Brighthand Bytes

Feb 9 2012   12:49PM GMT

Is the iPhone 4S a 4G Device? Depends on Who You Ask

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

It’s a seemingly simple question: Is the newest iPhone a 4G smartphone? Nevertheless, it has a somewhat complex answer.

If you’re a Verizon or Sprint subscriber, the answer is easy: this device does not support either of these carriers’ 4G standards, LTE or WiMAX. The situation for AT&T’s version isn’t so cut-and-dried, however. 

Apple iPhone 4SApple itself does not say that the iPhone 4S is 4G, or that it supports AT&T’s HSPA+ service. If you look at Apple’s specs page for the iPhone 4S, the 3G standards HSDPA and HSUPA are clearly listed, but there’s no mention of 4G HSPA+.

AT&T’s website, on the other hand, does claim that this smartphone supports HSPA+, and reportedly is trying to get Apple to add a 4G icon to the status bar in the next iOS update, which will be displayed at the top of the screen when the phone has an HSPA+ connection.

My guess is the difference in opinion comes down to Apple wanting to save the term “4G” for its next model, which is widely expected to offer LTE — a wireless data standard that is much faster than HSPA+. AT&T does consider HSPA+ to be 4G, and would be thrilled to be able to claim to have the only 4G-enabled iPhone.

Phil Schiller, head of marketing for Apple, summed up his company’s thoughts on this issue best: “We’re not going to get into the debate about what’s 4G and what isn’t. We’ll leave that for others to talk about.”

Taking Extreme Speed to New LimitsIn AT&T’s defense, studies have generally shown that AT&T’s iPhone 4S has better download performance than either Verizon’s or Sprint’s versions, which use 3G EV-DO Rev. A.

If you want to put things in perspective, real-world figures for the HSPA+ service on the latest iPhone put it in the 2-3 Mbps range. Still, that’s faster than the older iPhone 4.

Because there’s no LTE-enabled iPhone yet there’s no way to definitively say how fast this device will be, but other LTE-enabled smartphones are getting 5-12 Mbps. Much faster, anyway you slice it.

Related Articles on Brighthand


 Comment on this Post

There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Share this item with your network: