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4G – What to consider

October 2, 2011
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If youre in the market for a new smartphone, you cant miss all the advertisements and hype surrounding 4G. Before you make that purchase however, you need to ask yourself if 4G is right for you.

4G is the fourth generation of wireless networks standards, promising speeds far faster than witnessed before. These speeds make services that require large amounts of data, such as video streaming, a reality on mobile phones, but at what cost?

Usage: For starters, if you already arent grandfathered into an unlimited data plan an carriers like Verizon or AT&T;, the plan you subscribed to will be limited to a certain amount of data. With the large screens and 4G speeds catered to video streaming, the limited data usage greatly hinders the experience the latest phones are capable of and designed to deliver. While the faster data speeds from 4G over 3G will give the user a more enjoyable experience viewing webpages, the most notable difference will be seen with data intensive usage services. This creates a catch 22 in that services that require 4G speeds to be feasible, wont be able to be utilized often with the capped data plans.


Form Factor: All 4G phones currently on the market have the same 4.3 inch, touch screen only, candy bar style screen. They also are powered by the Android operating system. If you are accustomed to physical buttons or a full keyboard on a phone, dont want such a large phone in your pocket, enjoy flip or slide form factors, or prefer a different mobile OS, the current market selection will not suit you. In the upcoming months and as 4G coverage is rolled out to more markets, selection will undoubtedly increase, but for now its one size fits all.

Price: All 4G phones at launch have had an initial price point over $200 if purchased from the carrier, most of which had a starting price point at $299. While some third party sites have offered 4G phones at discounted prices, 4G phones are still considerably more expensive than their 3G counterparts.

Coverage: Only select cities and markets which vary by carrier are currently providing 4G service. The 4G areas are very minimal compared to their existing 3G footprint. New 4g markets are being rolled out all the time, however if you live in a rural area it will still be many months if not years before you are covered by 4G.

Conclusion: It’s all going to come down to this question: Are you are in a market that currently falls under 4G coverage and do you like or can you live with a large phone? If you can say yes, then getting a 4G phone is probably the right choice. However, if one of those items is not met, then now is probably not the best time to get a 4G phone. If you must get a phone now, then get a 3G phone. If your current phone is working and you can live with it for a few months then Id suggest waiting. December is usually a month where a lot of new phones are released and there might be some 4G phones worth the wait. Also by waiting, 4G may be closer to being launched in a market near you.

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