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How to Choose the Best 4G Phone

Updated on July 26, 2012
Will Apse profile image

Scientist, writer, audiophile and smartphone addict, Will Apse, loves explaining tech issues in a way that anyone can understand.

4G Phones: the floodgates have opened.
4G Phones: the floodgates have opened.

2011 is the year 4G will finally arrive big time. Right now there are only a few 4G capable phones available including, notably, the iPhone and the EVO by HTC. There is no nationwide service to connect them but the number of cities with the service is growing fast.

This year will see a huge new number of smartphones offering 4G as well as a vast expansion of the network.

By the end of this month, the Motorola Atrix- perhaps the biggest Android to be launched this year- will be available. Then the flood gates will open. AT&T alone says it will have at least twenty 4G smartphones to choose from by the end of the year.

All the signs are that this is the year mobile devices of all kinds will gain ascendancy over desk bound PCs. New tablets are flooding the market, laptops are becoming as light as air. Low power processors will mean better and better battery lives. 4G is arriving just in time to deliver all the extra data that people are demanding.

Real 4G or a Quicker 3G?

Real 4G offers fixed IP addresses and handles all data- voice, web browsing, downloading etc in the same way- as data packets. Many of the '4G' services around this year will be a kind of enhanced 3G with faster downloads except in a limited number of real 4G locations- the major cities

If you buy a 4G phone. though, it will be able to take advantage of real 4G as it rolls out. Real 4G offers a minimum 100 MB/second download speed for devices in motion. For stationary users, speeds of 1 GB/s should ultimately be achievable- don't expect this too soon, though.

If you like the technical details try this page:

There are two kinds of 4G wireless technology: WiMAX and LTE . They use different part of the wireless spectrum but are pretty similar otherwise.

A thorough explanation of how 4G works: /wiki/4G

So how to Choose?

The phone itself has to be the main focus. Then it is the best carrier for your area- which provider has the phone you want? There are links to the major carriers showing coverage at the bottom of the page. Only Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco are covered by all 4 major carriers at the moment so you might have to hunt around,

What most people want from the hardware- fast processors, quality HD cameras, big bright screens, WiFi hotspot capability and long battery life.

What most people want from the software- great apps. Apple offers the biggest range of apps but Android is catching up fast. Blackberry is low on apps but still offers the best business software.

Android phones now outsell the iPhone 2 to 1, worldwide, and are expected to gain more ground in 2011. The iPhone 5, due for June, could change all that, of course. This is an exciting year for smartphones!

Verizon's Coverage Map

4G for Business

Business users will benefit more than most people from 4G. 3G made business use of mobile internet more acceptable simply because it is lot more secure than previous systems. At the same time. 3G has serious limitations compared to fixed line broadband. 3G bandwidth is not great. There is a lack of fixed IP addresses, class-of-service capabilities and patchy networks especially in urban areas.

4G is designed to support mobile and fixed wireless operation. Combined with a doubling of bandwidth, 4G will be able to compete with conventional broadband for many businesses.

The dual core 1GHz Motorola Atrix is being sold as an alternative to a desktop PC- it certainly has the power for most applications. If 4G is as successful as it is hoped, the Atrix (or similar) plus 4G, plus the cloud could make for a completely portable and genuinely capable mobile office in a small suitcase- or backpack.

4G for Everyone Else

The attraction of 4G is the attraction that always comes with speed. The faster you can load pages, download music and movies the more fun and the less frustrating the net becomes.

Smartphones make great WiFi hotspots and can beam content to WiFi music players and many other devices. The Samsung Epic, for example can hook up with 8 separate devices and 4G bandwidth will mean this capacity is suddenly worth having. Print your work from cloud based applications, listen to internet radio, download that movie for later, send your emails and check Facebook- all at the same time!

4G Prices

The major carriers are offering similar deals. A typical example:

MyTouch 4G from T-Mobile costs $100 for the phone. For unlimited talk, text and data, it is $100 a month on a two year contract. Unlimited talk and text and 200MB of data is $80. Unlimited data only is $50 a month.

This is pretty expensive but prices should fall as soon as we get out of early adopter territory.

What the Major Carriers are Offering

This is a selection of the best phones available now or in the very near future.

AT&T- The Atrix and the iPhone make it a top contender.

AT&T are offering a range of 4G smartphones in 2011. One of the most impressive is the Motorola Atrix with Android 2.2 which offers one of the best specifications around. Central to this is the dual core 1 GHz Tegra Processor which is the fastest mobile processor around. Motorola are selling this device as powerful enough to replace a laptop and even do away with the need for a desktop.

It also features a front-facing VGA video camera, 5MP rear camera, two-microphone noise reduction technology and 1GB RAM

The Atrix is due to launch late February.

AT&T also offer the iPhone 4G and the Samsung Captivate. No one is betting against the iPhone 5 being the most successful new 4G phone in 2011.


Verizons First 4G LTE Smartpone

Verizon will begin shipping the HTC Thunderbolt soon and it will be the first LTE 4G. Verizon are promising nationwide 4G coverage by 2013.


T-Mobile- myTouch 4G, Samsung Galaxy S

The MyTouch offers the very impressive Android 2,2 operating system, a 1 GHz processor, 3.8 inch screen and HD video.

Get the sales pitch here:

T-mobile is also rolling out the very desirable Samsung Galaxy S 4G very soon.

MyTouch 4G from T-mobile
MyTouch 4G from T-mobile

Sprint- ahead of the Pack in Rolling out 4G

Sprint has been one of the first carriers to get its network running and its data for download speeds is reliable. The HTC EVO can be relied on for peak download speeds of more than 10 Mbps plus peak upload speeds of 1 Mbps.  Average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps are normal.

I like the EVO so here are a few more of the features:

  • 3G data speeds average download speeds of 600 kbps-1.4 Mbps
  • Android 2.1
  • 1 GHz Snapdragon processor
  • GPS using Sprint Navigation for turn by turn directions, and points of interest searches
  • 4.3-inch capacitive display
  • 8-megapixel auto-focus camera
  • Capture HD-quality video
  • HDMI audio/video port
  • Forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for making video calls.
  • Full HTML Web browser


4G Coverage

You can check out coverage in your area on the following pages.


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