LTE or 3G on a Macbook Air? How realistic is it?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by robotfist, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. robotfist macrumors member

    Nov 7, 2007
    I would love to have a LTE or 3G enable Macbook Air, that you can whip out and jump on online anywhere without having to tether or perform workarounds. I have seen mixed posts from some people saying that it isn't possible due to battery drain or the SIM card housing. What do you guys think? Will we ever see the Macbook Air with true wireless internet outside of wifi? Or would the battery drain be too much?
  2. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    It's possible, not likely. Apple already created a prototype Mac Pro many years ago with a cellular modem built in (I think it was 3G), but my question when people ask this is why? Smart phones can do wireless tethering (including both Apple's iPhones and iPad's), so they can basically share a 4/3G connection via wifi and once you set it up once it just works, there is no "complicated tethering" because your phone acts like a "normal" wireless router. And if you don't own a smart phone, you can get a USB cellular modem OR get one of those Mifi routers.

    The biggest thing about having a built in chip, is that you are tied to a certain generation of cellular modem. Meaning, when "5G' comes out, you can't just switch to using 5G, instead you will be regulated to using 4G or buying a new laptop. Also, you might even end up tied to a certain Cell phone company. What if you move? Now your cellular chip is worthless to you. Even when companies have offered this in their laptops, I have never taken advantage of it. It gives me way more flexibility to "bring my own" cellular data connection.
  3. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    It would add cost, weight and at least some slight power use for people who aren't using it. I'd rather the small space be used for extra battery.

    A bigger downside is working with each cell phone company around the world as well as the various government agencies (FCC in the US) to get the mobile device approved for use.
  4. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    The biggest problem is how greedy the data providers are becoming! $30/month for 2GB data!! Most desktop users can use that in an afternoon. Its really pathetic. As soon as a provider offers an unlimited plan it will make sense.
  5. JacaByte macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2009
    Being prudent about finding and (legally) using Wi-Fi hotspots is still the way to go in terms of data usage IMHO.
  6. bgatoruf macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2012
    What about adding a service like Find my Mac which is works quite nicely with cellular data. How much more powerful and useful would be it with always on service that isn't reliant upon a thief or others to log on to a network to activate. Being able to wipe my Mac remotely and instantly would be very valuable (though painful)...
  7. d21mike macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2007
    Torrance, CA
    I see this in terms of the iPad. How many of you bought the WiFi only version because you can tether it to your iPhone? If you decided to buy the 3G/LTE Version, why? I have bought the 3G (with GPS) in the past and will get the LTE Version (I assume GPS only comes with the radio) because every new device seems to come with a faster radio. Now, I also have a MacBook Air that I am using right now on WiFi. I have been traveling and more then once I forgot I did not have 3G on my MacBook Air and switch over to using the iPad. I think the phone companies should allow for "Shared Data Plans" so each device can have a 3G/LTE Radio and be independent of the other. Also, like Verizon is doing with their new iPad you can tether it at no extra charge. I would also like to be able to tether to whichever device had the latest and greatest 3G/LTE Radio if on a slower data device. At some point, if they do not offer Shared Data I will probably start using the tether feature but that would mean I will loose my unlimited data plan, so not sure. Lastly, isn't it great we have all of the options. Not too many years ago our choice for mobile competing was much more limited.
  8. pavvento macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2007
    My personal opinion is that Apple does not want any of their products to completely negate the need for another one of their products/services.

    So if it is a MacBook Air you need with cellular connections they'd rather you get an iPhone with tethering capabilities than just being able to use the Air. Maybe they'd rather you get an iPad with LTE to complement your MBA.

    That's just my opinion.
  9. willcapellaro macrumors 6502

    Oct 20, 2011
    It would surely be useful, at a slight cost of parts markup, internal space, and battery drain. There are other reasons, already stated, why you wouldn't want to have a redundant cellular plan for you computer (which will suck down way more data than a phone). That aside, I wish I were rich and could have a plan for an always-connected computer, ipad, as well as a phone. My hotspot comes online today and I'll be trying it out. I think it will work for me, but I don't like having things dependent on things. And I'm on a 4S so no LTE.

    We'll see how the chromebook pixel cellular version does... that will tell you how much people really want this feature. It would be interested to see proportions of the sales between the two models.

    Apple will most likely be the last to adopt anything like this, but they will give it a catchy name and some extra whiz-bang features and leave everybody else somewhat in the dust. Not complaining, I like that they are very conservative.

