back to article UK ad watchdog probes Apple iPad '4G' boasts

The UK's advertising watchdog is taking another look at Apple's "4G" claims for its new iPad after receiving fresh complaints. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had informally leafed through about 40 complaints regarding the 4G mobile internet boasts made on Apple's website. The new iPad was not in fact truly 4G …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely the 4G issue is a trading standards problem not just an ASA problem? since they are not providing a service that they are promising.

    I even had one retailer tell me they use 3 mobile as they are the only operator with a 4G network!

    Clearly there is too much mis-information out there, and while Apple are allowed to profit from lying the regulators need to step in!

  2. Andrew James

    I dont see the problem here.

    Device = 4G capable. Network, not so much.

    1. g e

      Yeah but

      I think it is 'reasonable' for the customer to assume that a device sold in their country branded as 4G 'capable' would be also **COMPATIBLE** with any forthcoming 4G network in that country.

      Don't you?

      Furthermore it's also reasonable, in Trading Standards'/ASA's eyes to assume the customer would believe that displayed features would work out of the box, also. It's not the customer's job to check claims and labelling made by the manufacturer.

      For example HD-Ready TV's must be labelled 720p / 1080i / 1080p / whatever on the packaging so the customer is not misled into thinking they're getting a 1080 unit when it's really 720 by virtue of the fact that it has HD-Ready on the box.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah but

        Now try watching Freeview HD on a "HD-Ready" TV, something that many customers would also believe should be possible...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Andrew James

        Re: Yeah but

        What they say in their own online store is this;

        "The new iPad supports fast mobile data networks around the world, including HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA.2 So you can browse the web, stream content or download a film at incredibly fast speeds: up to 21.1 Mbps with HSPA+ and up to 42 Mbps with DC-HSDPA."

        What the staggeringly well qualified chap at PC World or Tesco tells you isn't really anything to do with Apple. I never trust a word they say, ever since i bought a laptop with windows vista and was told that OpenOffice didnt work with vista, and neither did Office 2000, so i would have to buy the latest version of office if i wanted to continue using my doc and xls files.

        If you go out and buy it assuming it will be compatible with the technology that doesnt exist here yet, without double checking with a network operator that is planning on rolling the technology out sometime soon, then really you're being pretty silly.

    2. imaginarynumber

      The issue is that Apple would have been aware that the only networks that offer the correct frequencies are one US and three Canadian networks. At the time of sale NO OTHER EXISTING networks were compatible or would be for the foreseeable future.

      It is akin to me claiming that I have a trampoline that will allow you to jump 200ft but omitting to say that you have to be on a planet with low gravity.

  3. Jeebus

    Apple are lying yet again, all over the world they are at it, here is hoping they get a good slap for blatant misinformation presented with absolute consent from their superiors.

  4. Fuzz

    What's the issue

    If you feel you've been cheated then take your device back to the store and they will give you a refund.

    Years ago I bought an Ericsson T39, it was one of the first phones to support GPRS and was advertised as such. At the time there wasn't a single network in the UK supporting GPRS.

    the terms 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G are meaningless to most people aside from, is it faster than the old one?

    Sure technically it's not 4G but if they want to call it that, why stop them?

    1. g e

      Re: What's the issue

      The fact they'll refund you based on the 4G labelling is admission they lied.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the issue

      But the T39 was launched in 2001 and there were GPRS services available in the UK by the middle of 2001; in the case of the iPad 3 it is doubtful whether there will be 4G in the UK before the iPad 4, or even 5, is launched.

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: What's the issue

      Your GPRS phone would work on a GPRS network when one was launched however. This Apple thing won't work on 4G in the UK even when 4G launches.

      Do you think I should be allowed to import devices designed to run on 110V and describe them as 'mains powered' to UK customers?

      The mess of 4G standards isn't of Apple's making, but it's their choice to include the claim in their marketing stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the issue

        Would be better if people actuallyt read up on what 4G means - LTE is NOT the only 4G technology. HPSA+ is now accepted as 4G and guess what the new iPad DOES support it here and in Australia where they are kicking up the same fuss over nothing.

        If they said iPad + 4G and it supports HSPA+ then it supports 4G.

        If they said iPad + LTE (in the UK) - then they would be wrong and anyone who is so wronged can get a FULL refund.

        Mole Hill - how would you like to become a Mountain?

  5. jai

    pot meet kettle

    "Foxconn-rebrander" seems a bit cheap coming from a website that itself just republishes news that you've read elsewhere.

