PDA

View Full Version : Why no built-in cellular connectivity?




slartib
Aug 4, 2012, 03:11 PM
I ordered my first MBA in January 2008 and my second last April (with hindsight, I should have waited 1.5 months until the last release, but this is another story). I love this machine because of its form. I disliked the MBPs because they are thick and have a useless optical drive. I like the new rMBP because it became almost as thin as the MBA by getting rid of the optical drive. I am tempted by a rMBP because I do some GPGPU programming with CUDA and it would be nice to have an nVIDIA GPU on my laptop (it will become a tough choice if a 13" rMBP with an nVIDIA GPU will come out, but this is yet another story).

However, what I would need much more on an everyday basis is built-in cellular connectivity, since I am often travelling, especially by train (I am based in Europe). I work around this lack using a Huawei LTE USB stick or my iPhone 4S (sadly without LTE), but it is not the maximum of comfort. I have been wondering since 2008 why cellular connectivity is not included in an ultraportable machine like the MBA that has been stressing wireless to the point of disposing of an ethernet port. I have been wondering even more since cellular connectivity came with the iPad. Now yet another new MacBook has been released, the rMBP, without built-in cellular connectivity. Why? Does this mean there is a decided Apple policy to leave this feature away from MacBooks? Or is it just a matter of time until it won't be offered just with the iPad?



Wokis
Aug 4, 2012, 03:23 PM
Wonder if one could make a cellular SD-card, or if that's just beyond the functionality of the protocol/port/connector/space.

In the MBA it'd "have to be" even smaller than a standard card since the slot isn't deep enough to fit an entire card.

slartib
Aug 4, 2012, 04:41 PM
This would be a workaround too, not a built-in feature. Moreover I doubt it would work because I guess that GSM/UMTS/LTE need a different antenna than WLAN or Bluetooth.

WesCole
Aug 4, 2012, 04:45 PM
My guess would be price. If it included a cellular antenna, it would probably be at least $100 more. That, and I am not sure they even have space to put one in the Air without causing excess heat/battery draw.

I guess they could treat the Airs like iPads and have a WiFi only model and a 4G model.

GREEN4U
Aug 4, 2012, 04:46 PM
I ordered my first MBA in January 2008 and my second last April (with hindsight, I should have waited 1.5 months until the last release, but this is another story). I love this machine because of its form. I disliked the MBPs because they are thick and have a useless optical drive. I like the new rMBP because it became almost as thin as the MBA by getting rid of the optical drive. I am tempted by a rMBP because I do some GPGPU programming with CUDA and it would be nice to have an nVIDIA GPU on my laptop (it will become a tough choice if a 13" rMBP with an nVIDIA GPU will come out, but this is yet another story).

However, what I would need much more on an everyday basis is built-in cellular connectivity, since I am often travelling, especially by train (I am based in Europe). I work around this lack using a Huawei LTE USB stick or my iPhone 4S (sadly without LTE), but it is not the maximum of comfort. I have been wondering since 2008 why cellular connectivity is not included in an ultraportable machine like the MBA that has been stressing wireless to the point of disposing of an ethernet port. I have been wondering even more since cellular connectivity came with the iPad. Now yet another new MacBook has been released, the rMBP, without built-in cellular connectivity. Why? Does this mean there is a decided Apple policy to leave this feature away from MacBooks? Or is it just a matter of time until it won't be offered just with the iPad?

Most users don't need built-in cellular connectivity. Apple wouldn't build/include a feature that very few of its customers need. It's as simple as that.

dkersten
Aug 4, 2012, 05:00 PM
I would have to wonder the affect on battery life. I'm not sure what the battery drain would be but the 11in for sure doesn't have any extra life to spare

Capt Underpants
Aug 4, 2012, 05:10 PM
Most users don't need built-in cellular connectivity. Apple wouldn't build/include a feature that very few of its customers need. It's as simple as that.

It's not that most users don't need it. It's that Apple would prefer that they buy an iPad if they need cellular connectivity.

hwojtek
Aug 4, 2012, 05:26 PM
Most users don't need built-in cellular connectivity. Apple wouldn't build/include a feature that very few of its customers need. It's as simple as that.
Yeah, which is the reason the majority of iPads sold are the 3G or LTE versions.

njp
Aug 4, 2012, 05:38 PM
I have been wondering since 2008 why cellular connectivity is not included in an ultraportable machine like the MBA that has been stressing wireless to the point of disposing of an ethernet port.