    Or there will be a change to our telecommunications industry and multiple antennas won't be needed, or it will be more user friendly to not differentiate what antenna you are talking to. I put more faith that Apple will do something kind of smart before the FCC and carriers stop being stupid.
  10. DesertEagle macrumors 6502a


    Jan 10, 2012
    /home @
    Same here, it's typical for Apple. That's why there's no numpad on their wireless keyboards.
  11. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    How would they deal with the multiple different network frequencies around the world? Different countries/carriers use different frequencies so how could you get an all-in-one card?
  12. stchman macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    Aren't there already USB dongles that allow OS X to use LTE or 3G?

    I gather the OP is inquiring if Apple will build the functionality in.

    Only problem with building it in, if the carrier changes their LTE or 3G, would not the built in adapter need to have updated firmware?
  13. AppleInTheMud macrumors 6502


    Jun 19, 2012
    Vojens Denmark
    It's possible but not likely ...

    And again - for what reason. I surf over my iPhone 5 on my MacBook Air when Im out of the house. And it then runs like 50Mbits... Sooo not neccesary (spell it :-/ ) for me. Love that you can share your internet over the iPhone. So no need for 3g or lte in my Macbook or iPad.
  14. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    i don't think a large enough percentage of people would use this to warrant it.
    Tether & usb data dongles should be adequate for most people...

    i would be surprised if it really isn't possible, however I would be equally surprised if we saw it actualized any time soon - especially this next round of devices.

    i don't have an iphone - i have an android phone and i have to tell you, although i hate tethering - wireless tether is pretty darn good when you absolutely have to have it.
  15. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    The problem is that they would need multiple versions for the different carriers in the US and around the world.

    They sell so many iPhones and iPads that it's worth it to have 4 different carrier SKUs in addition to the other options, but it may not be worth the trouble to do that for the Air line.
  16. iPayton macrumors newbie

    Nov 11, 2011

    I would love to see a MacBook Air with LTE. It seem like the perfect portable device. I sell real estate and I am on the go constantly - I currently have a MacBook Pro 13", iPad 3 (Verizon LTE), and iPhone 4S (ATT).

    Probably 75% of the tools, services, etc that I use are web-based. Love the iPad, but it's short comings in my world are:

    1) no true "file system" - yes I use Dropbox, but the iPad has to switch between different apps to handle "finder-like" file management issues
    2) Safari on the iPad has to open multiple tabs to handle more complex webpages
    3) because I do a fair amount of data input (on-line forms / editable PDFs etc) the trackpad & keyboard are extremely efficient.

    The beauty of a MBA with flash memory & LTE is the (nearly) instant on functionality, constant connectivity (& updated inbox, etc), lighter weight. I could literally replace both my MBP and iPad with a MBA w/LTE. I use the wireless hotspot feature of my iPad when I need my MBP on the fly, which works great, but having both devices in addition to my iPhone would become unnecessary.

    It seems like the consensus on this thread is that this is not a configuration that anyone is expecting to happen. I don't think it's a technical issue (battery life, etc), I think it's a (perceived) lack of demand issue. Now that we have shared data plans, I would gladly pay the additional $10/device to add a MBA/LTE to my data plan.

    Just my $.02
  17. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    I wouldn't even say it;s a lack of demand issue. I think the problem is more a carrier issue than anything else. Each carrier has different frequencies and technologies they use for their network, and a handset maker like Apple has to respond with multiple versions of the same hardware. Right now, three different versions of the iPhone 5 exist, with one of those version split between older (non-AWS HPSA+) generations and newer (AWS-enabled for HSPA+) generations.

    This might be acceptable on a heavily subsidized smartphone that will likely be in the users' hands for two to three years, tops. And it's a stretch but still somewhat doable with tablets. But it starts to get less practical with ultrabooks and laptops.

    Consider that a while back, Lenovo and other manufacturers briefly offered built-in cellular modems on some of their systems. But it was limited to specific carriers... if you were on Verizon, or Sprint, or US Cellular, or MetroPCS, you were out of luck.

    On top of this, you have very small hotspot devices that the carriers all sell, AND tether-enabled smartphones. That means you have a greater choice in mixing and matching whatever tethering device you want, on whatever network, to whatever device needs the connection. it also lets you share at a lower cost: instead of paying for separate data plans for my MacBook, iPad and iPhone, I just pay for a single hotspot plan on my phone and share it with all the other devices.

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