Nearly nine months later, I'm finally starting to miss LTE

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| March 29, 2012

LTE is growing and spreading like a wildfire. Most new phones, high- or low-end, come with LTE compatibility and can browse the Web at breakneck pace. Application downloads finish in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. Web pages load about as fast as you can click the link. Plaguing buffering pauses on YouTube videos are few and far between.

It's perfect for the impatient, toe-tapping people we have become.

Okay, it's not always that fast, and not everything about LTE is beneficial. There are times when LTE can rear its head, whine, moan and drag its feet. LTE coverage, while AT&T and Verizon are expanding quickly, is not available everywhere. And Verizon has experienced an unusual number of data outages since their LTE network was launched in December of 2010. Also, with faster speeds, you're probably only looking at reaching your cap or being throttled faster than you would with a 3G phone. And your phone's battery life is likely a fraction of what it would be without LTE connectivity. (Use that toggle switch, folks!)

But LTE is a dream come true for most of us. Unfortunately, I haven't had any personal interaction with LTE – none, zilch, nada – since I switched my ThunderBolt for an iPhone 4 back last summer. That's nearly nine months ago. (I've had a taste of it here and there, but no extensive, intimate hands-on with it.)

When I retired the ThunderBolt for the fourth-generation iPhone, which only has access to Verizon's 2G and 3G networks, I honestly thought I wouldn't miss 4G too terribly bad. I figured the benefits of taking a step back to a 3G device and letting the networks and technology mature a bit would outweigh missing the sheer speed of Long Term Evolution. I knew I would miss it a little to begin with. But considering I rarely used it on my ThunderBolt (due to the battery life being so painfully poor), I imagined the memories of the good times Verizon's LTE network and I had would quickly fade.

Now, just shy of nine months later, I've had it.

I have since upgraded my iPhone 4 to the 4S. But it still only has access to 3G. While it performs just as intended and seldom gives me problems, my LTE envy is snowballing, growing with each and every LTE phone and with each friend who upgrades to one. A long-time friend of mine recently bought an LTE Galaxy Nexus, and it's all I can do to stifle my envy when we hang out. He's zipping around the Internet without a pause while I'm waiting two or three minutes for a single Web page to load.

I recently bought the AT&T Galaxy Note, which is LTE-enabled. But I don't have an AT&T account, so I moved it over to T-Mobile, and I'm using it on their HSPA+ and 3G networks. HSPA+ isn't bad; I've been using it consistently since the MyTouch 4G. It has served me well since then and up until the Galaxy Nexus. But I'm using unofficial software on the Note with an unofficial modem. It's a bit finicky, to say the least. At times, I've reached 6Mbps down and 2Mbps up. But, more often than not, I can be sitting in an area with full bars on HSPA+, literally the best quality signal a phone is capable of receiving on T-Mobile, and my download speeds might cap at 0.2Mbps while the uplink tops out at 0.02Mbps. I can't really complain or say that I didn't see this coming. Everything about my Note is unofficial and problems are to be expected.

But compared to the ThunderBolt I purchased on launch day, which consistently clocked over 12Mbps down and just shy of 10Mbps up, it's crawling. I was spoiled for a couple months, and I set it aside for a more consistent, reliable experience. Now I'm growing green with envy.

The problem I now face is that I'm not sure I want an Android phone smaller than the Galaxy Note, so it's not as simple as just buying and ol' LTE device. And as I explained yesterday, I want and need an iPhone to perfectly compliment my Android device. So I'm met with only a couple options. I could open up an account with AT&T and leave T-Mobile, taking the Note and using it on LTE. Or I can hope and pray that Verizon will eventually get its own variation of the Note, which I could then unlock my iPhone and use it on T-Mobile ... on EDGE. Ew.

Patience is not one of my virtues, at least when it comes to mobile devices. And the fact that I already own an LTE-capable device – that I have already used on AT&T's LTE network – doesn't help matters. Chances are that I'm going to look into opening the account with AT&T, despite not agreeing with the way they offer their data. I'll probably end up paying more in the end. But, hey, at least I'll be happier, right? RIGHT?

What do you ladies and gents think? Is LTE worth it? Have you tried LTE and found yourself unhappy with solely 3G? Would you switch carriers to have LTE, or just wait it out?