The iPhone 4S is the best iPhone money can buy, but it can’t keep up with the latest Android phones that run on speedy 4G networks. You may want to look beyond the iPhone 4S if uploading, downloading and streaming content as quickly as possible is your top priority.
Apple’s iPhone 4S runs on AT&T’s, Sprint’s and Verizon’s 3G networks, which have wide coverage areas, but run at a fraction of the speed of faster networks, such as Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
We’re in the process of comparing the iPhone 4S across carriers in the San Francisco Bay Area. So far, AT&T has the speediest download and upload speeds of the three iPhone 4S carriers in several locations. While the AT&T iPhone 4S is several times faster the Verizon and Sprint iPhones in many locations, it doesn’t come close to 4G LTE.
After running a comparison on video of each of the iPhone 4S models, I ran the same Speedtest.net test on the Droid Bionic and compared it to AT&T’s 3G speeds. It’s really no contest, with the Droid Bionic downloading content more than three times faster than the fastest iPhone 4S. I ran this test at the same Starbucks in San Francisco as when I compared the three iPhone 4S models to each other.
Here are the results of the two Speedtest.net runs on each phone:
- iPhone 4S, AT&T 3G: 3.15 Mbps download, 1.14 Mbps upload
- Droid Bionic, Verizon 4G LTE – 11.56 Mbps download, 5.56 Mbps upload
- iPhone 4S, AT&T 3G: 3.50 Mbps down, 1.12 Mbps upload
- Droid Bionic, Verizon 4G LTE: 12.30 Mbps download 5.54 Mbps upload
So why doesn’t the iPhone 4S have 4G built in? There are likely a number of reasons, but the one that’s likely at top of Apple’s list is that it takes a lot of juice to run on 4G. One problem we continue to see from Verizon’s 4G LTE phones is that their batteries drain too quickly. Another major issue is that 4G doesn’t reach a lot of consumers in the U.S., which means users wouldn’t be able to realize an iPhone 4G’s full potential if they lived in the wrong zip code.
Depending on where you live, at least one of the three iPhone 4S carriers should be able to provide enough 3G speed to accomplish what most people need to get down via a mobile Internet connection. But for some users, 4G should be a top priority. Those who often need to upload large files on the go or who plan on using their smartphones as a mobile hotspots should take a close look at the latest 4G phones, such as the Droid Bionic, Galaxy SII, Galaxy Nexus and Droid RAZR.
If you’re hoping to use your phone’s mobile hotspot feature, you may be disappointed with 3G speeds. A solid 4G LTE signal can provide speeds that exceed those of many wired home Internet connections.
If you love the iPhone and iOS 5 you’ll have to put up with 3G speeds for now. Buying a new smartphone is an incredibly personal decision and you’ll have to compromise to some degree. Unfortunately, one of the compromises iPhone 4S customers will have to put up with is relatively slow mobile Internet speeds.
You can read our full iPhone 4S review here.