AT&T On The iPad 3G Video Restrictions: "That's something you need to ask Apple"

Today in the U.S. people are getting their hands on the 3G version of the iPad for the first time. The hardware is supposed to be exactly the same as the WiFi-only version except, of course, it has a cell chip in it to receive data over AT&T’s 3G network when you’re not connected to WiFi. Since the hardware is basically the same, all the apps should function the same, right? Wrong.

Reports are already coming in that some of the most popular iPad apps — the ones that stream video — are being restricted on the new iPad 3G. Specifically, the YouTube app scales videos down to a “dramatically lower resolution over the cellular data connection,” according to iLounge. Worse, the ABC Player apparently won’t work at all unless you connect to a WiFi network, as a pop-up message informs the user. But apparently iTunes Store streaming video previews are working just fine in full resolution. No word on the Netflix app just yet.

I reached out to AT&T for comment on what’s going on. Are we going to see AT&T restricting services again (remember, in the U.S. we still have no tethering option) so their network isn’t flooded? The only response I got was, “That’s something you need to ask Apple.

I asked for clarification on that — does that mean that Apple is the one restricting the app/data, or that they’re the only ones who can comment on the matter? I have yet to hear back. I’ll update when I do. I’ve also reached out to Apple on the matter, but I doubt I’ll hear back from them.

Update: An AT&T spokesperson has responded with the following, “It’s just a question for Apple.” That’s almost an Apple-like response.

Update 2: A commenter on the iLounge post notes:

Seems some people (from what I have been told) are finding out its not AT&T that is blocking the video for the sakes of blocking video over 3G… Seems that ABC is streaming to large of a video file (or something along these lines). So ABC needs to fix there app, NETFLIX is working fine over 3G.

That could make sense as it relates to the size of the file actually being streamed as well (though overall size shouldn’t matter). On the iPhone, video is often scaled-down when network signal weakens to give optimal performance. Since even the fastest AT&T 3G connection is slower than WiFi, perhaps ABC’s quality exceeds some limit and is unable to scale down. But it’s hard to know anything for sure without either company commenting beyond “talk to them.”

Update 3: Business Insider’s Dan Frommer writes the following on Twitter:

ABC is wifi only on purpose. I believe rights play a role. (they’re different on wifi vs 3G) sounds dumb but true.

abc told me “the decision was based on a variety of business and technical considerations.” but no details