iPhone 4S: Verizon vs AT&T Speed Test

The iPhone 4S lives in a world of compromise, with Apple customers being forced to choose between clear calls and fast wireless Internet speeds. While competitors run on the latest 4G networks, the iPhone 4S is relegated to aging 3G networks that run at a fraction of the speed.

AT&T claims to have the fastest experience and is trying to work with Apple to gain a 4G designation on the latest iPhone’s home screen. AT&T is the only network that allows users to simultaneously place calls and connect to the Internet at the same time via 3G. Unfortunately, AT&T’s been unable to shake its reputation for poor call reliability in some cities, including the San Francisco Bay Area, the iPhone’s birthplace.

Verizon is known for rock-solid voice quality and having a super fast 4G LTE network. The only problem is that the iPhone 4S doesn’t run on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, but on its aging 3G network. Verizon’s 3G network is fantastic for voice and low-bandwidth tasks, but it runs at a fraction of the speed. The other downside with Verizon’s service is that iPhone 4S users can’t simultaneously make calls and get online at the same time.

We immediately saw the difference first hand yesterday between the AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4S units. While the AT&T iPhone 4S units could stream video with the Slingbox Player app, the Verizon iPhone 4S stuttered repeatedly, making it impossible to watch live television with it. Downloading apps took significantly longer on the Verizon iPhone 4S when on 3G.

We ran the Speedtest.net benchmark on both the AT&T and Verizon versions of the iPhone 4S. Above is the best results we could muster with the AT&T iPhone 4S.  The AT&T iPhone 4S  scored a 5.17 Mbps download speed and a 1.11 Mbps upload speed. That isn’t anywhere close to what we see with Verizon’s 4G LTE network, but it’s respectable. Those numbers are what a lot of people experience from  their home DSL connections and even faster in some cases.

The above score is faster than what we saw on the iPhone 4, even when directly beneath an AT&T cell site. Keep in mind that your mileage will vary.

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Above is the best score on the Verizon iPhone 4GS . That’s right, just .74 Mbps on the download side and .58 Mbps for the upload score. Te AT&T iPhone 4S is nearly seven times faster than the Verizon version, at least in my home in San Francisco.

It’s important to note that we are well-covered by both Verizon and AT&T, hence the five signal bars in the top-left of each test result. I’d hate to see what Verizon’s 3G speeds are like when we’re further away from a cell site.

This test is not scientific in any way, but it is an illustration of just how different the iPhone 4S can be, depending on which network you choose. Choosing a wireless carrier can have a serious impact on your iPhone 4S experience. AT&T is the way to go if you plan on streaming a lot of content or transferring a lot of data when out of reach of a WiFi network. Verizon’s network is the way to go if you talk more than you browse the Internet.

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You can read our full iPhone 4S review here. 

Comments

  1. funnyandspicy says

    Each time a new iPhone comes out, it’s a slight improvement over the last.Let’s go down the memory lane and figure out the people and technology.
     http://goo.gl/L89ss

      • IPhone4Sucks says

        If I was jealous of that same old tired excuse of a phone, it would be in my hand right now.. Thanks for your input though. Its more like your jealous, or just defending your same old apple phone because your a loyal fanboy. When you know its just the same old phone, with a girl that will actually talk to you!

  2. nikwashere says

    while the service bars are high on both models, the battery is nearly empty on the verizon. I’ll bet that the phone throttles back when it’s nearly empty. Re-do the test to remove variables. 

    • Xavier Lanier says

      Nope, not the problem at all. Had even slower results earlier when the battery was fully charged. If you want fast mobile Internet from Verizon you’ll need to get a 4G phone. 

      • Scotty Braun says

        I have a Verizon 4G lte phone.. But even my 3G speeds I average 1.5 to 2mbps down, and sometimes I get 3+mbps.. Which is still good for me.. Now the LTE, thats a whole other ball game… thats just insane

  3. Civicexsuper says

    Why are the times of the test different ? Why is the battery level low on the Verizon phone ?

    • Xavier Lanier says

      Because I tested it periodically all night long and picked the best score of each phone. There’s no conspiracy going on here…trust me. Your experience may vary depending on your locale, but this is pretty representative of what I’ve seen in San Francisco with the iPhone 4S so far. 