Niche market.

You have an iPhone, just use that for connectivity. It's not that much of a hassle.

maril1111
Aug 4, 2012, 05:44 PM
I am guessing because of the form factor as it wouldn't look as streamlined anymore or be heavier or some other excuse but probably wont happen

Stetrain
Aug 4, 2012, 05:49 PM
I think probably because of the current complexity of offering such a feature. The iPad has to have two versions, an AT&T-compatible version and a Verizon-compatible version. Those two then don't work on many of the LTE bands outside of the US.

If they could use a single chip and cover the majority of 3G/LTE bands worldwide it might be worth it.

mj1108
Aug 4, 2012, 06:46 PM
I just tether mine to my phone on 4G and it works great.

plucky duck
Aug 4, 2012, 07:02 PM
Tethering my iPad/Air to my Galaxy Nexus works great, it's really an unnecessary expense and doesn't make much sense for either party.

Battery life on the 11" already isn't great, I wouldn't want to add on additional things that'll become even more of a drain on battery.

polotska
Aug 4, 2012, 07:28 PM
Not having this option has been a long frustration of mine, but I seem to be in the minority.

KPOM
Aug 4, 2012, 08:00 PM
Most Ultrabooks lack cellular connectivity (not just the MacBook Air). Between smartphones and tablets, Mi-Fis and similar devices, lots of people already have multiple data plans, and I'm guessing that the true market for a cellular-equipped notebook is relatively small.

bembol
Aug 4, 2012, 08:43 PM
Not going to happened since it will dramatically affect sales of Super Phones.

Apple, Samsung and Carriers will not be happy.

Carriers like Rogers don't even allow Data ONLY plans, which is exactly what I want. If they did I wouldn't even own a Super Phone.

Matt Leaf
Aug 5, 2012, 06:00 AM
you'll definately see it eventually. but i rekn battery ife definately would be a major issue. you'd see your mba battery time drop massively. when i tether off my iphone, it hots up real quick and the battery drains fast. couple this inside the mba and you'll be looking for a power adapter fast.

buddybd
Aug 5, 2012, 04:20 PM
Most users don't need built-in cellular connectivity. Apple wouldn't build/include a feature that very few of its customers need. It's as simple as that.

I'm sure more people need cellular internet than Thunderbolt.

skinny*k
Aug 5, 2012, 05:04 PM
In the past, when Macs included built-in modems, I usually found myself upgrading to an external, anyway, as modem technology advanced. I have a 1st gen iPad, and I'm stuck with 3G on that. I'm using a portable MiFi wireless 3G/4G adapter that I can replace with 5G when the time comes, and I won't be stuck lugging around built-in useless tech. But then, I run my laptops until they die.

725032
Aug 5, 2012, 05:08 PM
Just setup a hot spot with your iphone... Easy

theSeb
Aug 6, 2012, 12:09 AM
It's not that most users don't need it. It's that Apple would prefer that they buy an iPad if they need cellular connectivity.

That reasoning makes no sense at all.

Uguubot
Aug 6, 2012, 01:11 AM
Here are my thoughts:
1. They would have to have a plastic spot. The iPad's wi-fi is pumped through the Apple logo, and the 3G through a bar of plastic on top. Do note, though, that it could probably be done more elegantly on a laptop (Hinge area?)

2. Battery life

3. Nobody would use it. I had a Chromebook, and I never used 3G on the go. If I really needed to, I could tether using my phone.

4. The Air is pretty tightly packed as it is.

kolz
Aug 6, 2012, 05:21 AM
so far I am satisfied having iPhone tethering whenever I'm on the move. It's not exactly an LTE, but it do the job properly. I don't know why I want to pay another data plan for a separate connection for my macbook. For me this is a clever way to consolidate everything so that you need only a minimum amount of devices and you use them at the best way possible...

