The Connected Car of the Future

The Connected Car

Everything You Need to Know About 4G

Carriers are responsible for much of the confusion around 4G

There are many myths about 4G. Some are true and others are false. This article attempts to clear up some of the confusion.

Myth 1: The iPhone 4S supports 4G

Reality: That depends on your definition of 4G. Most experts say iPhone is still a 3G phone — even though a 4G icon appears when you’re connected to the AT&T’s HSPA+ network. HSPA+ speeds are faster than 3G, but not near as fast as those found on a good 4G LTE network. One thing is sure: The iPhone 4S does not yet support 4G LTE.

Several studies have shown AT&T to have the fastest data speeds

Myth 2: AT&T has the fastest data speeds

Reality: Studies show that AT&T’s data speeds vary wildly depending on the time of day. Sometimes they’re good, but often they’re mediocre. Download speeds are especially problematic when the network gets more congested in the afternoon.

Speeds like these are not unusual over LTE

Myth 3: LTE is 5 to 10 times faster than 3G

Reality: LTE users sometimes report speeds that are 30 times faster than average 3G speeds. I ran more than fifty Speed Test runs and saw average download speed of 17Mbps, and an average upload speed of 9Mbps. My peak speeds are 45Mbps down and 28Mbps up. Pretty amazing.

Myth 4: 4G costs more than 3G

Reality: Most 4G data plans cost exactly the same as 3G data plans. Most Verizon customers pay $30 a month for 4GB of data. 4G phones don’t cost any more than 3G-only phones. You can buy a great phone that supports LTE for as little as $49.

Myth 5: LTE is new and not supported by many devices yet

Reality: 4G LTE launched back in 2009, and has been available in the U.S. since December of 2010. More than fifty different mobile devices now support LTE. Learn more about the history of 4G LTE here.

Myth 6: AT&T and Verizon have similar 4G coverage

Reality: Verizon has LTE support in more than 250 cities, while AT&T is in less than 40 cities. Sprint and T-Mobile do not currently offer 4G LTE service. See the coverage map above for more details. To access the newest coverage maps, download Sensorly or the Cell Phone Coverage Map app by Root Metrics in Google Play or the App Store.

Don’t expect to get a 4G signal everywhere you are

Myth 7: Most carriers have good LTE coverage in large cities

Reality: Even if your carrier has 4G coverage in your city, don't expect to get LTE everywhere you go. I only see 4G light up about 30% of the time.

It’s hard to use more than 2 or 3GB of data

Myth 8: HSPA+ results in higher speeds when LTE is not available.

Reality: This depends. In theory having HSPA+ to fall back should result in higher speeds, but according to experts, network congestion makes the drop-off from LTE on AT&T’s network to be just about as steep as Verizon’s.

Myth 9: Using a 4G phone will cause you to exceed your data allowance

Reality: In most cases this is untrue. Sure you’ll be able to download data much more quickly, but unless you stream a lot of HD movies, you’re going to have a hard time exceeding the 4GB data limit that carriers like Verizon are currently offering. Even if you do crazy things like backing up your entire phone to Drop Box with Titanium Backup, it’s hard to go over your limit.

Myth 10: Verizon’s network often feels faster than AT&T’s — even though its data rate is slower

Reality: This is true. According to a CNN article: “Verizon also has by far the quickest network response time, meaning that Web pages begin loading faster than on any other network after a user clicks on a link. Verizon’s network starts churning in half the time it takes AT&T’s to respond, and often about a third of the time it takes Sprint’s network.”

Myth 11: 4G can quickly drain your battery

Reality: This is true. That's why 4G phones like the Droid Razr MAXX include much more powerful batteries. If your 4G phone does not have an extended life battery, upgrade it, buy a second battery, or turn off 4G when you’re in an area without 4G coverage.

Some 4G phones have better battery life than 3G phones

Myth 12: Verizon users cannot talk and access the Internet at the same time

Reality: This is no longer true. You can use any app to access the Internet after you make a call (e.g. Google Maps, web browser, etc.)

