Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE – What is LTE? Is LTE important?

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE (and other tablets like iPad 3) tout LTE as a BIG improvement.

The questions worth asking are -

  1. What is LTE?
  2. Is LTE really a Big improvement, or is it more of a marketing gimmick?

Thanks to Kaethy for asking ‘what is LTE’. Well, let’s find out exactly what LTE is, and whether or not it’s a big deal.

What is the LTE in Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE?

  1. LTE is a way for phones and mobile devices to get data wirelessly at high speeds. That’s the crux: It will let you get wireless data to your Kindle Fire HD 4G very fast.
  2. Phones and Mobile devices use wireless technology to transfer data. Data is transferred via waves that use the electromagnetic spectrum (it’s fine, we can ignore what this is). Each type of use (TV, Radio, wireless) has its own band of frequencies. This is handled by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).
  3. Wireless Data use is just like Radio or TV broadcasting where waves that ‘hold’ the radio/TV data are sent out into the air by the station. Then the radio or the TV antenna captures those waves and converts them into a form we can understand. Except here it’s to your phone or mobile device, and your phone or mobile device can also transmit data back.
  4. You have wireless data like cellular data service where there are Cellphone Towers that have a range of 10 to 15 miles. You can have wireless networks like WiFi which have a range of just a few rooms or a home. In each case, data is being sent to your device via waves. In each case, your device is sending data back to the ‘modem’ or ‘tower’ via waves.
  5. Wireless data transfer via waves came into use because it was impractical to have wires everywhere. Can you imagine needing to have a wire always plugged into your phone or Tablet?
  6. Wireless technology evolves and the improving technologies get classified into ‘Generations’. It’s mostly a marketing thing. 2G = Second Generation (GSM, CDMA, GPRS). 3G = Third Generation (W-CDMA, EDGE, CDMA2000). 4G = 4th Generation. These are all generations of wireless technology. Just as your computer gets faster and more powerful and gets a larger hard drive, the wireless technology evolves and becomes better.
  7. LTE stands for ‘Long Term Evolution’. It is the next generation of wireless technology after existing 3G technologies (such as W-CDMA).
  8. LTE is marketed as 4G LTE. 4G = 4th Generation. Funnily enough, it does NOT meet the requirements for 4G. The standards body allowed companies to use ’4G’ because it is significantly improved over existing 3G technology. It isn’t a ‘true 4G’ technology, more like 3.75G.
  9. LTE can be over different frequency bands. Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE supports 10 bands. Worldwide there are 32 bands. While 4G LTE really is a worldwide standard that should work everywhere – it will only work if your device supports the wireless band being used by the LTE networks in the country or region you are in.
  10. AT&T and Verizon and T-Mobile are ALL moving to LTE. Whereas there was a clash in 2G and 3G technologies (CDMA vs GSM vs GPRS), all of them will be using the same technology standard of LTE. Note: They will use different bands. Amazon has said that LTE supports all 10 bands available in the US but I have no idea if that includes Verizon or if Amazon means something else.
  11. The move to LTE is happening worldwide. So we will have the same technology standard of LTE worldwide. Only problem is that there will be 32 different bands. So your device must BOTH support LTE and support the respective wireless frequency band, to work on a LTE network.
  12. AT&T is FAR BEHIND Verizon in LTE. AT&T covers something like 30 million potential subscribers while Verizon covers 200 million potential subscribers (these are inexact figures). So the choice of AT&T is a bit strange. Where AT&T doesn’t have LTE you’ll get HSPA+ (which is faster than 3G and slower than LTE). However, Verizon is the only company that has ACTUAL LTE available in lots of markets and areas.

In a nutshell:

LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a much faster way of transferring wireless data from and to your Tablet. It is not yet widely available – only Verizon is well positioned on that front. It is a significant improvement over existing 2G and 3G wireless technologies.

It’s a BIG DEAL for the FUTURE. For the present, it’s just a luxury feature, not a killer feature.

Is LTE a big deal? How important is LTE?

