We have a 4G iPhone, 4G iPad - where's the 4G MacBook?

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are both great devices to get work done while you're on the road, but in order to get anything done online you only have one choice: Wi-Fi. Why doesn't Apple offer 4G LTE as an option on those devices, too?

When I'm out with my laptop, I'm often within the range of a Wi-Fi network - a local Starbucks perhaps, or the public Wi-Fi hotspot of the sandwich place I'm getting lunch. But there are other occasions where I'm completely without any Wi-Fi access, or Wi-Fi costs something to use.

I'm fortunate enough to have a wireless service plan that includes a couple of gigabytes of data per month and personal hotspot service, so I usually whip out my phone in those cases, turn Personal Hotspot on and get to work.

But many people who have cellular service plans don't have that option. They may be working with a shared data plan that enables them to have up to ten devices use the same service, but unless the personal hotspot feature is active on their phone, they're stuck.

There are other options, too - even basic pay-as-you-go services offer Mi-Fi devices and their equivalent - dedicated devices designed to provide Wi-Fi access to 4G LTE coverage.

And that's great. But just like with iPhones as personal hotspots, it's another device you have to bring with you and remember to have charged up when you need it.

I'd much rather see Apple offer MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros with the option of having 4G LTE built right in, rather than having to use a bulky external device or a phone.

Putting 4G in a laptop is hardly a revolutionary idea: HP has done it, so has Dell and other companies to boot. Hell, some of them even offer laptops with free (albeit very limited) data plans.

And it's not something Apple has to put in every MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, either. It can be a configure-to-order option, something only those customers who need or want it can pay extra for.

But seriously, it's 2014. And it's Apple. It's a company that prides itself on top notch design and engineering and an excellent user experience. Expecting mobile users to tether their MacBook to a 4G hotspot seems like a really ugly, inelegant solution. And "ugly" and "inelegant" are two words that I don't associate with Apple very often.

What do you think? Would you buy a 4G MacBook if it were offered? Or are you content with Wi-Fi and tethering to a personal hotspot when necessary? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

More Posts



← Previously

Christian Bale allegedly favored by David Fincher to play Steve Jobs in the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic. And so...?

Next up →

Story Leather Genuine Side Flip Wallet Case for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s review

There are 47 comments. Add yours.

MobiJew says:

I would love this. Especially if I could put it on Verizon and add it to my shared plan at $10 a month like my iPad

ccppl208 says:

Hell you owe me money

Sent from the iMore App

jeddo45 says:


Nexus 5... enough said

BSUNesto says:

I was just looking into this a couple weeks ago. I would love it if Apple offered this option. As a Realtor and property manager, I could care less to drive around searching for a nearby Starbucks or McDonalds to use free wifi while away from the office. Carry a hotspot? Forget about it! I don't need a third device to worry about charging every night and a couple times a day. iPad? No thanks, I need something I can use quickly and has the power use to create content, rather than consume it. I just want to be able to pull over when duty calls, bust out my laptop, and take care of my work on the spot. No messing around and no hassles.

ccppl208 says:

Too bad go fish

Sent from the iMore App

GraphicMac says:

Odd. My real estate agent used an iPad for the MLS. She used to search for homes to view, draw-up the offer sheet, sign contracts, etc. She did have to use her iPhone for the hotspot use - but it's not like anyone who NEEDS cell access for a laptop doesn't already have a smartphone.

Easy-G says:

I suppose it depends on which solution Apple finds less inelegant - mobile hot spot via iDevice, or the added configuration option confounding people at the point of sale. Second, I would think that onboard 4G in a laptop is more of a 'business user' option and less of a strictly 'consumer' option.

valkraider says:

If I can't afford to tether over my phone, why would I be able to afford a completely separate data line for my laptop?

Phone tethering works via one device but can serve up wifi to anything I have. I need one data plan and can provide connectivity to our family iPads, other computers, other devices etc etc.

What kind of a realtor has a laptop and not a mobile phone?

This is just like the 4GLTE in a car. It's a single device add-on that just makes people subscribe to more data lines.

I already have a data line on my phone. I don't need to pay twice - twice for modems and twice for data plans.

I don't buy iPads with data lines either. When I am not around wifi I just tether through the phone I already have.