VoLTE allows you to talk over 4G

Myth 13: 4G can improve the quality of voice calls

Reality: This is true. Several carriers outside of the U.S. are preparing to launch VoLTE, which along with HD voice codecs, can have dramatic difference on the quality of your voice calls. Verizon is rumored to be launching a voice over LTE service early in 2013.

Myth 14: HSPA+ is not capable of LTE-like speeds

Reality: In most cases this is true. HSPA+ is capable of real world download speeds of 4Mbps and higher. Some have even seen HSPA+ speeds as high as 16Mbps when stationary, but these drop way down when you are walking or in a moving car. More info.

Myth 15: The next big thing after 4G will be 5G

Reality: Not true. Carriers plan to increase their data rates beyond current LTE limits by using two 20 MHz channels and/or MIMO antenna arrays. Sprint says this will allow their network to reach speeds of up to 168Mbps.

As long as you own a device which supports LTE, you’ll enjoy getting data speeds on your phone which are faster than those that you get over home DSL.

- Rick

Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Visualizing the Social Web

Why Android Sometimes Gets a Bad Rap

There’s a reason most people think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but it’s not what you think.

Most People Prefer iPhone

Surveys show most consumers prefer the iPhone to Android phones. Although consumers who have switched will tell you it was because the iPhone is a better phone, there is strong evidence against this. The best Android phones are faster, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. They also have bigger screens, higher-resolution displays, more powerful batteries and data speeds that are up to 30 times faster than the iPhone 4S. As far as hardware goes, it’s hard to find much the iPhone does better than the best Android phones. [Scroll to the bottom of this article for more details]

Software Superiority?

Software superiority is another thing you’ll hear iPhone users tout over Android, but the quality of Android apps has dramatically improved over the past few years. In some cases, popular Android apps are actually better than their iPhone equivalents (e.g. Facebook, Google Maps, etc.). What about stability? Recent studies show that iOS apps crash more than Android apps. What about the operating system? Although you’d think iOS 5.0 would have more advantages over Android 4.0, it’s the other way around. Here’s proof. So, why does everyone think iPhone is better than Android phones? You’ll hear fragmentation mentioned a lot, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason. There is a strong argument that the biggest problems facing Android today are caused by those who sell it. I’m talking about the retailers, carriers, salespeople and handset manufacturers.

Too Many Choices

As far as the retailers go, I believe the carriers and big box retailers are one of the biggest reasons consumers think Android phones are inferior. When a consumer goes into a retailer like Best Buy they are often overwhelmed by the number of different Android phones the store carries. Most are the phones are old and should have been removed from the shelves. Some of the phones were bad phones the day they were released. Gizmodo just printed a list of the worst phones you can buy and you’ll find many of these in carrier stores and big box retailers today. I looked at last week’s Best Buy newspaper ad and saw that two of Gizmodo’s “worst phones” were being advertised in it. The odds of a typical consumer picking one of the best Android phones in a big box retailer is slim.

Apple displays no more than four phones on each side of a table

The Apple Experience

When you go to an Apple Store there is almost always only one type of iPhone on display. It’s always the newest iPhone and it sells for $199 to $399 (with a two-year contract). The only decision you need to make is what color case you want, and how much storage you need. It’s impossible to purchase a bad iPhone in a retail store. The contrast between the Apple and Android shopping experiences is dramatic.

You Get What You Pay For

When most consumers shop for a new Android phone the number one thing they look for is price. They want a deal and most of the time the deals are on older phones, which are slower and are not running the newest version of Android. Cheap Android phones have low-quality displays and slow processors. Most of the time, they look and feel cheap. There is a reason these phones are not being sold for list price. You get what you pay for. You’ll never see an iPhone 4S for free. They cost $199 to $399 (with a service plan) and they are worth it. Just like the best Android phones are worth $199 to $299. The bitter irony is the fact that you can often find great Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on sites like Amazon for as little as $49. Deals on old iPhones exist as well, if you know where to look.

