Is a lack of 4G connectivity a deal breaker?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: October 2, 2011

There's no doubt that 2011 has been the year for 4G. Years ahead will clearly prove to be more groundbreaking as we finally obtain "true" 4G and break records in mobile network speeds. But for all intents and purposes, 2011 is the year of 4G; it is the foundation for the network improvements that will inevitably happen over the next few years or decades ahead.

Alongside faster, stronger and vastly improved networks have come a long list of smartphones capable of accessing the faster speeds and harnessing the power of "4G."

When the first of these phones arrived, most notably the HTC ThunderBolt on Verizon's LTE network, I was ecstatic to say the least. I couldn't wait to test the LTE waters and see how the network would operate in optimal conditions. Needless to say, I was blown away by the sheer speeds. Several network speed tests – although the first 20 or so I had ran were incorrect due to the application I had used not accommodating for 10+ Mbps uplink speeds – concluded that LTE speeds were fast enough to rival that of my home Internet (which doesn't say much for my home connection, though).

That said, LTE was still in its infancy and faced more than one problem, both on the network and on the cell phone side. Even though LTE had been live in Charlotte for some time and had been thoroughly tested, I still ran into connectivity issues, as did many other reviewers. I could be cruising right along, browsing the Internet and ... BAM. Connection lost.

Not only that, but it was (and still is, for the most part) terribly for battery life. During the entire four months that I had the ThunderBolt, it would only last a maximum of six hours per charge with LTE enabled, whether I used it or not. The worst part was that Verizon did not offer a way for LTE-enabled devices to toggle LTE on and off, obviously in an attempt to take some strain off of their 3G network. If you were in an LTE area, you were forced to use it. Fortunately, some clever individuals found an easy way to disable LTE through the hidden radio settings page. After this, dealing with LTE was a much better experience.

Despite all of this push for broader, faster, more advanced networks, there are still a large portion of phones that can only tap into 3G networks, like the DROID 3 or quite possibly the quickly approaching iPhone 5. This makes me wonder whether 4G, or lack thereof, will be a deal breaker for the masses when push comes to shove.

I'm currently using two 3G devices as my personal phones. It's quite a step back from using a G2x and ThunderBolt, and quite honestly, it's driving me nuts. I can certainly deal with carrying a 3G device, but since it's available in most of the areas I spend my time and for no extra charge (so they say), my vote clearly goes to 4G.

As new phones come out and more networks are expanded, 4G capabilities will definitely become a deciding factor in the buying process. But for the time being, I don't automatically discredit a phone because it doesn't utilize 4G. Some features outweigh others for me, and a great camera and decent battery life are two of the most important. Depending on what phone I'm looking at, 4G may or may not be a deal breaker.

What about you, ladies and gents? Will you buy a non-4G phone? Or does your phone have to have 4G connectivity? What about the iPhone? If it doesn't have 4G, will you still buy it? Sound off below!