BSUNesto says:


I have a laptop and a mobile phone, but I prefer to not use my phone to tether, and I don't care to use my phone's data allowance on laptop use. I burn through my 3 GB of data with just my phone alone every month. I'm constantly charging my phone as it is, tethering would just make it that much worse. Personally, for my setup, I would prefer to actually pay for a separate plan and use that data strictly for my laptop. To me, that's part of having the tools to do business, and I don't mind it. I currently have a Verizon hotspot that I carry around, but believe me when I say it's a pain in the butt to remember to charge it at night and throughout the day. I've actually had a mobile hotspot for close to 8 years, starting with a data card that plugged into my laptop, then moving to the separate hotspot devices. Overall, having used different devices over the years to provide data to a laptop, I can tell you that I look forward to the day when I can just pickup my laptop and go, and know that data is right there with it.

Ipheuria says:

The reason you would want data on your laptop is because how many people have unlimited hi speed packages at home yet they never come close to using it to a high degree every month? Why not be able to login to the wifi plan on your laptop and get the usage you pay for also extending the use of the plan beyond just at home.

GreenDize12 says:

Uhh, if my only reason for consuming so much Data on my phone is the result of tethering to an iPad or Laptop, then why not just buy a Data iPad especially when the Carrier is giving me an option to add said iPad for only $15/month (after taxes), plus $100 credit on my phone, without commitment. I hardly use any Data or even use my phone for that matter after I went with this option.

I totally agree with you on the LTE cars though, at this point, I see it as a money waster especially when my mobile devices already have LTE on them, I do not need my car to have a web browser and I don't need radio either.

As far as a LTE MacBook goes, well, Before I returned the Vaio S laptop I had for a MacBook Pro, it actually came with the option to either purchase a Data Plan from either AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon (once I picked the carrier, I was stuck with them). I had no use for it but I did ask myself "This is a feature that could be useful when traveling within the country."

williamsbh76 says:

I'm with you about the car. I spend time in the car to drive from point a to point b. I've already got my phone and don't want to or need to be fooling with any gadgets while driving. I got a ford with Sync, siriusxm, and other voice assist items from Ford such as audible directions, special sports info, news etc. I never paid for extra voice assist items and I'm tired if paying almost $20 for Sirius only to use it less than an hour a day. One could argue that having a car with LTE would be great for traveling with the fam but honestly I look at what my vehicle is used for 95% of the time and long distance traveling falls in that other 5%

Sent from the iMore App

streamlined says:

Uh, cuz it kills your tiny little phone battery quickly?

Kyle McMahon says:

I think it would take a tentpole feature in a future release of OS X to allow this. iOS and its apps are written with different assumptions: that apps are usually killed when they user leaves them, that bandwidth is frequently extremely limited, limited background processing. Too many OS X apps don't share those assumptions, particularly ones that don't come via the App Store, and assume that if there exists a network connection, they have the right to use as much data as they want, up and down, even when their window is in the background. Would be way to easy to either burn through limited data very quickly or to experience major bill shock. So, again, I think mobile networking in a MacBook could happen, it would just have to be accompanied by a dramatic new feature in OS X to make the networking paradigm much more like iOS'.

stephen007 says:

Very well said!

Extreme bill shock would be a more inelegant option.

valkraider says:

Turning on tethering tethering on an iPhone takes only a few taps. It's not a hassle.

Unless of course you use Verizon or Sprint and can't make phone calls and use data... With AT&T or TMobile there is no reason to have extra devices...

ccppl208 says:

Why monster

Sent from the iMore App

ccppl208 says:

Just testing

Sent from the iMore App

Derrick4Real says:

I don't think they've done it because of small demand. I think only a small amount of people would be willing to pay extra for that version. People are barely willing to pay cell phone data charges.

streamlined says:

I agree with this 100%. There are already other PC makers offering broadband and guess what? Buyers mostly pass because they don't want to pay the hardware premium and don't want another monthly bill to pay. Data is freakin' expensive just for your phone already. I'd like a broadband 13" retina Macbook Pro but I can see why it hasn't been offered yet. Most people won't buy them.

MikhailT says:

> But seriously, it's 2014. And it's Apple. It's a company that prides itself on top notch design and engineering and an excellent user experience. Expecting mobile users to tether their MacBook to a 4G hotspot seems like a really ugly, inelegant solution. And "ugly" and "inelegant" are two words that I don't associate with Apple very often.