Few People Run Android 4.0

Fragmentation may not be the biggest problem, but it is an important issue. Studies show 80% of all iOS users are running the newest iOS software (iOS 5.0 or later) while only 5% of all Android users are running Android 4.0. Update: As of July, this number is 11%, but it’s still too low. Most smartphone owners have never even seen Android 4.0 in action. The majority of Android users (64%) are running Android 2.3, which was released way back in December of 2010. Google has made hundreds of improvements to Android since then.

Here’s a list of Android phones which are running Android 4.0.

Good Advertising is Essential

The Quad-core based Asus Transformer Prime was a revolutionary tablet when it was released back in December of 2011, but it was never advertised on TV. I don’t remember seeing it in any print-based ads either. How did it sell? I should not come as a surprise that the iPad 2 eclipsed it in sales, even though the Transformer Prime is much faster, thinner, lighter and has many other advantages.

While Android tablet ads are rare, it’s impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by Apple’s ads. Apple advertises far more than any other mobile device manufacturer. They teach consumers how to use their products feature by feature, and they make you feel like you must purchase their products or you’ll be left out. And it works like a charm. Millions of people line up to buy every new Apple product – even the ones which aren’t that great.

Google’s Nexus phones provide a more iPhone-like experience

Every iPhone is a Nexus Phone

Once a year Google releases a new Nexus phone with the newest Android OS, state of the art hardware and no carrier bloatware. Since Google and other developers use this phone to test their own software, these phones tend to be very reliable. You could say that every iPhone is a Nexus phone. Apple comes out with one new phone a year and they have all of the advantages of a Nexus phone.

Don’t compare apples to oranges

Comparing Apples to Apples

The bottom line is you can’t compare apples to oranges when you’re shopping for a new phone. If you’re prepared to spend $200-300 on an iPhone, you should look at Android phones in the same price range. It’s not fair to compare a $300 iPhone that’s only been out for a few months with a two year old Android phone that’s free. Never buy an Android phone that isn’t running the newest OS, and take the time to learn which are the best smartphone before you go into a store. You owe it to yourself to get the best phone your money can buy — even if that means buying an Android or Windows phone.

Fixing Android’s Perception Problems

There are some things Google (along with those who manufacture and sell Android devices) could do to be on a more level playing field with Apple.

  • Google should open up their Nexus phone program to any phone that meets strict guidelines (no carrier bloatware, newest OS, quality components, etc).
  • Google should raise the bar on their Nexus program so it includes things like minimum battery life requirements.
  • Google should insist that carriers make all OS updates available immediately. Verizon has caused big problems in this area.
  • Google should start an Intel Inside-like marketing program like where they provide marketing dollars to those who meet strict guidelines. This would make it easier for manufacturers to advertise their products on television.
  • Retailers should reduce the number of Android phones they carry, and stop advertising bad phones.
  • Retailers should color-code phone signage so it’s more clear what the best phones are from each carrier.
  • Handset manufacturers should focus more on quality — and not quantity, and advertise their products more.
  • Everyone should produce commercials that appear to typical consumers. It’s amazing how many bad Android commercials there are. This is one thing Apple does very well.

Will Google change? There are signs they may be changing already. Expect to hear more at their Developers conference in June.

Android Phones that are Superior to the iPhone 4S

Here are some examples where Android phones beat the iPhone 4S in side-by-side hardware comparisons:

  • Android phones that have faster CPUs than the iPhone 4S include the HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and many others.
  • Android phones that are thinner than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, HTC One X, HTC One S and others.
  • Android phones that are lighter than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, HTC One X, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and others.
  • Android phones with higher-resolution displays than the iPhone 4S include: HTC Rezound, LG Nitro HD and others.
  • Android phones that have bigger screens with more pixels than the iPhone 4S include: HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with more powerful batteries than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One S, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with much faster data speeds than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.

In the end, the decision which smartphone to purchase is yours. Since there is a good chance you’ll have to use it for at least two years, make sure to choose wisely.

- Rick

Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

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