    El-Reg, BBCNews-rebrander:


    1. g e

      Re: pot meet kettle

      El Reg don't make out that they don't do they?

      1. jai

        Re: pot meet kettle

        So you're suggesting that Apple try to hide the fact that Foxconn build their products?

        That's weird, I could have sworn they made a big deal about working to improve conditions in those factories.

        Or are you suggesting that Apple products should have a Foxconn logo on them?

        Because, I don't see a BBC News logo anywhere on El Reg. Or any indication of where they originally sourced this (or other) articles from.

        so I refer you back to my original title: "Pot, meet kettle..."

    2. Gio Ciampa

      Re: pot meet kettle

      At least El-Reg has the decency to allow comments - odd how Auntie very rarely does for Apple stories...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward




  7. Steve Medway

    iPad3 - 4G in the UK, yes sir it is.

    The iPad3 supports 42Mbps HSPA+ on the 3 Network here in the UK. So lets for arguments sake chop of 15Mbps so the figure is closer to real world downloads = 27Mbps......

    Now lets look at the average download speeds people have been getting on US 4G LTE networks..... Oh look it's only around 25 to 30Mbps.

    So what benefit is a 4G network at the moment? Not a lot apart from an approximate halving of latency from around 100ms to 50ms. There is no 'real' 4G network in the world PERIOD. Only 'LTE Advanced' reaches the original ITU spec for 4G.

    We all know the term 4G has been bastardized to mean 3.5G, At least Apple iPad really does do LTE. All over the world (especially in the Caribbean) dodgy Mobile networks are beginning to claim 12Mbps HSPA+ = 4G... I can accept 42Mbps as '4G' but anything lower is really taking the piss imho.

    From the figures quoted above it's hard to argue with Apple's marketing, it's a 4G device as it can run on a LTE network and since it's also a 42Mbps HSPA+ device it gets damn close to USA LTE speeds even in the UK on the right network.

    Personally I don't want an LTE network in the UK yet. If EE get the go-ahead then we'll end up with bog standard LTE network (and not much incentive to update it) but if things get delayed till after the spectrum auction we'll be more likely to get 'LTE Advanced' from the get go plus living with a 42Mbps HSPA+ device till then isn't exactly a ballbreaker.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HSPA+ is considered a 4G network - LTE is not the only 4G network.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have no 4G networks (apart from a few limited trials) so it's moot anyway. HSPA+ is basically a 4G network - it does support it - we do have that now.

    Anyone 'deceived' should take Apple up on their offer of a FULL REFUND - where is the issue?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I even had one retailer tell me they use 3 mobile as they are the only operator with a 4G network!"

    It's not actually that far off - 3 support HSPA+ up to something like 20mbps or possibly 40mbps and it is a 4G network according to the ITU.

    We have to remember 3G is technically 200kbps or faster - we have all this crap with 3.5G, 3.75G - does not seem unreasonable for something capable of 100x the base 3G spec (i.e. HSPA+) to be considered 4G. The ITU agree and Apple promised refunds for anyone who feels they were mis-sold.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By the same token we should sue every car manufacturer for advertising a car that can go over 70mph as for the vast majority of the population that would be illegal.

    1. Tom 35


      We should sue every car manufacturer for advertising a car that can go over 70mph, but can only do it by driving off a cliff.

      When we do get LTE Advanced, I expect some one is going to call it 5G.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Erm, no. You can perfectly legally drive faster than 70MPH on private land.

      Your comparison is invalid anyway - it would be more appropriate if the car worked on some kind of transport infrastructure we don't have in the UK - maglev or something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah and you can take your new iPad somewhere that does have LTE on the frequencies it supports. It's not all that different and besides the HSPA+ it does support is 4G = storm in a teacup.

      2. Ivan Headache

        But we do have maglev

        Don't we?

        It was invented here.

    3. imaginarynumber

      When was the last time you saw car makers boasting about speed?

      Besides, if i tell you a car can do 200 mph, you have the opportunity to take it to suitable private land and thrash the hell out of it. If in the small print I add the caveat that it will only achieve those speeds on a fuel type found only in the USA, then I can expect a backlash..

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I think it is 'reasonable' for the customer to assume that a device sold in their country branded as 4G 'capable' would be also **COMPATIBLE** with any forthcoming 4G network in that country."

    So do Apple have crystal balls now? They should be able to guess what a country / mobile operator will do - not now - but in the future as well.

    How about they make a universal device that can run on any network / frequency as well - just like car manufacturers make cars that run on LPG, diesel, petrol and electricity at the same time.

