Mar 14, 2012

How did my iPhone suddenly become 4G?

After the last OS update, my iPhone 4S has started displaying a 4G indicator. I didn't benchmark my 4S before the update, but my "seat of the pants" benchmarking doesn't notice any increase in the speed of my internet access. It was my understand that NO iPhone supported 4G capability. So what's the deal here?


The answer is that your iPhone carrier must be AT&T, and AT&T is stretching the truth.  Basically, AT&T is saying that because THEORETICALLY its 3G HSPA+ wireless network (which is what the iPhone 4S uses to connect to the internet) could someday be faster than a 4G LTE wireless networks, let's call AT&T's network 4G.  Even though it is not.  It is really just a fast 3G network, but 3G+ doesn't quite have the same marketing ring as 4G, so abracadabra, your iPhone suddenly says 4G. 

Apple added the 4G indicator in the iOS 5.1 update. Apparently it was done for AT&T's benefit and is no doubt confusing many users.

Here's an article with background:

Faux G: New "4G" indicator on iPhone 4S is the tip of a standards iceberg

"In a rare move of capitulation to a carrier, Apple caved to pressure from AT&T and made a controversial change in iOS 5.1 last week: an iPhone 4S on AT&T now reports a "4G" network rather than the old 3G signal. This change has been expected since October of 2011, but that doesn't mean it was uncontroversial.

Reactions to the switch were mixed. Some people suggest that the terminology is largely meaningless anyway, so the relabeling doesn't matter; a wireless standard by any other name will still download as sweetly. Others were affronted by Apple failing to stand firm and stop iOS being infected by AT&T's marketing pixie dust."
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