iPhone 4S - Now with bogus 4G!

Wouldn't it be nice if you could have blazing fast 4G on your iPhone, just like on The New iPad®? According to iMore, if you're lucky enough to be an AT&T customer, you can - not.

As part of the iOS 5.1 update, AT&T users will now see a 4G indicator when they check their network status, even though it's actually impossible for a software update to change a 3G HSPA+ device to a 4G device. Of course, since 4G is basically a mythical term for the messianic super fast network of the future, it doesn't make much difference.

You see, the ITU - that's the International Telecommunication Union for the uninitiated - lets carriers use marketing terms like 3G or 4G pretty much however they want, so long as they explain what kind of connection the device really uses somewhere else. That's right: 4G is just a meaningless name.

If you ask Verizon, their LTE is 4G. Sprint swears their WiMAX is 4G, AT&T says that HSPA+ with Advanced Backhaul is 4G... You get the picture. All of those are different kinds of connections, none of which really operate under a single banner.

So, buyer beware. AT&T doesn't have a 4G iPhone. It's fast, but that doesn't change the fact that AT&T is lying (if you can call using a meaningless term in inappropriate circumstances lying) to its customers.

Image from @presstopher (via Twitter)

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Windows Phone gets updated Google search app

Next Story

Deutsche Telekom: 512 Gbps on a single optical fiber channel

51 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

With all the intentional misleading AT&T has been doing lately, they should be subject to FCC action, or class action lawsuit. Bogus 4G on top of a bogus "Unlimited" data plan is about as blatant a misrepresentation as you can get. I would like to see some of our political candidate hopefuls break protocol, bypass the corporate AT&T donation and call out their CEO for deceptive practices. Embarrass them publicly, as they should.

Pretty annoying that this only applies to one carrier. For example Three in the UK have a HSPA+ network, and i'd like to be able to see when i'm connected to one these masts and when i'm not. At present it says the same 3G whether i'm connected to that or a HSDPA mast.

sila said,
Pretty annoying that this only applies to one carrier. For example Three in the UK have a HSPA+ network, and i'd like to be able to see when i'm connected to one these masts and when i'm not. At present it says the same 3G whether i'm connected to that or a HSDPA mast.

HSDPA up to and including 14.0 Mbps is still referred to as 3G ... anything above that is called 4G (HSDPA 17.6 all the way to 337.5 Mbps) ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hsdpa

I think the big deal here is that AT&T was a hard critic when other carriers (T-Mobile) would use the term "4G" to talk about these technologies. Only when they saw that the LTE rollout would take longer than planned did they changed their stance, and became just another carrier advertising bogus 4G. They end up looking like hypocrites, though they really don't care looking like so.

I think whether it is 4G or not is not a big deal, but the actual speed it can offer. I've gotten some speed tests to go all the way to 10 mbps with my wife's ATT&T iPhone (mine is Sprint, so that is reaaally 3g, peaking at 768k).

Let us hope the ITU can define 5G right from the start to avoid this type of confusion.

Apple itself recognizes that it is not 4G. Quoting from the new iPad feature list:

The new iPad supports fast cellular networks the world over - up to 4G LTE.2 So you can browse the web, stream content, or download a movie at blazing-fast speeds. It also works on GSM/UMTS worldwide network technologies including HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA - the fastest 3G networks out there. You'll see downlink speeds up to 42 Mbps with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1 Mbps with HSPA+.3"

notice:

... The fastest 3g networks out there ...

Category 10 HSDPA and Category 6 HSUPA covered by Release 5/6 of the 3GPP standard (which is what the AT&T iPhone 4S has thanks to the Qualcomm MDM6610) is not technically HSPA+.

HSPA+ starts with Release 7 of the 3GPP standard. This means the AT&T iPhone 4S is not HSPA+ capable. If HSPA+ is the minimum for "4G", the iPhone 4S doesn't even make the cut

The iPhone 4S is a HSPA device, just not a HSPA+ (14.4Mbps v's 21Mbps). "4G" starts with HSPA and up devices so that's why they can say it's a "4G" device without worrying. The iPhone 4 is a HSDPA device at 7.2Mbps.