However, I would love to see an LTE in an iPhone...:D

stchman
Aug 6, 2012, 04:53 PM
If I understand cellular technology correctly (other forum members can correct me if I am wrong) if Apple built in cellular connectivity into the laptop, then you would be tied to one carrier.

Also I believe cellular is different in Europe than in the US so a device that works in the US might not work overseas.

This is the reason that you can get USB dongles for laptops for cellular internet connectivity.

Beanoir
Aug 6, 2012, 05:26 PM
most people these days have a smart phone capable of tethering and providing a wireless hotspot, so why bother including it in a laptop and requiring people to have to take out a separate data contract when they could share the one with their mobile phone.

Its a dying requirement and Apple are smart to not bother wasting effort and space on it in their laptops.

erpetao
Aug 7, 2012, 02:17 AM
Get a Mifi

Michael CM1
Aug 7, 2012, 02:23 AM
I'm guessing because most people have no need for it in a notebook. You need somewhere to place an Air on a table or something, and that means you're less likely to need LTE/3G and more likely to be near WiFi. The iPad is much more use-portable, for instance reading outdoors. Therefore people are more likely to use the built-in cellular.

Honestly, I wouldn't even bother if I were Apple. Use your phone or iPad as a mobile hot spot. If you don't have either, I'm not sure there are enough of you for Apple to even notice. I just don't think it's that much of a thing on computers, especially when it will add at least $130.

slartib
Aug 7, 2012, 08:26 AM
Its a dying requirement and Apple are smart to not bother wasting effort and space on it in their laptops.

So why did Apple recently include it in its iPads? Why is WLAN included in laptops, if the latter can be tethered via USB or Bluetooth to a smartphone, that offers WLAN as well as GSM/UMTS/LTE? (LTE on other manufacturers than Apple, of course, since LTE is a dying requirement too and Apple is smart enough to not bother wasting effort and space on it in its smartphones :p )

If cost was a problem (which is hard to believe, since Apple has always been in the premium sector, not the cheap one), why does Apple not offer a cellular data connection at least as an option in its latest top of the line machine, the rMBP, whose ultimate version costs about 3000$?

There is a market also outside the USA. E.g. in Europe one can get a twin SIM card for a standard combined voice/data contract, in order to put a SIM card in the mobile phone and the other in a USB cellular modem or directly in the laptop/iPad if it has its own modem.

slartib
Aug 7, 2012, 09:12 AM
You need somewhere to place an Air on a table or something, and that means you're less likely to need LTE/3G and more likely to be near WiFi. The iPad is much more use-portable, for instance reading outdoors.
If I always had a table, tethering with my iPhone would be easier. I commute to work by train, one hour each direction. It is a regional train which does not offer WiFi nor tables. It is full of other professionals commuting to work typing on their laptops, which they keep on their knees. Very few iPads, if any. A USB key sticking out from a side risks bending or breaking by bumping into something. A tethered iPhone becomes hot and there is no proper place where to put it (no table).

The point seems to be that if Apple decides you don't need it, then you don't need it; when Apple will decide the opposite, of course everybody will need and buy it ;) so I wonder why Apple does not offer this feature in order to make about 100$ more that right now are made by the makers of USB modems like Huawei.

Beanoir
Aug 7, 2012, 03:39 PM
So why did Apple recently include it in its iPads? Why is WLAN included in laptops, if the latter can be tethered via USB or Bluetooth to a smartphone, that offers WLAN as well as GSM/UMTS/LTE? (LTE on other manufacturers than Apple, of course, since LTE is a dying requirement too and Apple is smart enough to not bother wasting effort and space on it in its smartphones :p )

If cost was a problem (which is hard to believe, since Apple has always been in the premium sector, not the cheap one), why does Apple not offer a cellular data connection at least as an option in its latest top of the line machine, the rMBP, whose ultimate version costs about 3000$?

There is a market also outside the USA. E.g. in Europe one can get a twin SIM card for a standard combined voice/data contract, in order to put a SIM card in the mobile phone and the other in a USB cellular modem or directly in the laptop/iPad if it has its own modem.

Nice try, but this thread is about about laptops, not tablets or iPhones...