    There are lots of possible 4G technologies (LTE, HSPA+, WiMAX) - now - god knows how many more there could be in the next few years.

    1. imaginarynumber

      Apple didn't need a crystal ball. The fact that the USA and Canada use entirely different frequencies is common knowledge.

      If you want to sell products directly in a nation state you are legally oblidged to adhere to the rules of that state. If you don't agree with the rules then let customers import your products themselves.

  14. the J to the C

    get over it, you paid to upgrade for a new screen, that's it

  15. the-it-slayer
    Paris Hilton

    Plenty of anty-pantys in here...

    Jesus christ. If people want to get so fussy over a product that's just stating its capabilities, lets look at everything else and get the ASA/OFCOM to look those cases as well. It's the mobile comms operators that are messing up here by not being clear about the products capability with their networks. Apple probably knew that most of Europe are behind on 4G bandwagon. Why blame Apple for having a future proof product (although limited as the frequencies won't match)?

    Apple = shoot-em-up' opportunity for some people in here and the media. I do see the said blonde girl go crazy over a bit of technology that can do more than the UKs infrastructure is capable of.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they actually say it supported all 4G technologies - no - it supports HSPA, HSPA+ and dual channel HSPA - read what the ITU says about HSPA technologies being 4G then comment.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      The ITU said no such thing

      They only said they understood why US carriers wanted to advertise 3.1G as 4G. They did not change the standard. HSPA+ still falls way short.

      People who sell plated jewelry as solid gold do have problems. Why Apple (and some carriers) should get a free pass? That's basically fraud.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The ITU said no such thing

        They said: "As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as '4G,' although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed,"


        HSPA+ is capable of (a theoretical) 168Mbit/s down and 22Mbit/s up - although clearly that is in optimal conditions etc. So HSPA+ is a 4G technology by almost any reasonable definition - would be lovely to think the world will have blanket LTE in the next few years but realistically it's probably more likely we will see a lot more HSPA+ for years to come.

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          Re: The ITU said no such thing


          you left out the only important part: "this term, while undefined, may also be applied to"

          That means "Providing you don't make false claims about the actual speed your network achieves, we won't slap you for misusing the term 4G in advertising".

          While cowardly and regrettable, this is entirely different from saying that these networks are actually 4G. You will note that they even explicitly state that these networks remain 3G. That would be the bit that you highlighted. At best you could ague that they call it 3.1G.

  17. Andy Christ

    Real World Tests

    As an owner of both old and new iPads here in the States, I'm left scratching my head over this brouhaha. In my [admittedly meagre] travels, the 3G networks to which the older device was limited averaged around 1.2 Mbps, which was slow enough to cause many net based apps to crash regularly. Web surfing was most often lugubrious, VoIP st u tt ere d at best. In contrast, even in areas of fairly poor “4G” service, speeds rarely dip below about 5 Mbps on my new fondle slab. The most data heavy web pages/apps load within a second or so, and video streams without lag. Yes, where I can connect via LTE, d/l speeds do range up to 50+ Mbps, but the improvement in over all performance is not all that earth shattering. (Far more impressive are upload speeds hovering around 20 Mbps, but I digress.). Maybe for gamers LTE would offer more noticeable benefits, but current data caps tend to preclude such wanton consumption.

    Anyway, a few dozen punters bellyaching, out of perhaps the million or so contented with their purchase (don't have UK sales figures at my fingertips) doesn't seem like such a big deal. Am curious to know, has anyone there actually taken advantage of Apple's offer of a refund over this issue? Guessing not many.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Real World Tests

      It will be like the antennagate fuss-over-nothing - the proof will be in how many they get back which would not have been returned anyway on their money back guarantee. I expect it will be 'not many'.

  18. Giles Jones Gold badge

    4G, 3G and so on aren't anything more than a dumbed down way of expressing when something was released.

    3G in the UK and Europe is actually UTMS. But 3G in the US can be many other things, CDMA 2000 or UTMS.

    Games consoles are often said to be part of a certain generation, 4th generation console and so on. That doesn't mean you can take a game from one and put it in another console.

    1. Fibbles

      The terms 3G and 4G relate to standards set out by the ITU. Each standard specifically states a range of speeds for that generation. It's really not comparable to games consoles.

  19. pewpie

    All together...

    No doubt every dept head at ASA has recently recieved a complimentary iFad. In which case we can expect nothing from them whatsoever.

  20. ElReg!comments!Pierre


    As I understand it Aussies do have a 4G network. The iPad is just not compatible with it.