The problem as I see it is that they (carriers) are trying to equate speed with Gs and it's been true that more Gs equal more speed but the speed shouldn't be the only qualifier!

I smell a class action lawsuit here just itchin' to get itself into gear. This is a really lame thing that Apple is doing, by any measure of the word, period. They'll offer up their so-called rational reasoning for doing it but, it's BS and we all know it.

Marketing, indeed. Bigger numbers... just when I thought Apple couldn't stoop any lower.

br0adband said,
I smell a class action lawsuit here just itchin' to get itself into gear. This is a really lame thing that Apple is doing, by any measure of the word, period. They'll offer up their so-called rational reasoning for doing it but, it's BS and we all know it.

Marketing, indeed. Bigger numbers... just when I thought Apple couldn't stoop any lower.

It's AT&T, not Apple. my Fido/Rogers 4S still says 3G after the 5.1 update.

LOL, Apple and AT&T are extremely dumb as always as their customers are to for biting on their bait.

If they can call their iPhone 4S for an 4G phone, then i for sure can call my Samsung Galaxy S II for a 4G+ phone since it's even faster than the iPhone 4S.

Or i can also edit the HSDPA+ icon to a 5G icon on my Galaxy S II and upgrade my phone to be a 5G phone to if i want. Doesn't make my phone to support 5G just because of that.

Edited by Tom-Helge, Mar 8 2012, 3:43am :

After looking at that UI and then at my windows phones live tiles, i can't imagine ever using an iphone. Not trying to troll but that was what came to mind when i saw that pic lol

I have a Telus (canada) SGSII, and it displayed 4g on the stock rom, and when i use a Tmobile rom, it says 3g. Same goes vice versa. I dont think theres any wrong really, the "4g" we have now is faster than the 3g we had before, and as theres no standard i dont really care as long as its faster. At least with LTE we have an actual standard.

DeathsyctheHe11 said,
I don't get it, why is the iPhone single out in this? Other phones on AT&T are like this too, like my AT&t Galaxy S2.

Because pageviews.

DeathsyctheHe11 said,
I don't get it, why is the iPhone single out in this? Other phones on AT&T are like this too, like my AT&t Galaxy S2.

Because the person who wrote it doesn't know much. It is 4G, just like the ITU states.

DeathsyctheHe11 said,
I don't get it, why is the iPhone single out in this? Other phones on AT&T are like this too, like my AT&t Galaxy S2.

AT&T's other phones have been doing this for a while now, so that's not really news. Up until now, though, the iPhone has been conspicuously absent from their '4G' lineup.

IN my area around work the 5.1 update enabled the hspa+ speeds for my iphone 4s. Up until i updated I was geting 1/1 speeds on my 4s and now I get 5/1 . I think it might have had a tower updated in the firmware.

"International Telecommunication Union" for the uninitiated

or

"International Telecommunication" union for the "Uninitiated"

/s

cralias said,
Oh no. Someone else, and Neowin's editor at that, has stated that 4G is currently but a snakeoil. I'm not alone!

Why am I not surprised that the writer doesn't know much? Oh because he writes for this site.

I hate ATT as much as the next, but this is really grasping at straws. ATT uses two specific terms for it's 4G services: 4G and 4G LTE. They make this difference clear when you look at the phones on their store site.

Your article amounts to "they're lying by using a meaningless undefined term!" Again, like the lulzsec/FBI article, save the editorializing for an editorial if you're trying to report news.

I'd be pretty mad if my phone said 4G and it's not really 4G. It might be traveling to a trash can at a force of 4Gs though.

Enron said,
I'd be pretty mad if my phone said 4G and it's not really 4G. It might be traveling to a trash can at a force of 4Gs though.

There is no "real" 4G. It's not defined in any way by the ITU. All of ATTs HSPA+ phones are sold as 4G. All of their LTE phones are sold as 4G LTE.