Great arguments for yesterday's technology to be honest, and to a certain degree I do see how some people would find it useful, but ultimately not enough people for Apple to see the advantage in installing them in their laptops and lets face it, I don't expect many people would say

"hey you know what, that Acer has a mobile sim card in it, i'll buy that over the Macbook Air in that case"

----------

If I always had a table, tethering with my iPhone would be easier. I commute to work by train, one hour each direction. It is a regional train which does not offer WiFi nor tables. It is full of other professionals commuting to work typing on their laptops, which they keep on their knees. Very few iPads, if any. A USB key sticking out from a side risks bending or breaking by bumping into something. A tethered iPhone becomes hot and there is no proper place where to put it (no table).

The point seems to be that if Apple decides you don't need it, then you don't need it; when Apple will decide the opposite, of course everybody will need and buy it ;) so I wonder why Apple does not offer this feature in order to make about 100$ more that right now are made by the makers of USB modems like Huawei.

I do exactly that on the train to work (also an hour each way), I tether with my iPhone (it shouldn't get that hot?!) wirelessly so it stays in my bag or pocket or wherever. It really is that easy, and the best thing is I don't have any extra bills or contracts or top-ups to worry about because my phone contract gives me unlimited data.

ixodes
Aug 7, 2012, 04:00 PM
Not having this option has been a long frustration of mine, but I seem to be in the minority.
Not really, you are not in the minority. My company uses a few hundred ThinkPads with this feature.

My ThinkPad T series laptops of the last few years have come with broadband built in. It's so much better than tethering. The built in antenna is terrific, it assures excellent connectivity. In addition, the amount of battery drain is very minimal.

Here's a copy & paste reflecting the three broadband choices, from the current T430S configurator.



ThinkPad T430S Option List

Integrated Mobile Broadband

[add $125.00] Qualcomm Gobi 3000

[add $250.00] Integrated Mobile Broadband (Sierra Wireless MC7700 - Gobi 4000 for AT&T LTE and HSPA+)

[add $250.00] Integrated Mobile Broadband (Sierra Wireless MC7750 - Gobi 4000 for Verizon LTE and EV-DO)




http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/builder.workflow:Enter?sb=%3A00000025%3A00003359%3A&smid=625170B995934B6EFED1F0FA956B4E9A

Beanoir
Aug 7, 2012, 04:12 PM
Not really, you are not in the minority. My company uses a few hundred ThinkPads with this feature.

My ThinkPad T series laptops of the last few years have come with broadband built in. It's so much better than tethering. The built in antenna is terrific, it assures excellent connectivity. In addition, the amount of battery drain is very minimal.

Here's a copy & paste reflecting the three broadband choices, from the current T430S configurator.



ThinkPad T430S Option List

Integrated Mobile Broadband

[add $125.00] Qualcomm Gobi 3000

[add $250.00] Integrated Mobile Broadband (Sierra Wireless MC7700 - Gobi 4000 for AT&T LTE and HSPA+)

[add $250.00] Integrated Mobile Broadband (Sierra Wireless MC7750 - Gobi 4000 for Verizon LTE and EV-DO)




http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/builder.workflow:Enter?sb=%3A00000025%3A00003359%3A&smid=625170B995934B6EFED1F0FA956B4E9A


Cool, thats only $125 more expensive than having it included for free in your iphone contract...

nuckinfutz
Aug 7, 2012, 04:47 PM
It'll happen eventually but we need a couple of revisions of new hardware first.


The problems are

1. Cost.
2. Cellular fragmentation. Just because you put a qualcomm chip in doesn't mean that you'll have adequate coverage of all necessary frequencies
3. More radios to buy
4. Support by carriers

There is no single chip that makes it all easy along with a radio bundle that connects to everything today so you'd end up balkanizing your laptop lineup with a Verizon MBA and ATT MBA.

In a few years we'll likely have the integration that we need and with carriers moving to a "share everything" model rather than tether people will simply put their notebook on their plan.

ixodes
Aug 7, 2012, 10:27 PM
It'll happen eventually but we need a couple of revisions of new hardware first.


The problems are

1. Cost.
2. Cellular fragmentation. Just because you put a qualcomm chip in doesn't mean that you'll have adequate coverage of all necessary frequencies
3. More radios to buy
4. Support by carriers
The company I'm with is a multi-national operation. We have none of the issues you've listed, nor do any of the vast number of large scale enterprises that have issued ThinkPads as the defacto std business laptop.

