One of the biggest new features of Apple's new iPad is its ability to connect to 4G LTE data networks. Often nearly as fast as your average in-home wi-fi, 4G LTE is a dramatic improvement over 3G. Per Apple's own description, a 4G LTE iPad lets you "browse the web, stream content, or download a movie at blazing-fast speeds."
Now, however, it looks like all that speed may come with a price. According to a report today in the Wall Street Journal, people using 4G LTE on their new iPads are starting to hit the caps on their data plans in a fraction of the time it took them to do so before. According to the journal, Brandon Wells got his new iPad on Friday (when it released), and thanks to about two hours of streaming March Madness basketball games, he had hit the limit of his 2GB Verizon data plan. That left him the option of either turning wireless data off on his new iPad, or coughing up another $10 for every gigabyte of data used for the rest of the month.
The issue raises an important question about the data plans AT&T and Verizon currently offer their customers: should the limits stay the same as technology advances? The current plan limits are unchanged from those offered for the 3G-capable iPad 2 and original iPad, despite the fact that the new iPad's 4G connectivity allows for much higher data traffic.
Of course, it's entirely possible that the carriers want it this way. If a 4G connection makes users burn through their lower-end data plans quickly, they will be forced to either pay the overage for the increased data usage, or upgrade to a (more expensive) plan with a higher limit. In the carriers' eyes, no doubt, anything that prompts users to upgrade to a more expensive product is bound to be a good thing.
Neither AT&T nor Verizon have yet responded to requests for comment.
This new information sheds some light on previous details about the new iPad, as well. The day before the iPad hit stores, we reported that FaceTime would remain a wi-fi only feature. Users with the new iPad would not be able to use their 4G connection to make FaceTime calls. While such a move seemed puzzling at the time, now it makes a little more sense. FaceTime calls are fairly data-intensive, and over a 4G connection they are likely to burn through users' data allotments quickly.
Of course, this does not affect all iPad users. A significant percentage (Apple hasn't said exactly how many) of the new iPads sold are the wi-fi only version, and won't connect to 4G networks. Also, a happy few are still hanging on to the old unlimited data plans they got with the original iPad back in 2010. Fortunately for them, AT&T has said that they get to keep those plans, though there is no word yet on whether or not they will face the same kind of throttling that those with "unlimited" 3G iPhone plans face.
Have you hit your data limit with your new iPad? If so, how did you do it? Should the carriers raise the data limits in light of the increased speeds that come with 4G LTE? Tell us what you think in the comments.