    It makes Apple's marketting even more misleading (and the only Australian 4G provider must be pretty pissed)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Australia

      The Aussies have a LTE / 4G network and also HSPA+ / 4G network - if the iPad supports HSPA+ (which the ITU have recognised as a 4G network) = end of story. They are trying to make a deal out of it because it the LTE chip Apple used uses different frequencies but LTE is not the only 4G network.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Re: Australia

        I guess you are the same AC flooding all comment threads with that bullshit about HSPA+. Are you paid for that disinformation?

        HSPA+ _IS_ _NOT_ _4G_. The ITU _NEVER_ said it was 4G, they just said they wouldn't not do anything against the misleading advertising by the American telcos.

        The standard _DID_ _NOT_ _CHANGE_ and HSPA+ falls _WAY_ short of achieving _ANYTHING_ close to the mandatory speed to be considered 4G. It's not even in the same ballpark.

        Lookie the nice picture if words are too hard to comprehend:

        Now who is paying you to spread these lies with such persistence?

        In any case please stop. Can we have a moderator have a look at what appears to be commercially motivated spam?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Australia

          They said: "As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as '4G,' although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed,"

          Most telling are the phrases 'although it is recognized that this term, while undefined' and also 'to other evolved 3G technologies'. HSPA+ can deliver 20-40Mbit/s (a mere 100x the base '3G' spec.) - surely that is evolved? HSPA+ is also capable of over 100Mbit/s if you read it's spec.

          LTE is *not* the only 4G technology - even if 4G had actually been properly defined.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Australia

          Let's have a look at your graphic at:

          It actually shows T-Mobile's HSPA+ delivering a faster performance than Sprint's WiMax service (and most people here have been saying LTE and WiMax are 4G).

          Also compare the HSPA+ actual figures to the Verizon LTE figures and they are the same - the LTE may have a higher 'theoretical' figure but that's pretty meaningless if the 'actual' figures are much lower.

          HSPA+ has a thoretical speed shown as 21Mbit/s (more than 100x faster than the base 3G spec of 200Kbit/s) but HSPA+ in other countries is alredy capable of much faster 'theoretical' speeds - I have seen speeds of over 100Mbit/s quoted.

          99% of people do not care whether it's 4G LTE, 4G WiMax, 4G HSPA+ or 4G Subspace Transponder - they care that it's noticably faster than whtever they had before. If rolling out HSPA+ now on frequencies that are available gives more people more speed 'sooner' surely that is a good thing. Here in the UK we are still bickering about 4G / LTE networks and frequencies and have little more than trials.

  21. imaginarynumber

    What about trading standards?

    I lodged a complaint with trading standards shortly after the ipad was released and to date have had no reply... Has anyone?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about trading standards?

      ... and your issue was?

      If you bought one and are not happy - simply take it back for a refund.

  22. Chris Beach

    Why not make our 4G compatible?

    As we have no 4G network (and no HSDPA+ isn't 4G, it wasn't when it was launched years ago, and it wasn't when AT&T marketing muppets tried to con their customers), why isn't Ofcom considering making ours compatible with the US one? Surely its of benefit to the consumers to have access to a wider range of products?

  23. Apexilon
    Thumb Down

    Apple 4G ?

    Quote: "Technically, none of the existing so-called 4G networks were actually 4G to begin with, but were branded 4G and eventually allowed to be called 4G, leaving the whole concept wide open to interpretation. ®" End Quote.

    So most people see 4G as the traditional network operating frequency, whereas Apple purport this as what they perceive is as "a better data transfer rate". So officially, Apple are supposedly marketting the device "on the ability to utilise a currently non-existent technology". That's like if Ferrari launched a new car today that could travel through time... provided the "timetravel engine" and monitoring protocol agency both existed... yet dispute it as false advertising".

    I say time to drop the iPad altogether like a bad "apple" ('scuse the pun) till they get their act together what they are actually manufacturing and selling, not just "think" it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple 4G ?

      >> "on the ability to utilise a currently non-existent technology"

      HSPA+ is here - now and does offer a 'better data transfer rate'.

      'Most' people do not care if 4G means LTE, WiMax, HSPA+ or PixieDust - 4G is not about frequencies it's about speed. Most users just care it's faster than 3G which considering the 3G spec. says 200Kbit/s and upwards it's not hard these days.

      When are we going to drop all this 3.5G, 3.75G nonsense. If 3G was anything over 200Kbit/s, maybe 4G should be anything over 10Mbit/s (50x faster) and 5G could be anything over 100Mbit/s.

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