We realize that to date Apple hasn't taken an interest of any significance in the business sector. I'd chalk it up to that rather than over thinking it, as the post above reflects.

Capt Underpants
Aug 8, 2012, 12:22 AM
That reasoning makes no sense at all.

If Apple sold an MBA's with cellular Internet, they'd sell a lot fewer iPads. Instead of opting for a $650 iPad, people would put that money towards a new MBA. Apple knows this.

Similar to the reason they never put Blu-Ray in MBP's. Apple could have made a 9.5 mm Blu-Ray, but they chose to nix the optical drive so users would be forced into downloadable content, where they have made [and will continue to make] inroads. Then they pass Blu-Ray off as an obsolete technology that prevented design progress [read: thinness].

I've been following Apple religiously for a long time. I know their game.

theSeb
Aug 8, 2012, 03:02 AM
If Apple sold an MBA's with cellular Internet, they'd sell a lot fewer iPads. Instead of opting for a $650 iPad, people would put that money towards a new MBA. Apple knows this.

Similar to the reason they never put Blu-Ray in MBP's. Apple could have made a 9.5 mm Blu-Ray, but they chose to nix the optical drive so users would be forced into downloadable content, where they have made [and will continue to make] inroads. Then they pass Blu-Ray off as an obsolete technology that prevented design progress [read: thinness].

I've been following Apple religiously for a long time. I know their game.

So a company would rather sell more $650 devices than $1000+ devices and would do this on purpose? I have to say I don't see your logic. It's like saying Porsche won't add sports seats to a Cayenne because it would cannibalise the sales of the 911 (they do by the way). It's preposterous. A Cayenne isn't a 911 and a tablet isn't a notebook. Tablets have cannibalised the sales of computers, but that's mainly because many people don't need the functionality of a full computer. A feature like 3G connectivity does not have anything to do with this.

Beanoir
Aug 8, 2012, 09:55 AM
If Apple sold an MBA's with cellular Internet, they'd sell a lot fewer iPads. Instead of opting for a $650 iPad, people would put that money towards a new MBA. Apple knows this.

Similar to the reason they never put Blu-Ray in MBP's. Apple could have made a 9.5 mm Blu-Ray, but they chose to nix the optical drive so users would be forced into downloadable content, where they have made [and will continue to make] inroads. Then they pass Blu-Ray off as an obsolete technology that prevented design progress [read: thinness].

I've been following Apple religiously for a long time. I know their game.

Agreed on that.

garbeth
Aug 8, 2012, 10:06 AM
I'd be all over purchasing an Air if it had cellular connectivity built right into it. I find the hot spot tethering from the iPhone to be a bit hit and miss sometimes. Not to mention the huge battery drain.

Capt Underpants
Aug 8, 2012, 11:57 AM
So a company would rather sell more $650 devices than $1000+ devices and would do this on purpose? I have to say I don't see your logic. It's like saying Porsche won't add sports seats to a Cayenne because it would cannibalise the sales of the 911 (they do by the way). It's preposterous. A Cayenne isn't a 911 and a tablet isn't a notebook. Tablets have cannibalised the sales of computers, but that's mainly because many people don't need the functionality of a full computer. A feature like 3G connectivity does not have anything to do with this.

Well, I explained it as clearly as I can.

slartib
Aug 8, 2012, 06:23 PM
It really is that easy, and the best thing is I don't have any extra bills or contracts or top-ups to worry about because my phone contract gives me unlimited data.
My Vodafone smartphone contract gives me unlimited data too (with a speed limit after a monthly threshold volume), and it includes a free twin SIM card for my laptop, iPad or USB modem stick. Since I do not like iPads, my laptop is a MacBook Air, and tethering my iPhone has inconveniences, I ended up buying a USB modem. However, the solution of built-in cellular internet adopted by other notebook manufacturers is superior.

True, LTE/4G comes with more worldwide frequencies (6) than UMTS/3G (4), and I do not know of any device that covers them all, while most UMTS phones and modems are quad band. However, 3G data connections are fast enough for my purposes (while 2G/Edge is horribly slow to the point of being useless), and the iPhone is 3G, so Apple could start offering built-in 3G internet in MacBooks using iPhone technology. I wonder why they haven't so far and whether they'll do soon.