Tweaky Nippleton said,

There is no "real" 4G. It's not defined in any way by the ITU.

There is now. ITU had a meeting in January this year resulting in LTE-Advanced and WiMAX 2 being confirmed as the [only] true 4G.

Tweaky Nippleton said,

not the 'only' 4G just 'true' 4G. Current LTE, WiMAX and HSPA+ are still considered '4G' by ITU.

What's the difference between "only" and "true"?

On my home planet they're similar concepts, synonyms even. It's quite fundamental, really - our whole modern computer industry sits on top of binary logic - "true" and, if the thing's not "true", it can only be false. Holy crap, imagine that!

Oh well, I've been through this in another thread. It's real fun...
http://www.neowin.net/news/4g-...will-launch-in-uk-this-year

slade37 said,

Like 720p is HD but 1080p is true HD. 720p still looks better than SD.

Don't mess HD in here. 720p is HD. 1080p is FullHD. But there isn't 4G and Full4G (or True4G), there is only one, single, lone, rigidly defined 4G.

cralias said,

Don't mess HD in here. 720p is HD. 1080p is FullHD. But there isn't 4G and Full4G (or True4G), there is only one, single, lone, rigidly defined 4G.

ITU still allows HSPA+ and current gen LTE/WiMAX to be called '4G'. Provide evidence to the contrary. I'm not wading through a multipage topic of trolls, flamebaiting and borderline rudeness common to all these tech arguments, to find if anyone did.

The article link I just posted up there, clearly states this is still the case.

UndergroundWire said,

these amateurs.

Bold assertion. Consequentially, you must be at least a professional. Might I inquire it in more detail about that (work experience section, regarding telecommunications from a CV will be sufficient).

Tweaky Nippleton said,

Provide evidence to the contrary.

Articles by third parties are of no concern to me.

Your cause ultimately hangs on a single press release statement (http://www.itu.int/net/pressof...press_releases/2010/48.aspx) I'm well aware of:


Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.

While they do allow carriers to continue their initial misinformation (to avoid further confusing consumers), at the same time they clearly state that LTE and WiMax are "evolved 3G technologies".
English is not my native tongue but, honestly, anyone who's seeing there an official statement that LTE and WiMax "are" 4G (rather than "may be"), is illiterate at best.

If that isn't enough, that thing there is a press release, not a recommendation (also called a standard). As far as I know, most of industry doesn't implement and follow press releases.

Meanwhile, previously undefined, 4G has finally been defined as recommendation (standard): http://www.itu.int/rec/R-REC-M.2012-0-201201-I/en

And that settles it:
"True" 4G - IMT-Advanced
"False" 4G - LTE, WiMAX, HSPA+, UMTS, turbocharged messenger pidgeons, yogurt telephone, stray cats, solar flares, garden gnomes and so on.

cralias said,

Bold assertion. Consequentially, you must be at least a professional. Might I inquire it in more detail about that (work experience section, regarding telecommunications from a CV will be sufficient).


Articles by third parties are of no concern to me.

Your cause ultimately hangs on a single press release statement (http://www.itu.int/net/pressof...press_releases/2010/48.aspx) I'm well aware of:


While they do allow carriers to continue their initial misinformation (to avoid further confusing consumers), at the same time they clearly state that LTE and WiMax are "evolved 3G technologies".
English is not my native tongue but, honestly, anyone who's seeing there an official statement that LTE and WiMax "are" 4G (rather than "may be"), is illiterate at best.

If that isn't enough, that thing there is a press release, not a recommendation (also called a standard). As far as I know, most of industry doesn't implement and follow press releases.

Meanwhile, previously undefined, 4G has finally been defined as recommendation (standard): http://www.itu.int/rec/R-REC-M.2012-0-201201-I/en

And that settles it:
"True" 4G - IMT-Advanced
"False" 4G - LTE, WiMAX, HSPA+, UMTS, turbocharged messenger pidgeons, yogurt telephone, stray cats, solar flares, garden gnomes and so on.

