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2 Reasons Why Apple Isn’t Calling the iPhone 4S a 4G Phone Despite HSPA+ Support



Following today’s announcement of the iPhone 4S by Tim Cook and team, we now know that Apple will create one iPhone model with CDMA and GSM radios built-in that can either be used on AT&T or Verizon and Sprint in the U.S. Though Apple describes the iPhone 4S to have 4G-like speeds, the iPhone-maker is refusing to label the iPhone 4S a 4G-capable device, and here are two possible reasons why:

1. CDMA Speeds Are Still 3G

The 14.4 Mbps network support enabled by the iPhone 4S, up from the 7.2 Mbps theoretical max of the preceding iPhone 4, is for GSM networks only. As the iPhone 4S supports both GSM and CDMA network, labeling the device as a 4G phone would be misleading to the CDMA camp, which will include users for Sprint’s and Verizon’s network this fall when the device is available. Only AT&T subscribers–and GSM users overseas–will benefit from the 14.4 Mbps network speeds.

CDMA users, which would use the exact same model–Apple isn’t creating a separate CDMA-only model this time for the iPhone, would still max out on the CDMA 3G standard known as EVDO. That standard would not benefit from the 14.4 Mbps network support that’s being deployed for AT&T and rival GSM carriers overseas.

2. HSPA+ Still Considered 3G Internationally

iphone 4sWhile AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and other North American carriers, particularly those in Canada, are labeling the HSPA+ protocol as being 4G, Apple is cognizant that the protocol is still considered a 3G, or as some would label 3G+, standard overseas in Europe and Asia. As the iPhone 4S is to be launched and deployed globally, perhaps Apple’s more conservative marketing of the smartphone is to appease lawmakers in the countries outside of North America that the iPhone 4S will deploy on. Claiming that the iPhone 4S is a 4G phone in those regions may make Apple more prone to being sued for false advertising.

It’s also curious to see that Apple chose to not use HSPA+ on its slides during the announcement. Rather, the iPhone-maker referred to the protocol’s download side as HSDPA, or high speed download packet access; the upload side is referred to as HSUPA, or high speed upload packet access and HSDPA combined with HSUPA makes up HSPA and HSPA+.

Conclusion: Far From 4G in the U.S.

And even with HDPA with 14.4 Mbps theoretical maximum speeds for AT&T, AT&T’s network so far would not even allow users to come anywhere close to that theoretical max. In an uncovered letter to developers, AppleInsider discovered that AT&T is capping its theoretical speed to below 1/10th of what the maximum speeds can deliver:

“AT&T has engineered its network so that most users’ experience typical downlink throughput rates of 700 kilobits per second (Kbps) to 1.7 Mbps, with bursts over 1 Mbps. Typical uplink rates are 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps.”

Compare that Verizon’s 4G LTE network, which promises and also delivers speeds of around 15 Mbps and you have an iPhone 4S that is far from 4G.



  1. Larspowell

    10/06/2011 at 2:38 pm

    This confusing as hell! Is the phone on Verizon 4G or not. Simple yes or no works.

  2. Micahnobles

    12/05/2011 at 6:39 am


  3. Micahnobles

    12/05/2011 at 6:40 am

    actually apple doesn’t have any phones that are 4g capable.

  4. Arizonanan

    02/20/2012 at 11:46 am

    4S on Verizon is now 4G. Verizon has told all phone manufacturers that by the end of 2012 they will require all smartphones they carry to be 4G.

    • EarnYourLeather

      02/25/2012 at 12:19 am

      That is not true. It’s not even possible. The iPhone does not have an LTE radio inside and cannot pick up 4G signal.

  5. Jeremyhoughton1

    02/23/2012 at 3:39 pm

    It is a little annoying that I bought my iphone 4s from ATT with all the literature and everything saying that it is 4g, only to find out ir really is not, and would not be anywhere else either, that yet again, it will always be the newer, better version.

    • guest

      03/08/2012 at 7:40 am

      Jeremy.. now your AT&T iPhone is 4G! Congrats!

  6. guest

    03/08/2012 at 7:39 am

    Jeremy.. now your AT&T iPhone is 4G! Congrats!

    • Dukehutchens

      03/08/2012 at 7:42 pm

      I just put the new upgrade on my AT&T 4S. It shows 4G and the speed test shows the same upload speed but twice the download speed as 3G.

  7. Dj8barhookz

    03/13/2012 at 6:28 am

    My Iphone 4s has a blue 4G beside the Att in the on screen display today

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