Ashka
Aug 9, 2012, 02:42 AM
GPRS PC data cards were installed inside Powerbooks in 2005..
New Zealand Vodafone.
Nothing new :)

Personally I use a Sierra Wireless T Stick for the Air or Pro. which clips onto the screen frame or goes into a NetComm travel Router.

Blackberryroid
Aug 9, 2012, 08:56 AM
I'd love 3G on the MacBook Air. I'm dying to have one. And text messaging too. Nice additional feature. While we're on it, why not add calling too? It's perfect with FaceTime.

CoMoMacUser
Aug 9, 2012, 09:54 AM
An LTE module with 3G fallback will cost at least $100 even in the volumes that Apple probably would buy. Another issue is that it's going to be at least another year, and probably two, before LTE coverage is on par with 3G coverage in major countries such as the U.S. And even if it were available everywhere today, the rate plans are not friendly to notebooks, which can burn through a lot of data very quickly.

Yet another hurdle is SKUs. LTE can be used in 40-plus bands. Even if you stick with the dozen or so most widely used bands, that's a lot of antennas: not just one per band, but two because of LTE antenna system requirements. So Apple and other notebook vendors would either have to have a SKU for each country or region to reduce the number of antennas or have one SKU with a lot of unnecessary antennas and wasted space, which is limited in MBs. Like phones and tablets, the battery and display call the shots. Every other component -- including modules and antennas -- scrounges for whatever space is left.

polotska
Aug 11, 2012, 03:06 PM
Not really, you are not in the minority. My company uses a few hundred ThinkPads with this feature.

Always loved my ThinkPads with this feature.

slartib
Aug 12, 2012, 05:11 AM
to date Apple hasn't taken an interest of any significance in the business sector.
This is true, but privates have a strong interest in cellular connectivity too.

Always loved my ThinkPads with this feature.
Yes, for instance the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon, with carbon fiber body. It has 3G, which is ok for the time being, given the troubles that LTE seems to make because of the multiple frequencies used worldwide. I wonder how the iPhone 5 will solve the LTE issue in one month.

dyn
Aug 12, 2012, 09:25 AM
Here are my thoughts:
1. They would have to have a plastic spot. The iPad's wi-fi is pumped through the Apple logo, and the 3G through a bar of plastic on top. Do note, though, that it could probably be done more elegantly on a laptop (Hinge area?)

The notebook already has wireless technology on board: wifi and bluetooth. Those work fine. The notebook has a clear plastic Apple logo on the back of the display as well as a plastic hinge area. I think you need to ask if there is still enough room to put yet another set of antennae.


2. Battery life

We're talking about a notebook that is able to run for 7 hrs on battery with wifi and bluetooth turned on. Upping the brightness of the display has a much more dramatic influence on battery life than a 3G/4G modem will have.


3. Nobody would use it. I had a Chromebook, and I never used 3G on the go. If I really needed to, I could tether using my phone.

This might be the case but nobody using it may also be caused by the mere fact that the current and previous Airs didn't have it on board. Many people dislike carrying additional devices with them so they opt for not using 3G/4G instead. Putting it in the Air may enable lot more people using such things. There are many Apple devices that did something similar. Nobody would ever think of ditching floppy disks, yet Apple did and everybody ditched floppy disk after a while. It did wonders for usb. Apple has the ability to make people want and use features they've never wanted/needed/used before.


4. The Air is pretty tightly packed as it is.
So are the iPhone and iPad, yet Apple still manages to put more power and features in them. Same goes for memory: it gets tinier and tinier which enables them to put 8GB of memory on the board whereas 2 or 4GB was the most they could fit previously. Something similar goes for 3G/4G modems.

It is not like it is technologically impossible, they can do it. The problem is that it requires a certain market for it. Apparently Apple doesn't feel like they have a market for it and thus doesn't put it on the Air. I think the different frequencies and maybe even the bandwidth of current 3G technologies might be the culprit. It makes it more challenging and 3G might be too slow for notebook use (it is fine for iPad/iPhone use due to mobile versions of websites).