a high-resolution Retina Display, backed by a new A5X processor with quad-core graphics, and a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video. It weighs slightly more than the iPad 2, at 1.4 pounds, and offers comparable battery life.

Apple will keep the same prices for the new iPad as the previous model, starting at $499 for WiFi-only versions, and $629 for those with 4G capability. Prices top out at $699 for the WiFi-only, 64GB model and $829 for the 64GB model with WiFi and 4G.

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