  4. Paul says

    I live far from a large city and just fired AT&T because not only did their 3G service suck, it constantly dropped to E (on a 3GS). I am now on Verizon where I no longer need a 3G Microcell in my house. I turned off WiFi to run the same test as the OP and I am getting 1.7Mb down and .2Mb up.

    AT&T may be faster (peak), but if it never works then how does that matter?

    • BobS says

      So true.  ATT has the fastest 3G but thats if you can go to the very few places it actually works well.  I’m in the Phoenix area, i think ranked 14th largest metro area and the ATT 3g sucks, it never works well in most places I go.
      I love iPhones and have the 4 currently but i might check out the new Samsung Prime when it comes out for Verizon. 

      • Mesa tempe says

        You must be in one of the spots in Phoenix that there is not ATT reception. In the south and eastern, part of the valley, I get good reception. Oddly in traveling to Yuma, there are some areas of the desert that I get 3g and 4 bars, but this is spotty. My 3g has been fine for me and it is able to use such apps as imap my walk very precisely using gps features of the iPhone. I have no problems with dropped calls and can switch easily between listening to a internet radio station, to taking a call or getting emails. 3g works fine for me for the apps that I use. My 3g iPad has not had any problems any place. Are you in the west phoenix area? I have not been there much.

  5. Daler918 says

    To be fair to both carriers, the number of bars is an indication of signal strength at a given location but is not necessarily an indicator of network access or bandwidth at that same location. Additionally, RF interference in a given location can impact available bandwidth and network access.

  6. Anonymous says

    While this is suggestive, and I certainly can’t complain about someone giving away free research, it would have to be a lot more thorough to be meaningful. For example, the testing was performed in one location, at one time, so it could be that one carrier’s network is congested in that one location, which doesn’t mean that their entire network slower. So they should test from many locations, and at different times of day. Also, it would have been interesting to see some Sprint testing, since that’s the network that is new to the party, and to compare the iPhone 4 to the 4S on the same network, to see if there’s a difference between models.

    Of course, this would be a lot of work. For comparison, PC Magazine did an interesting analysis at http://www.pcworld.com/article/189592/atandt_roars_back_in_pcworlds_second_3g_wireless_performance_test.html.

  7. meleah says

    Didn’t anyone notice the time they did the test for AT&T vs Verizon lol?  They did the AT&T test during lunch time, and the Verizon test in the middle of the night when few are on line.  lol…Verizon plays dirty. I just switched to Verizon with my iPhone and can’t talk while surfing the web. No one told me that when I bought the phone. Not happy. Trying to get out of my contract now and go back to AT&T.

    • Craig Sween says

      Not to be a smart a$$, but did you watch any commercials or do a lick of research before your purchase? For the last year and half, that info has been everywhere. AT&T’s ads focus on that almost solely.  http://youtu.be/8M5u6ES7BBo

    • Node5 says

      Yes those dirty Verizon people. Don’t they know that throttling your bandwidth half way through your allowance like AT&T is what saticfies customers???

  8. Tpain682 says

    Seriously? The Verizons version has a nearly dead battery, as opposed to a nearly full battery with the competition. This will significantly effect the results and this test is unfair

    • Xavier Lanier says

      Not at all. The results from the location don’t vary depending on battery. Simple fact is that at this location AT&T is the hands-down champ in terms of 3G speed. As I mentioned above, 3G speeds will vary depending on location and a number of other factors. We’ll post some more tests shortly,including comparisons to the Sprint iPhone 4S. 

    • D Sienberg says

      Just bought the Verizon 4S in Marin County (near SF) today after swearing at ATT for years and having 3 calls disconnected today alone! That disconnect rate is common in the SF Bay area.

      Verizon  Speedtests  at 10 pm: 68-76 PNG, 2.3-2.31 Mbps download, .84-.85 MBPS upload.

  9. Dropped_call says

    What good is a fast down or upload speed if you can’t maintain a connection with AT&T? A slower download is better than No Download!

    • Nafhda says

      Theoretical speeds meaning nothing. The AT&T backbone just stinks. Sick of the constant dropped calls and the switched to edge. Paradoxically web pages load way faster on Verizon. No dropped calls either.

  10. Jeff Kibuule says

    Let’s put this conspiracy to bed. Sprint and Verizon’s 3G EV-DO Rev. A network will never be faster than its theoretical 3.1 Mbps down, which means AT&T wins by default. why do you think they were in such a mad rush to create 4G networks when the rest of the world was improving their 3G speeds?