Actually, there are lots of nuances -

  1. LTE is very good insurance for the future. If someone invents something that requires super high-speed data transfer, then LTE on your device would be great. For most current uses (email, surfing, downloading a book, downloading a song) LTE is way more than necessary speed.
  2. You could argue LTE is useful for things such as downloading movies really fast and streaming movies and playing streaming games.
  3. The speeds LTE provides are way more than required for most usage we currently have. Peak download rates of 100 Mbps or more and upload rates of 50 Mbps or more. Unless you’re getting the Encyclopaedia Britannica as an email attacment that’s way more speed than you’ll need.
  4. In actual use you’ll probably find LTE gives you download speeds between 10 and 30 Mbps. For comparison, 3G offers speeds around 2 Mbps. Please Note: 2 Mbps is perfectly fine for things like email and surfing the web and even for downloading things.
  5. LTE supports some good features from a technological perspective – low latency, efficiency, inter-operation with existing standards like GSM/EDGE and CDMA2000, support for multicast-broadcast single frequency network which would allow things like Mobile TV, increased spectrum flexibility (it can work across more wireless frequencies). This is part of why it’s becoming a worldwide standard.
  6. LTE provides really, really fast speed. There aren’t really very many technologies that need that faster speed. Basically, we haven’t invented uses for that amount of speed. However, if and when someone does, you’ll be glad you have it.
  7. If you want speed for speed’s sake, then LTE is great.
  8. LTE is costly. The Networks spent a LOT of money to set up their LTE networks. Most of them are still setting up LTE networks. They are going to recoup that money via data charges. So all that fast data transfer and streaming movies – lots of data charges. Also, since data transfer is so fast, you are going to use a LOT more data on LTE.
  9. AT&T is still years away from having full LTE deployment in the US. Please keep this in mind. Your area might not have AT&T LTE support.
  10. Patents. There are about 50 companies that have declared they have LTE patents that are standards essential. If a patent is ‘standard essential’ then the company holding it MUST license it to everyone else, and at reasonable rates. So your device is NOT going to get banned or blocked. However, Amazon might have to pay some charges to some companies. If it has LTE patents of its own (unlikely), then it might be able to cross-license and avoid paying charges.
  11. The successor to LTE is called LTE Advanced. It’ll be a ‘True 4G’ technology. We are quite a few years away from that. Companies might even skip it and move on to the successor to LTE Advanced or to a completely different technology – so no point waiting for it.

To put all of that into plain English -

  1. LTE is a very fast wireless data transfer standard.
  2. There isn’t really any use right now that makes LTE necessary. Perhaps streaming live games or live TV or streaming movies.
  3. Data charges can REALLY pile up with LTE. It’s capable of 100 Mbps and will probably deliver at least 20 to 30 Mbps. You’re going to have to be very, very careful about data limits and overage charges.
  4. AT&T is way behind Verizon in LTE deployment. Only a small part of AT&T’s network has LTE.
  5. LTE is very good insurance for the future. In 1.5 to 2.5 years you’ll be really glad you have it. Until then it’s just a luxury – something that lets you get faster instant gratification.

You can read up more about LTE at Wikipedia and about 4G at All Things Digital. The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE product page has details on what Amazon is offering. Please keep in mind that it’s mostly marketing speak and it doesn’t reveal things like data rate after the first year or overage charges or what the cost of higher data plans is.

Is it worth paying $200 more for 4G LTE and 16 GB of extra memory?

It’s hard to say.

4G LTE is definitely a luxury at this stage. Companies write ‘ultra-fast’ but they don’t mention that -

  1. We don’t really have any usage for that fast a data transfer speed. Not yet.
  2. The data costs will be very high. If you start streaming HD movies over LTE then you might as well write a blank check to AT&T.

At the same time, LTE is good insurance for the future. In case some use comes up that is very data intensive (Super Super High Fidelity Movies, New Broadcast TV in Ultra High Definition), LTE will be great. If you just want a device to check email and surf the web and don’t mind waiting a bit for movies to download, then the $299 Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is just fine.

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Thoughts & Kindle Fire HD 4G Missing FCC Approval

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE, which Mr. Bezos is touting as ‘The Best Tablet … at any price’. Well, it doesn’t have FCC Approval yet.

NBC News and Reuters and Gizmodo reported on Friday evening that the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Whatever Else Amazon Might Append Tablet isn’t FCC approved.

There’s even a small notice on the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE page (on the right, below the Preorder button section). It says -

This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.

What? But we all thought you were selling it Amazon. Wasn’t that what the whole ‘In a Hangar in the Middle of Somewhere’ conference was about?

It’s rather remarkable that Amazon would start taking preorders for it when the FCC hasn’t approved it yet. There is always the chance something goes wrong and Amazon won’t have it available for sale by Christmas. Which would be an epic disaster. Not to mention unfortunate given that Amazon has done everything right so far – hype, meaningless Press Releases, Aircraft Hangars.

Anyways, let’s hope the only current viable alternative to iPad 3 doesn’t get stalled by the FCC.

