Do We Really Need LTE Right Now? Aren’t 3G Speeds Enough?

Are consumers rushing out to get LTE phones for the same reason they run out to get the next camera with more megapixels when the sensor isn’t any better? Are they running out to get a LTE capable phone for the same reason they upgraded the CPU in their desktop from a 1.33 GHz to a 2.66 GHz processor within a years time? Are they grabbing LTE phones like for the same reason their grabbing a tablet with a front facing camera that they will never use? Are we buying into LTE just because we won’t the latest, greatest innovation inside our gadgets? I think so!

I am a consumer and I am impressed by more megapixels. I was wowed by HTC offering the 1st 16 megapixel camera when an 8 megapixel camera with better optics provides a better photography experience. I was that guy that bought a new PC every year to have the biggest and baddest processor for many years. I am also impressed when I can run a speed test on my phone and see insane numbers pop up but do I need it? I don’t think so.

The fact that 50% of the 7.7 million smartphones that Verizon sold in the 4th quarter of 2011 were 3G iPhones should indicate that consumers are willing to accept 3G for a couple of years instead of waiting for LTE speeds. Of course, the majority of those 7.7 million users were probably not in an LTE market at this time. Even if they were, do they need LTE?

Who needs more Gs?

Consumers that consume lots of video content. Yes, they can definitely benefit from going from 3Mbps to 12Mbps. But if they aren’t on a grandfathered unlimited data plan on one of the major carriers, they are paying dearly for this video consumption. 4G  =5Gb data allotment reached faster right?

Those using their phone as a WiFi hotspot in a home where they are browsing what Apple calls “the Real Internet” on their desktops or laptops. Those sharing that WiFi with others can benefit as well.

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The plain and simple truth is that most of the apps that most consumers use on their phones have little added benefit from faster mobile broadband. Checking email, Facebook, and Twitter might seem quicker with LTE, but 3G is plenty fast to accomplish those tasks without feeling like you are waiting.

Data is expensive!

If you are one of those that need more Gs, what type of data plan do you have? I wonder what percentage of US smartphone users are still locked into some sort of unlimited data plan. If you aren’t on an unlimited plan, how fast are you burning through 2-5GB of data? When I was a heavy Pandora user, I was hitting 4-5GB of data per month on an unlimited plan. I can only imagine what people streaming Netflix and YouTube are doing each month. No wonder most of the US Carriers have done away with true unlimited plans.

LTE will allow users to burn through their data allotments 3-4x faster. I am sure the carriers will love that, but I know my wallet doesn’t.

LTE switched off on my Galaxy Nexus.

Battery Drain?

Is getting your Twitter or Facebook fix a tad bit faster worth the battery drain LTE seems to be causing? Lucky for me, I am not in an LTE area, but if I was I would still switch LTE off unless I thought I needed it for a period of time. You might not believe that, but it’s true. There is very little use for LTE in my day-to-day smartphone use.

When we went from EDGE phones to 3G phones several years ago, the same problem existed. People were turning off 3G to save battery. Same problem, different day. Companies like Samsung are working to find a way to get a complete day in on one battery charge when a few years ago, we were getting 2-3 days easily. You’ve got Motorola cramming a huge battery into the Droid RAZR MAXX that is almost 2x bigger than the it’s predecessor. More technology equals more battery drain. We have to sacrifice somewhere and there’s no better place in my opinion than using 3G over LTE.

What we really need!

In my opinion, what we really need is better reach and more capacity. Along with the LTE roll outs, I know that the major carriers in the US are also working on capacity. There are also plenty of rural areas that still in need 3G love. I understand that carriers need to cater to the larger markets, but small town geeks need 3G too. What about capacity? I’ve seen an increase in variable rate circuits fed by fiber rolling out to cell towers over the last year which tells me that the carriers get it. They can increase capacity by simply re-provisioning a circuit. This is a good things. I’d like to have seen widespread roll outs of enhancements like this than LTE rollouts personally. Maybe because I am one of those small town geeks, but still.

So, do you need LTE or do you just want LTE?

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Sure, I can whip it out, bring up a speed test app and show 14-16Mbps speeds to a friend and tell him mine’s faster than yours, but at the end of the day… do I need that speed? Not really, it’s a great party trick, but I’m not using apps and services that require that much bandwidth. Are you? Heck, LTE is faster than my home service and I am doing fine.

Comments

      • Anonymous says

        It all depends if I’m in my shop and streaming music, I’ll use 3g. If I’m out on the road and know that there is 4g, I’ll use it. But I usually toggle it depending on what I want to do. I’m running a rooted bionic with an extended battery.

    • Chris Leckness says

      I was waiting for this comment. I have in fact used 4G. I’ve used AT&T and Verizon LTE for a week. It’s nice, but it’s not worth the battery life I suffered as a result of using it. That’s the reason I installed an LTE toggle for the Galaxy Nexus. AT&T has LTE 30 minutes away where my parents live too. I was shocked that Birmingham Alabama got LTE to be honest.

  1. doogald says

    I have used LTE, but switched back to a 3G phone. 
    LTE is too unreliable for my taste. The network has had multiple nationwide outages that lasted for hours in the last few months (though none in the last month, so that’s better), but they also affected almost every LTE phone’s ability to get 3G as well. When I need data, I want it to be there – 3G bandwidth always is better than 0 GB LTE when it is down – so I decided to go for the next year and a half with 3G that I can count on to be there rather than LTE, which seems to have a lot of growing pains at the moment.I use WiFi most of the time, anyway, so even with my grandfathered unlimited data plan I’m only using about 300-500 MB/month. Are there times when I wish mobile data was faster? Sometimes, yes, but 3G is more than good enough for the next year or so.

  2. Qnix says

    Faster also means can release the resources to other user at a quicker time and hence increase capacity.

  3. Adam Truelove says

    This is the most ridiculous article ever.  LTE is night and day for me.  My 3G speed where I live is around 700Kbps.  LTE is 8000 Kbps, and that’s even slow for LTE .  Watching a youtube movie or streaming music and even surfing the web was a HUGE pain on 3G.  On LTE, those activities are nearly instant and a pleasure.  Some activities were just plain impossible on 3G.  Sure, no one needs more speed, but if you value your time, it’s sure nice to have.

  4. Anonymous says

    I think it depends upon the carrier. 3G on AT&T and TMobile is plenty fast for my mobile needs, so an upgrade to LTE is for ego purposes only. However the 3G offerings from Verizon and Sprint are pretty limited, so if on Verizon or Sprint I prefer LTE or WiMax if available. I have a second battery for any phone I own and make it a habit to carry with me. Swapping batteries is an easy, efficient way to deal with the extra battery drain.

  5. Marty says

    I agree that LTE is vastly superior to 3G.  It’s not all about bandwidth, latency is much better too.

  6. Speed Reality says

    Wow, someone asking if we need faster networks.  I actually got frustrated enough to write an app (its free and ad-free) to monitor speed over time and location, compare to others, compare carriers, etc.  See Speed Reality Beta on the android market…. 

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