It's 2014: Are you using 3G or 4G?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| April 8, 2014


It doesn’t feel like the “breakthrough technology” that we know as 4G has actually been available to us for almost 4 years at this point, but it has. When I think of 4G, it still feels like the technology is relatively new. Perhaps it is because in reality, it really is (4 years isn’t really a long time in the grand scheme of things, but for the tech industry it is) or perhaps I’m just stuck in the past a bit. Still, the sentiment is hard to ignore when carriers constantly advertise the largest, the fastest, the cheapest, or the most unlimited-est 4G network around. In that respect, I guess while the technology is not exactly “new”, we are always refreshed and reminded about it.


When 4G first came out, it seemed like such a huge deal. The first phone to come out in the United States that offered 4G speeds was the HTC EVO 4G, a “giant” phone with a 4.3-inch screen (it was big at the time - if only we knew) and ran on Sprint’s new WiMax 4G network. WiMax is no longer used for newer phone models as it’s not quite as good as LTE, but at the time it was the only 4G network around, and therefore it was highly sought out.


To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with the way 4G was introduced. It seemed to have rolled out slowly, and although Kansas City was one of the first markets to activate Sprint’s WiMax network, the network didn’t do too hot in the suburban areas for several months. It was also hard to get it to penetrate buildings, and most of the time I would drop from 4G to 3G shortly after walking in to one. When I did get it, yeah, I noticed some speed difference; but the amount of times I would get it versus the amount of times I didn’t never seemed to justify the hype. Instead, I mostly stayed connected to WiFi if I was able to, which is probably why I didn’t mind much when I went from an HTC EVO 3D to the iPhone 4S, a 4G-enabled device to a 4G-incapable one.


It’s kind of funny to think that the iPhone 4S is still available for sale today alongside the iPhone 5c and the 5s, a move which I still consider bizarre for Apple given that the 4S doesn’t have 4G capabilities and the iPhone 5 did. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it really mattered. The 4S was a hot phone despite the fact that it didn’t utilize 4G and, at the time of its release, more and more Androids were being released using 4G LTE.


Perhaps data speeds aren’t always that big of a deal.


I had a bad time with Sprint’s 4G network, that I can admit. Even once the network improved and I used a 4G LTE device (HTC One) I found tons of spotty areas. Since switching carriers to Verizon, I do notice that I have a stronger signal in most places and almost never drop from 4G when I’m not using WiFi. But that’s the thing - most of the time, I’m still connected to WiFi. I went from having an Unlimited data plan with spotty service to a limited data plan with great service - but that cap! To be perfectly honest, I can’t even tell when I’m using WiFi over 4G anymore because they’re both relatively quick at retreiving data. Even 3G isn’t bad on Verizon.


That being said, if I had to go back to a phone that only used 3G I probably wouldn’t mind one bit. It kind of sounds archaic I guess, but there are benefits to having 3G-only data over 4G LTE; better battery life and slower to use up data buckets each month are the two that come to mind. I guess I would feel like I was missing out by not having 4G available, but at the same time I don’t think I would actually miss it all that much (if at all).


Readers, where do you stand at this point? Have you upgraded to a phone that uses 4G, or are you still using a phone that runs 3G only? Let us know in the comments below!


Image via ITPro