And where exactly are they going to put it in that will bring better signals than the separate plastic for a reason antenna-optimized Mi-Fi devices?

Like you say, Apple prides itself on the beautiful design, they're not going to start putting plastic on their unibody designs that everybody like.

There is a reason there's a black bar on the iPads, it needs to be plastic and it needs a lot of surface area to get signals that's farther than the Wi-Fi networks you're used to. IMO, those black bars make the iPads fugly. I doubt Apple like them as well.

It's better to associate the ugliness to a separate stick than to their laptop. They don't have that choice with the iOS devices but they do with laptops.

Plus, you can replace your Mi-Fi devices with better performing and bigger batteries over time. In Macs, you'd be stuck with them forever.

I don't replace my Macs every two years like I do with iOS devices, they stay around for 4-5 years as long as possible. LTE probably won't be replaced in 5 years but still.

dreyfus2 says:

Personally, I would definitely go for such an option if:

- it is truly international, all standards, all bands and groups
- does not mean a plastic antenna window somewhere
- us as a SIM format that is available as a prepaid solution internationally (e.g. It is about impossible to get prepaid nano SIMs in many countries)
- OS X will allow me to grant cellular access by application / service

Not sure how feasible this is as a BTO option, as the required modifications (antenna, SIM slot, module, wiring) might actually mean an entirely different device. It is true that others have done laptops with cellular modules, but I don't know a single one people raved about...So, I guess, either the demand is pretty abysmal, or it is not that easy to do it "right"?!

GlennRuss says:

I am guessing you will have it when they make the iPad Pro. Seems like the next logical step in the iPad line. After that, it will follow to the MacBooks, unless the next MacBook Pro will be the iPad Pro. Who knows what they are working on. I would like to see an iPad with an i7 processor, and 16G of ram, with 500GB hard drive. It could be done. Just a dream. Power, and extremely portable. When I see customers looking at new computers, they always pick it up. Weight is a very big selling point now. If you can cram all the power of a desktop into a light package that is portable, you will have something.

Ronnie T says:

I guess Apple figures you can use your iPhone or iPad as a mobile hot spot. I use my iPad as a mobile hot spot now.

GreekOo86 says:

I personally think this is an unnecessary addition to MacBook. Probably a more luxurious feature.
Who knows maybe the next generation will feature it !

Sent from the iMore App

MadCityDad says:

I'm a road warrior and I just bought a rMBP 13 inch for work. Personally I would rather use a stand alone Mi-Fi or my iPhone 5S for the connection. This way as mobile tech get's better and faster I'm not stuck with an out dated computer. That happened to my when I had a ThinkPad with 3G built in, had to wait a few year after LTE to upgrade. Having said that Apple should have it as an option, choice's are alway better.

bgatoruf says:

I would definitely buy it--at the very least having data built in would provide greater functionality of find my mac and the remote wipe features. While the computer could still be turned off, it would definitely help with less sophisticated thief's and buy more time with sophisticated ones. Moreover, it would allow some enhanced navigation options.

EggTarts says:

Would definitely like this feature since public wifi isn't secure.

dreyfus2 says:

3G/4G is not more secure than public WiFi at all. You need nothing else than a computer, a mobile phone and some free software to record all 3G/4G traffic around you. Actually, you would be able to tap into 3G/4G traffic from a much bigger distance than would be possible with most WiFi hotspots.

Art Tabb says:

I agree with some others here. Just use the phone's hot spot. Why spend more up front and then an additional monthly charge?

tobias_i_d says:

I know it's out of context but Apple, a company that prides itself on TOP NOTCH design and engineering, is still selling phones and tablets without a/c wifi.

tgjb says:

No mobile network on Mac??
=> That's why I also have a ThinkPad...

devonair says:

I have been begging and PLEADING for Apple to make this exact same product since the days of 3G... I'm actually surprised there aren't more positive comments here, because everyone that I have mentioned this idea to over the years has agreed that they would LOVE a Macbook (Air/Pro/Whatever) with built-in mobile data.

Convenience: no need to charge a separate device (mobile hotspot, etc); don't kill the battery in your phone if using that as a hotspot; independent of wifi
Security: no need to trust that public wifi you stumbled across
Price: ??? I'm surprised so many complained about paying for an extra data plan. Most plans allow you to add additional data-only devices to your existing plan for around $10/mo. Maybe not everyone needs internet access in their laptop when away from their home wifi, but I'm totally fine with skipping a combo meal a month for this convenience and added security.

