The new iPhone 4S was released and of course millions flocked to the Apple web site and stores to pick on up even though they wish they had the iPhone 5 instead. The iPhone 4S just received an iOS 5.1 update and now users are starting to see a “4G” icon on the top of the screen they didn’t notice before. Did the update turn a 3G device into a 4G device? According to blogs and news stories on the Web, yes it did. Even the release notes for the update didn’t really say specifically anything about 4G, but they did say, “Updated AT&T network indicator”.
The truth behind the update and the 4G indicator goes a little something like this. Users that are connected to AT&T’s HSPA+ network, which is not really 4G, will see a 4G indicator icon. The connect does provide a 14.4Mbps data connection, Apple calls it 4G, even though it is not the same as 4G on the Verizon Wireless network. 4G is not really a technical term, but really has been used as more of a marketing term for newer mobile devices and mobile data networks.
A rumor that hit the Web back in October leaked an AT&T memo that showed the company will be working closely with Apple in order to bring 4G speeds to the iPhone users on the network. The rumor was later confirmed as true. Apple held an event last week in order to show off the new iPad and there the senior VP of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, said the iPhone’s dual antenna system would allow for better call quality and faster speeds, “up to 14.4Mbps down”. Schiller went on to say that, “if you follow the phone industry, these numbers might sound familiar. 5.8 up, 14.4 down. This [speed] is what the majority of our competitors claim when they talk about 4G performance.”
When asked about 4G LTE or HSPA+ networks, Schiller said, “We’re not going to get into a debate in the industry what’s 4G and what isn’t; we leave that for others to talk about”. Apple then released figures that show the iPhone 4S had two times the download speed of the iPhone 4 and comparable speeds to the HTC Inspire and Motorola Atrix 4G. All in all, it appears that HSPA+ networks stack up pretty well against genuine 4G LTE networks.
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