Apple iPad and "4G": did we really lap this up?

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Apple iPad and "4G": did we really lap this up?

Opinion: By now you'd think we'd be cynical, or maybe many Australians are sitting ducks when it comes to the next big thing.

When you're dealing with the "next big thing" in technology you treat any big claims with a grain of salt.

Today, another reminder - the court action over allegations by the ACCC that Apple misled in their promotion of the new "iPad with WiFi + 4G", when it is not compatible with 4G networks in Australia.

You'd think we've been stung enough times that we've learnt to be skeptical about this sort of thing.

Take the business about iPhone 4 reception back in 2010. Then there was Optus in trouble over advertising for "unlimited" broadband. There's been plenty of exaggerated laptop battery life claims, Microsoft promising "wow" with Windows Vista, "HD Ready" TVs, potentially confusing contrast ratios, HDMI cable labeling … and on and on.

People have a bad experience. They do more research the next time. We've been conditioned to react a certain way. Don't take technology marketing at face value. With the new iPad, there were stories all over the place explaining the 4G compatibility situation in Australia.

But maybe it's one thing for enthusiasts to know, and another to think that people who don't follow this stuff as a hobby will too.

The technology world dishes out claims like "fastest", "lightest", "smallest", "most powerful" and "first" with abandon. And confusion isn't always their fault. Given the complex nature and variables that can effect any one claim - whether it be CPU benchmark results, wireless speeds, laptop performance, battery life - the truth is usually more complicated than the tagline.

What Apple's decision to use the term "4G" on its Australian web site (even though the site doesn't explicitly say the new iPad will work with 4G networks in Australia) brings to a head is the use of catch-all marketing terms when the reality is more complicated to explain. Just read this account by The Australian of Apple's lawyers explaining how the use of "4G" is justified - things are far from clear. It's something that's been happening in the US, but has also arguably occured in Australia.

Whether it's technically correct and whether lots of people care, are two different things. No doubt a fair portion of Apple faithful are enjoying the new iPad's dual channel HSPA+ and not looking back.

For everyone else, it just shows why it's useful to treat technology marketing with a bit of skepticism.

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