SR_Penny says:

Here in Finland I get unlimited 4G data (including tethering - my iPhone now runs my MBA) for about €30 a month. I would happily pay twice as much to have my MBA included in that, and would pay the premium price to Apple for the ability, too.

philips9179 says:

Ive always thought that jobs always had some kind of a roadmap for the products that he wanted to launch and the roles they filled. so if we haven't seen a macbook with a a 3g, 4g etc feature, i don't think we ever will.

talldreams says:

Right now, offering 4G connectivity would be too much of a hassle. Look at the pages for MacBook airs and pros. Lots of different options based on screen size, storage, and speed. Now, split all those options three more times for the major cell carriers. It would make ordering MacBooks a convoluted mess.
If apple offered their own connectivity somehow, that would be different. I think apple assumes we are all going to be at home cranking out that next big project.

Sent from the iMore App

talldreams says:

Also, 4G connectivity would make the cell carriers want to sell MacBook airs&pros in their stores.... A deal apple would be reluctant to ink because they'd want a piece of that MacBook pie.

Sent from the iMore App

northstahr says:

Absolutely excellent idea. I'm not fond of carrying around a bunch of devices in order to obtain a data connection. Come on Apple! Let's get this done!

Joshua Massre says:

I remember seeing that prototype of a Macbook with a cellular antenna a few years ago. They probably decided it wasn't worth the time to release it.

One of the biggest problems with a portable Mac with cellular data is that OS X isn't designed to distinguish between cellular and wifi data like iOS is. I could see someone blowing through their entire data plan in 20 minutes because Dropbox wanted to sync a video file or something.

Apps would have to be rewritten to deal with any new APIs for cellular data restrictions. It's possible but there are plenty of apps that wouldn't get updated.

SockRolid says:

I can understand why Apple hasn't done built-in LTE yet. First, there is an actual technical issue. I believe it is still necessary to have different electronics for GSM and CDMA networks, so if the original purchaser buys an AT&T-compatible MacBook Pro, only AT&T customers will be able to use its LTE feature when it is re-sold. Not a major issue for Apple, but it might be a concern for people who plan to buy new hardware and sell their old hardware after just a year or two.

Also, as Joshua M. says above, OS X doesn't yet have the data constraints that iOS has. Many users have capped data plans, and OS X could easily blow past the (ridiculously small and expensive) limit. Of course, I'm sure Apple could add a Cellular pane to System Preferences with on/off switch for cellular data use, plus switches for individual apps.

But I suspect the real reason is that iOS devices provide vastly more revenue than OS X devices. And the appeal of iOS devices is their mobile use, which is enabled by LTE data connectivity. No need to cannibalize that revenue stream with legacy OS X devices (as small as that cannibalization might be.)

Eric Reese says:

If there was an option as you described, I would stand in line for 24hrs just to buy it (and I am missing a foot). I have been waiting for Apple to come out with such a MacBook because it makes so much sense to do. I am an Executive Marketeer and I can see several revenue streams for Apple on this product. Therefore, I am scratching my head as to why I do not have one already.

Great post and thank you for bringing up this topic.

Francois Marais says:

Wish my MB Air had a 4G even a 3G connection. I have to rely on WiFi at work and at home to stay connected, but some of the sites I support does not have WiFi coverage.

But then again it gives me time to catch up onthe books I am reading on iBooks...

lkrupp says:

Only if the 4G LTE radio is truly universal. I don’t want to be tied to a particular carrier. Let me choose who I get my data plan from and a MacBook Air with 4G would be in the cards for me.

apple lover 84 says:

i have been saying this for years and begging for the option since the first macbook that i owned. why is this not a feature that we at least have the option for even if it was a couple of hundred dollars more, at least when i am out on the road i could open the lid of my macbook air and just use the internet like i do with my iPad. and on that note i find that the only reason that i even own an iPad anymore is because i use it as a mi fi tethering device. i would use my iPhone but it drains the battery too much and besides that it is so annoying that every time i close the lid of my macbook and open it again i have to reset-up the tether. just give me the option to pay extra to have it built in

ndogdrumz says:

I've been wondering this for awhile. I thought the MacBook Airs would have 4G by now.