In an attempt to be an arrogant douche, you completely missed the rest of your bolded sentence which contradicts your assertion that the ITU doesn't recognize current LTE/WiMAX/HSPA+ as 4g:


although it is recognized that this term, while undefined,may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies

If you're going to quote and bold something, at least understand what is being stated.

cralias said,
...

In the sense that they read a headline and "think" they know the whole story. A professional would read and then research the story. You see what I mean about amateurs?

Tweaky Nippleton said,
flamebaiting and borderline rudeness common to all these tech arguments

Tweaky Nippleton said,
In an attempt to be an arrogant douche

Well there, good to see that you happily contribute to mouthing off in one of such tech arguments.

Tweaky Nippleton said,
Once more, from the ITU themselves, in case someone missed it in the wall of text:

4G has been defined as of Jan 23, 2012. Has. Been. Defined. Defined is an opposite of undefined.

Tweaky Nippleton said,
you completely missed the rest of your bolded sentence which contradicts your assertion that the ITU doesn't recognize current LTE/WiMAX/HSPA+ as 4g:

Please attempt to find your reading glasses and then re-read my post. I do believe I have explained understanding of "may" vs "are", and "press release" vs "recommendation"/"standard".

Or, I don't mind, do assume I'm indeed an illiterate, and dissect the sentence to separate clauses of unambiguous meaning for me so as to finally enlighten me. Or finally go away.

Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.

Actually this paragraph quoted above makes this whole argument simple:

Does the ITU recognize current LTE/WiMAX/HSPA+ as 4G? According to this quoted section, yes, they do. Therefore LTE/WiMAX/HSPA+ are, stay with me here, 4G! It's not hard. There's no 'illiteracy' involved. Once again 4G is *UNDEFINED* as per your own post.

UndergroundWire said,

In the sense that they read a headline and "think" they know the whole story. A professional would read and then research the story. You see what I mean about amateurs?

Ok, I see. I'd remind that Neowin's motto contains "unprofessional journalism", so it is ok. Argument might be of the "looks better" part because, yeah, well, there are no references to anything ITU has stated, interpretation of those statements be put aside and left to commentards like me.

cralias said,

What's the difference between "only" and "true"?

On my home planet they're similar concepts, synonyms even. It's quite fundamental, really - our whole modern computer industry sits on top of binary logic - "true" and, if the thing's not "true", it can only be false. Holy crap, imagine that!

Oh well, I've been through this in another thread. It's real fun...
http://www.neowin.net/news/4g-...will-launch-in-uk-this-year

but we are using quantum bit

cralias said,

Ok, I see. I'd remind that Neowin's motto contains "unprofessional journalism", so it is ok. Argument might be of the "looks better" part because, yeah, well, there are no references to anything ITU has stated, interpretation of those statements be put aside and left to commentards like me.

Yeah but the defines the writers not the people that reply. The people that mostly reply on this site, I can see why you call them "commentards". I mean this ridiculous arguments comes up every single time that 4G is mentioned. But somehow, fact can't go through their thick skulls.

Bunch of amateurs at best. They pretend to know it all but never researched any facts. But then again, I bookmarked this sight under entertainment not tech or news.

cralias said,

There is now. ITU had a meeting in January this year resulting in LTE-Advanced and WiMAX 2 being confirmed as the [only] true 4G.

Good points. There are those who still say Star Wars ep 4-6 are the "True Star Wars"... It does not really matter anymore as the 4G name is meaningless. Let the ITU start with a 5G spec and unify that before any of the carriers can call their stuff 5G.

Tweaky Nippleton said,

There is no "real" 4G. It's not defined in any way by the ITU. All of ATTs HSPA+ phones are sold as 4G. All of their LTE phones are sold as 4G LTE.

actually, there is... the 4g is set on a certain frequency .... therefore you can actually define it in some way... (it has been decided what frequency already)

You mean like every single other HSPA+ phone on AT&T?

Also, Apple helps out a bit with this by displaying LTE instead of 4G when you have a real LTE connection (according to iPad 3 screenshots).