When the first iPhone launched way back in 2007, it was only available on AT&T, meaning if you wanted Apple's new handset you'd have to already be on AT&T or jump ship to it. Things are a tad different now, though, as the iPhone 4S is available on three different U.S. carriers. That's great because it means that more people have the option to purchase an iPhone than ever before, but it can also lead to some confusion among folks that are interested in a 4S and have the luxury of being able to switch carriers. A new study by Metrico Wireless has aimed to make the iPhone carrier decision a bit easier by measuring how the iPhone 4S performs on all three networks for both data and voice.
First up is data. To measure data speeds, Metrico visited over 21,000 web pages and performed 8,000 speed tests to find both the fastest speeds attainable and the average speed of all the tests. When the tests were done and the speeds were measured, AT&T's iPhone 4S came out on top with a max speed of 6,047kbps and an average of 3,210kbps. AT&T's iPhone 4 came in a close second with max of 5,748kbps and a mean of 2,002kbps. On the CDMA side of things, Verizon's iPhone 4S finished with a max speed of 2,371kbps and an average of 1,071kbps, while Sprint's 4S managed a max speed of 1,767kbps and a mean speed of 581kbps.
Moving on to voice, Metrico says that it made a total of more than 6,000 calls and found Verizon to be the most reliable of the pack for both making and holding calls, finishing with a call failure rate of 2.1 percent. AT&T came in second in the voice department with a call failure rate of 2.8 percent, and Sprint ended up with a failure rate of 3.8 percent. However, Sprint did manage to best both AT&T and Verizon in live network voice quality on the uplink, while AT&T won out on the downlink.
So which carrier should you buy an iPhone 4S from? Metrico said it didn't want to name a winner, but it does believe that all of that marketing used by the operators is "spot on": AT&T talks up its data speeds, Verizon is all about reliability, and Sprint is the only one of the bunch to offer unlimited data plans. Those are all factors that could play a part in deciding which provider to go with, as well as figuring out which network your friends and family are on. Not only could choosing the same carrier as many of your friends save you cash thanks to perks like unlimited mobile to mobile texting and voice, but there's also the option of splitting the cost of a family plan with others to lower the amount of money you're ponying up each month. So now we have to ask: Which carrier have you decided to go with, iPhone 4 and 4S owners? And as for those of you considering picking up one of the new iPhones, which network do you think you might end up choosing?
Metrico Wireless Sets The Record Straight On AT&T, Sprint and Verizon iPhone 4S Performance
ROBUST, OBJECTIVE AND REPEATABLE ANALYSIS SHOWS THAT THREE CARRIERS LEAD IN DIFFERENT PERFORMANCE CATEGORIES AFFECTING SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE
Frederick, Md.—November 18, 2011
Metrico Wireless, the global leader in mobile device performance analytics, today announced findings from “iPhone 4S: The Ultimate Performance Report,” based on the company’s patented technologies and methodologies used to evaluate over 700 devices for carriers and OEMs. The three carriers covered in the report — AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless — each led in different performance categories, ranging from call performance to voice quality to data and web, and the iPhone 4S proved to be a capable video device regardless of the network it was on.
Immediately following the launch of the iPhone 4S in October, 2011, Metrico began measuring performance of these devices on key criteria including:
call performance (making and holding calls)
voice quality (handset, speaker, Bluetooth, in noise)
data performance (HTTP download, HTTP upload)
web browsing (page load time, page load reliability)
video performance (frame delivery rate, freeze, impairment, audio).
Metrico performed over 21,000 web page downloads, ran more than 8,000 data download/upload tests while mobile and while stationary, and generated approximately 6,000 voice calls, using the company’s global measurement system platform. Metrico also utilized the ITU-T P.863 speech quality algorithm known as POLQA to compare voice quality across the three carrier’s networks. This approach resulted in robust, objective and repeatable analysis of performance from the subscriber point of view, in laboratory and live network conditions reflective of typical usage.
Call success rates — the ability to make and hold calls successfully — were slightly better for the Verizon iPhone 4S than for AT&T and Sprint versions.
Sprint’s iPhone 4S performs better than the other carriers in live network voice quality on the uplink, while AT&T’s iPhone 4S takes the lead in live network voice quality on the downlink. However, the two carriers’ results are comparable. Across the three carriers, when compared to 3G smartphones measured in each carrier’s portfolio, the iPhone 4S is: among the top performers for speech quality in noise; average in speech quality over Bluetooth; and a below average performer in speakerphone speech quality.
The AT&T iPhone 4S outperforms its Verizon and Sprint counterparts in data download and upload speeds. Moreover, the AT&T iPhone 4S outperforms the iPhone 4 in download speeds by a considerable margin.
Web browsing is faster on the AT&T iPhone 4S than on the Verizon and Sprint versions. The iPhone 4S outperforms more than 70 percent of competing 3G Smartphone models tested on the three networks.
The iPhone 4S shows excellent data task reliability — or the success rate of completing tasks — on all three carrier’s networks, with 100 percent or near-100 percent success rates in stationary downloads, stationary uploads and web page loads. The improvement gains in stationary download reliability over the iPhone 4 are dramatic for AT&T and Verizon.
When on the live network and playing a video clip through the web browser, the iPhone 4S showed comparable, high rates of video frame delivery across all three carriers. However, when playing a video clip through YouTube, video frame delivery rate dropped, although the subscriber is still likely to perceive good quality. In general, the iPhone 4S shows a very low rate of video freezes and impairments, and a very high rate of audio delivery, across the three carriers’ networks.