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Thoughts

  1. Kindle Fire HD 4G has a 1900 by 1200 HD display with 254 pixels per inch on a 8.9″ screen. iPad 3 has a 2048 by 1536 resolution screen with 264 pixels per inch on a 9.7″ screen. Kindle Fire HD is approximately 84% of the screen area and approximately 96% of the pixel density. That’s very close – but it isn’t the same. On the other hand, the smaller screen gives Kindle Fire HD better portability – It’s 20 ounces (575 grams) and 9.4″ by 6.4″ by 0.35″. iPad, meanwhile, is 1.44 pounds (652 grams) and 9.5″ by 7.31″ by 0.37″. Kindle Fire HD is 88% of the weight of the iPad 3. It’s also thinner. Bet Apple isn’t happy about that.
  2. Amazon has now backtracked on Ads and says it’ll let people turn them off for $15. Question is – How will someone who paid $499 (or $599 for the 64 GB model) feel about paying another $15 to turn off Ads?
  3. Exchange Calendar, contacts and email. Anyone have more details on this? This seems to me like it could be a very big deal. On the product page Amazon has a ‘Connect to Your Corporate Email’ section which says – Kindle Fire HD features full support for Exchange-based accounts.
  4. Does anyone know what the second year of LTE would cost? First year is 250 MB per month for just $50 ($50 for the entire year). This is very good (although a bit impractical if you don’t have WiFi at home and in the office). It’s the second year cost that’s worth knowing about. Also, why does Amazon not mention what the other data plans from AT&T will cost?
  5. Kindle Fire HD doesn’t come with a power adapter. That’s just funny to the point of ridiculousness.
  6. After the deception known as Silk Browser I’m very reluctant to take Amazon’s claims of 41% faster WiFi seriously. Ditto for its claims that it has a graphics processor faster than Tegra 3.
  7. Amazon has started using Apple style charts. When showing a speed comparison of the Kindle Fire HD 4G graphics processor Versus Tegra 3, it showed bars that didn’t start from zero. So, visually, it seemed Kindle Fire HD graphics processor was double the speed of Tegra 3. That’s just sad.
  8. You pay $200 extra for Kindle Fire HD 4G and you get – 16 GB extra memory, 4G LTE, and that’s it. So a $15 to $25 LTE chip and a $25 to $30 16 GB memory stick is worth a $200 markup. Another Apple lesson that, rather unfortunately, Amazon has learnt.
  9. Amazon doesn’t list Silk Browser as one of the features. But it does sneak it into the comparisons chart. You have to give them credit for still promoting a feature that actually makes the browser SLOWER.
  10. Skype integration is a cool feature. It wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon came up with ads as good as the FaceTime ads. Technically, Skype was doing FaceTime a long time before FaceTime.
  11. Kindle Fire HD 4G Battery Life isn’t mentioned anywhere. Perhaps this is related to the lack of FCC coverage. iPad 3 has 9 hours of browsing and 10 hours with WiFi off. I seriously doubt Amazon will be able to match that.

The more details we find out about the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE the clearer things get -

  1. Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE is definitely going to eat some iPad 3 sales.
  2. Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE isn’t yet the Best Tablet. It definitely is a competitor but the iPad 3 still holds the crown based on what we know so far.
  3. Amazon has chosen to obfuscate and/or has neglected to mention the downsides of the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE. This is not a wise choice. If users know the pros and cons beforehand they can make the best decision. In the long run that is also best for Amazon.

Mr. Bezos is morphing into Steve ‘Magic Marketer’ Bezos. Amazon is cloning so many Apple sales tactics that Apple probably wishes it had patents on its sales strategy. Which, in my limited understanding, is far more important to Apple than rounded icons or Slide to Lock.

Apple’s iPad product refresh cycle will have to change. If it doesn’t switch to a Fall refresh, then Amazon and Surface Tablets will eat it alive next year. This year it will still get by on the momentum and lead it has. By next year it’ll have to switch to Fall releases for iPad and it will have to do much faster product refreshes and improvements. Retina Display and LTE were the big things for iPad 3 and now the competition has that. So iPad 3 goes into the Holiday Season with far fewer advantages.

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE – the most credible iPad challenger so far.

Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE & Data Plan are a HUGE Game Changer

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE is a huge game changer. The data plan makes it just ridiculous.

Here’s a comparison:

  1. Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE and 32 GB memory – $499.
  2. iPad 3 with 32GB and 4G LTE – $729.
  3. If you think that’s going to be an iProblem (the $230 price difference), wait for the next bit.
  4. iPad 3 12 month data plan with 250 MB per month data. $230 with iPad 3.
  5. Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE similar data plan – $50 for the ENTIRE YEAR. That’s $180 cheaper.

Amazon is touting total cost of ownership for first year with Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE as just $549 – which compares very, very well with iPad’s $959.

Please Note: Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE ships on November 20th, 2012.

You can check the details of the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE at Amazon.

You can read our Kindle Fire HD Features Review to get more insights. Amazon finally has Tablets that can take on the iPad.

Update: Lots of sites like Engadget are discussing the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE and the crazy data plan. This really is something else.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ with 4G LTE offers you 32 GB memory and LTE for $200 extra (It’s $499 while the normal Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is just $299).

That’s interesting. It’s very competitive with iPad 3 LTE.

The data plan is the deal clincher in my opinion. It bothers me no end that wireless providers charge so much for data. Amazon’s $5o a year data plan is absolutely incredible. Of course, you’re going to use it up really quickly if you depend only on 4G. So it’s more of a ‘Use WiFi most of the time, have option for LTE’ sort of plan and device.

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