With the introduction of The New iPad™, Apple also released a software update to iOS, bringing it up to iteration 5.1. There were a few new features, minor tweaks, and the usual bug fixes. However, there was a change snuck in that makes me roll my eyes so hard I crap my pants. If you have an AT&T contract, you will see a 4G icon. OMG BECKY, 4G? THAT’S A WHOLE G BETTER THAN 3G! IT IS SO MUCH FASTER NOW. There were all kinds of tweets and Facebook posts EXACTLY like that during the following days as uninformed consumers updated their iPhones and noticed that little diddy up top.
I don’t blame them. Tech companies have inundated them with abstract acronyms like 3 and 4G, LTE, EVDO, CDMA, HSDPA, HSDPA+, HDMI, USB, SD, etc. They are abbreviated so they must be important. The average consumer is a sucker for this, and companies know this. It didn’t help when Apple called one iPhone the iPhone 3G, then the next, iPhone 4, which of course made everyone call it the iPhone 4G.
The basics are these: There are generations of technologies just like there are people. Each generation is generally faster and better. 3G simply stands for third generation. Within that generation of cellular technology, there were different ways of essentially doing the same thing. Verizon and Sprint used CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile used the more global-friendly GSM. When the standards of the 4th generation, LTE, were introduced, companies wanted a stop gap for when they were building out their LTE networks. That’s when HSDPA+ was introduced. It was essentially a faster, more efficient 3G technology. It’s nowhere near the data speed of an actual LTE device, but it is faster, theoretically, than the stuff before it.
Now, since corporations are people, they were allowed to lobby that the lowest speed requirement defined as 4G should be lowered. And it was. Sprint and T-Mobile and AT&T started marketing all of their new phones as 4G, even though LTE speeds blow those phones’ download and upload speeds out of the water.
Hooray for democracy!
When Apple introduced the iPhone 4S, they specifically mentioned that though the phone was HSDPA+, and thus defined by the phone companies as 4G, it wasn’t, and they weren’t going to market it as such. And I did this. Now, I am sad they caved to AT&T’s pressure, and now I’m all like this. At least, with The New iPad™, they’re putting LTE up in the corner rather than 4G.
It was a little victory that felt good because we all know telecom companies are pretty much the worst thing ever. Now it’s gone. Luckily, we’re almost at the end of these shenanigans (for now), as most new phones are going to start adopting actual 4G technology as it matures and becomes more battery-friendly.
So no, your iPhone is not a 4G device.
And #$@* you, AT&T.