Between the avalanche of smartphones on the market & Apple’s recent release of the 4G capable ipad 3 people are more confused than ever about what real 4G LTE is. Many of you have asked me for help in choosing devices & I want to be sure you have all the non-biased info you need to understand 4G LTE before you buy. Fortunately, Walt Mossberg has come to the rescue with his guide that explains 4G technology in simple language
What is 4G?
It’s the fourth and latest generation technology for data access over cellular networks. It’s faster and can give networks more capacity than the 3G networks still on most phones. There’s a technical definition, set by a United Nations agency in Europe, and a marketing definition, which is looser, but more relevant to most consumers.”
How does 4G differ from another term being advertised, ‘LTE’?
LTE, which stands for “Long Term Evolution,” is the fastest, most consistent variety of 4G, and the one most technical experts feel hews most closely to the technical standard set by the U.N. In the U.S., it has primarily been deployed by Verizon, which offers it in over 200 markets. AT&T has begun deploying it, offering LTE in 28 markets so far. Sprint and T-Mobile are pivoting to LTE, though they have no cities covered by it yet.”
How fast is 4G?
Claims vary and performance depends upon the type of device, location, and time. In my tests, 4G phones, tablets and data modems for laptops typically deliver from three to 20 times the download speeds of 3G devices. The speed king is LTE. ”
So What Should I buy?
Before committing to a smartphone contract do your homework, consider not just your home where you’ll most likely be using your WiFi connection but also places you travel regularly to. Check each carrier’s coverage maps & ask family/friends to share their experiences. When selecting a data plan, factor in how much free WiFi coverage you have available. If you frequently travel to places with non-existent or really shoddy WiFi or you must always be connected for work, a more generous plan makes sense.
Considering a tablet? You might be a person who has free WiFi available to you at many locations & only need to use 4G occasionally. In this situation, using a separate device or using your smartphone as a mobile hotspot to tether a tablet works but you’ll need to carry 2 devices around & if you’re using your phone this burns battery quickly so you’ll need to have access to an electrical outlet. Also, factor in that you’ll be using your smart phone data allowance & that you’ll need to pay for mobile hot spot.
What About the ipad 3?
Both AT&T and Verizon are offering the ipad 3 but in addition to the 4G differences noted above only Verizon is including free mobile hotspot (this applies to all 4G LTE Tablet data plans) & this will let you connect up to 5 devices via your ipad. For the budget conscious light data user AT&T has a 250MB plan for $14.99 but IMHO that’s cutting things really close, Verizon offers a a more generous 1GB plan for just $20 & this also includes free mobile hot spot. The only plan price point where AT&T beats Verizon is the 3GB for $30 For high data users Verizon wins with a 10GB offering for $80. Both carriers tablet data plans are contract free, no long term commitment.
For light & heavy data users Verizon clearly offers the greatest value here, when you add in the value of mobile hot spot as well as the robust reliability of the 4G LTE network Verizon is the best choice if they offer coverage in your area.
Disclaimers & All that Jazz
As part of my compensated work for the OnlineMom team, I frequently post & tweet about Verizon Wireless devices & services. However, I am also a bill paying Verizon customer, I’ve used my 4G LTE devices all over the country & have been nothing but impressed with how robust & reliable the coverage is. My devices are ready to work whenever & wherever I might be.