  11. Bwoff says

    This test is very Intersting and a good article to read. I was actually wondering which network the iPhone 4s would use; 3G or 4G. I was blown away that it was different on the different carriers. And I definitely agree that AT&T has faster 3G service. Movies on Netflix or Hulu plus stream better to my AT&T ipad1 3g than to my Verizion iPhone 4.
    ****But I do get much better verizion speeds than what this test has shown. I used the same speednet app and my best number was 2.1MB with the average about 1.6. My cousin was in town with his new tmobile phone and so we ran a bunch of tests to compare. Ha ha. I love the reliability of a verizion phone. I just had a regular phone when I bought my iPad and to be honest i would give up my smart phone before I would my cellular tablet.

  12. jaya gupta says

    I have had the worst experience with ATT. Out of the last 6 months, I have had NO service for the last 2 (no bars, no 3G, nothing.) I finally left them last month, paid all balances, and closed my account and they are still harassing me now saying that they want $379 of cancelation fees!!!!!! And I was not even in contract! I’ve tried to solve this by calling them 3x now. I’ve spent over 10 hours on the phone with these guys – they either say that they are fixing it and it should be done (which is doesn’t cause I get harassed again) or they say that I need to go go to the apple store and deal with them, or another excuse. This company is shady and keeps finding a way to harass or falsely charge customers.

  13. Anonymous says

    This is not a comment. It’s a question:
    I am on the AT&T plan. Up until 3 weeks ago, my 3GS iPhone was downloading YouTube videos just fine. Then it slowed down and they told me to upgrade to a 4S iPhone.
    With the exception of YouTube videos, everything else is miraculously fast and positively amazing.
    But the YouTube videos still are not downloading fast and often, it still stops playing and buffers. I’ve been given answers ranging from “not being near enough to a receiver” to “Verizon Wireless being better than AT&T at receiving signals.
    PLEASE; any suggestions???

  14. Not a fair test says

    The dying Verizon battery may also have an effect on how quickly it can operate

  15. Devyn says

    The reason that Verizon’s iphone has slower data speeds is because the iphone on At&t’s network has a different advantage. We will start with the iphone’s antenna. The antenna it’s compatible with at&t’s HSPA+ network. HSPA+ is at&t’s basic 4g network. So you will get 4g speeds only on at&t’s network.

    And to speak truthfully as an employee for one of the nation’s largest cellular retailers, no employee that works for the same company I do uses an iphone. They are so far behind the curve. I’m a converted iphone user. I will never go back. I use apple products at home, but as far as my phone goes. I find that my Android does Alot more than an iphone ever can. You can’t even get a great internet browsing experience with an iphone because it isn’t compatible with java or flash.

    I sell phones and there are better phones on the market at a more affordable price than the iphone that can do far more. Iphone isn’t even in the top 10 list of smart phones anymore. Sorry iphone users, but it’s the simple truth. You arte using an outdated and overrated phone.

  16. K_Me says

    To be fair, Verizon’s all over the place. For having five bars where you live, that’s excruciatingly low bandwidth. Maybe it’s just that I live in a less-tech-centric area where the bandwidth is less saturated, but my speeds are about three times faster. My upload isn’t much better and my latency is unnoticeably slower. Am I okay with this? Sure. Was I stupid for giving up my grandfathered unlimited AT&T data plan on my 3GS for a 2GB plan on Verizon? Hell yes. I’d kill for FauxG speeds on my 4S.

  17. Cal Damage says

    Would love those AT&T speeds, if it wasn’t for the fact that every iPhone owner who comes over has to ask for the guest password to my wifi. I live in the hinterlands of Venice beach CA, south of Santa Monica, north of Marina Del Rey. As with most of the carriers around here, the infrastructure is over subscribed to the point that I got Verizon when my 2 yr contract w/ Sprint couldn’t actually make a call from anywhere in my home. Best friend jumped from Verizon to AT&T for the first iPhone, and that’s why he has Skype: so he can make calls from my house and his. He lives a block away, but he’s drunk the Apple-ade.

  18. Cal Damage says

    PS: there was a FiOS ad on this page when I hit ‘Submit.’ Another technology NOT coming to my neighborhood. Too far from either switch Verizon has, one north of here, coverage stops three blocks away, one south, not enough density in Marina Del Rey to pull it through there. So much for competition: my only viable choice for cell phone is Verizon, and my only choice for inet over 1.5m is Time-Warner cable.

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