I can't live without LTE anymore

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: December 26, 2012

In case you have missed the handful of lists I've made, my weekly OSR rankings and dozen or so pieces I've written on it, I love the Galaxy Note II. It is a fine specimen of what many years of smartphone evolution has produced, an over-sized smartphone, a miniature, pocket tablet.

Many question why I continually choose it over all of the other comparable, more conservative-sized smartphones. The answer is plain and simple: I love the display size.

At the beginning of last month, I explained the other part to why I initially chose the Galaxy Note II. More specifically, I explained why I chose the international Galaxy Note II, which lacks LTE connectivity, over the virtually identical AT&T variant. I have two Galaxy Note IIs at my disposal and I chose to use the one without LTE for one reason: software.

The international variant, just as the global version of any smarpthone, will receive updates notably quicker than any U.S. carrier model. For a carrier branded smartphone, any and all software updates must go through a rigorous and lengthy approval process. As we've seen all too many times, software updates for U.S.-based smartphones can take two or three (and sometimes many more) months longer to arrive than the same updates for their international counterparts.

In my case, a missing feature, Multi-Window, that was rumored to be included in a future update was the sole reason I chose the international Galaxy Note II over the AT&T variant. Alongside the extra large display and S Pen, the software on the Galaxy Note II plays a major part in making the device a phablet – not just an over-sized smartphone like the HTC DROID DNA. And the fact that the AT&T model was missing Multi-Window was extremely off-putting.

How long would it be before the AT&T Note II saw an update? Would that update even include the feature? How many hoops will I have to jump through to get Multi-Window on the AT&T Note II … unofficially?

There were too many uncertainties about a very important, differentiating software feature that I didn't want to worry about. So I popped my SIM card in the global Galaxy Note II and said goodbye to LTE for the foreseeable future … again.

At the time, I figured that HSPA+ wouldn't be a terrible step backwards. And at first, everything was okay. HSPA+ was decent and the ability to run two applications side by side was (and still is) amazing. It was a feature I found myself using all the time.

But eventually, HSPA+ wore me down. I'm in the Concord, NC area, just a few miles north of Charlotte. LTE coverage here is fantastic. I've reached download speeds of nearly 50Mbps down and upwards of 20Mbps up.

HSPA+, however, is a totally different story. I never expected it to be as fast as LTE, of course, but it's spotty and extremely unreliable in the area. Most of the time, it has maxed out for me at about 5Mbps down and 1-2Mbps up. But that's on a good day. Most of the time, the download speeds teeter between 2Mbps and 4Mbps. And the uplink fails to hit 1Mbps.

I'm sure most people could deal with those speeds. Anyone who has never used LTE wouldn't know the difference. But after two months of dealing with AT&T's HSPA+ in Concord, I couldn't take it anymore. I switched back to the AT&T Galaxy Note II on Sunday and haven't looked back.

Of course, I've missed Multi-Window quite a bit. I have caught myself hopelessly holding the back button for several seconds before realizing the Multi-Window tab was never going to appear in the middle of the left edge of the display. Fortunately, though, it looks as if I may have Multi-Window on the AT&T Note II as soon as tomorrow, and this whole debacle will have solved itself.

The moral of the story is this: I cannot live without LTE anymore. I want a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 7 with cellular. But I can't stomach stepping back to HSPA+ anymore, not when I'm paying the same price with or without LTE.

LTE was what made me throw the prepaid idea out the window. There's nothing quite like images uploading in seconds, videos never buffering and applications installing before you can hit the back button. If I can help it, it's LTE-only for me moving forward.

Have you had LTE and given it up for any particular reason? Did you miss LTE after having a taste? Did you go back? Or is LTE something you can live without?