Apple appears to have given in to regulatory pressure after the UK's consumer watchdog, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), as well as Australia's counterpart, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched investigations following a wave of complaints from consumers about the advertising of the Cupertino-based firm's new iPad 4G capabilities.
While the ASA's concerns didn't result in legal proceedings, the ACCC filed a lawsuit in the federal court of Melbourne accusing Apple of misleading consumers, for which it sought fines and a possible injunction banning sales in the country.
The two met recently for mediation, with Apple agreeing to further clarify the devices' exact network capabilities in store. At the time they rejected the idea of placing stickers on the product's box or changing the name, but they did offer refunds for any iPad owner that was unhappy with his purchase or felt mislead over the 4G speeds when purchasing the tablet.
In a rather interesting move however, over the course of the weekend Apple has re-labeled the popular tablet to "iPad + Cellular" without releasing any press statement or giving any warning ahead of the changes.
There is no doubt that "cellular" is considerably more legal-friendly than before, especially given the tablet's incompatibility with many 4G networks outside of the US and Canada. It's also likely to go a long way towards appeasing the concerns of consumer groups.
The news will be bittersweet for consumers though, as the iconic iPad retailer has already shipped millions of the new tablets in the disputed markets, no doubt buoyed by its 4G claims with consumers blissfully unaware of the 4G's incompatibility with their domestic mobile infrastructure. This is especially true in the UK, where network operators can't seem to even mention 4G in a sentence without it ending in arguments.
Therefore the real winner here is Apple -- the changes effectively bring an end to further legal proceedings and increased criticism from consumer regulatory groups, although the ACCC has made it clear they will be held to account for past conduct and the trial will continue as planned on June 4.
Apple's Australian branch issued a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald this morning saying it changed the name because wireless carriers "do not all refer to their high-speed networks with the same terminology" and therefore "decided to use 'Wi-Fi + Cellular' as a simple term" to describe the tablet's network compatibility.