Apple just reported all-time record iPhone, iPad, and Mac sales. Surely the availability of the iPhone 4S on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon had something to do with that. but of those three carriers, how does Verizon’s phone stack up?
Well, if you’re looking for speed, AT&T’s model ($199.99-$849.99, 4 stars) is the best of the three, thanks to its support for simultaneous voice and data, as well as faster 3G speeds via the carrier’s HSPA+ 14.4 network. but Verizon’s version is no schlub, and is definitely the carrier’s best iPhone yet. So why are we rating it lower on Verizon than on Sprint? because Verizon is making a much more aggressive push towards 4G LTE than Sprint is, and the iPhone 4S is not a 4G phone.
Cellular Radio and Call QualitySee our review of the iPhone 4S on Sprint ($199.99 – $849.99, 4.5 stars) for a detailed look at the phone’s hardware, software, and new features. here we’re going to focus on how the phone performs on Verizon’s network.
RF reception on the 4S is good, and on par with other top Verizon phones. Call quality on is very good too. Voices sound loud, full, and clear in the phone’s earpiece. Calls made with the phone can sound a bit thin, but still sharp and natural, with excellent background noise cancellation. Transmissions through the speakerphone are also clear, and fine for indoor use, but not loud enough to use outdoors.
The 4S switches between its top and bottom antennas depending on which one is receiving better signal, which means it’ll ignore whichever one you’re covering with your hands. this design solves the “death grip” problem on previous iPhone models. by holding the phone in a strange, two-handed grip I was able to lower data speeds, but it wasn’t significant, and it wasn’t the kind of grip anyone would ever use to hold or talk on a phone.
The iPhone 4S also delivers on Apple’s promise of longer battery life. I got 9 hours, 22 minutes of talk time with a strong 3G signal in my tests.
Data Speeds and Conclusions Judging from the results we collected last year in our testing for the Fastest Mobile Networks, Verizon’s LTE network is the fastest, largest 4G network in the U.S. Unfortunately, the iPhone 4S is a 3G device, so it isn’t able to tap into those exceptional speeds. So if you’re looking for the fastest iPhone 4S there is, you should head to AT&T, where the phone runs on the carrier’s speedier HSPA+ 14.4 3G network. And if you’re on Verizon and want the fastest data you can get, you should look at an LTE-enabled Android phone.
In my tests, the 4S on AT&T beat the same model on Verizon significantly for download speeds, though not for uploads. The AT&T device averaged 1.8Mbps down and 0.6Mbps up, while the Verizon phone averaged a much lower .4Mbps down, but a higher 0.9Mbps up. In general, though, you can expect speeds to be higher 3G speeds on AT&T all around. The 4S is also capable of simultaneous voice and data on AT&T, which is unavailable on 3G phones on Sprint and Verizon.
While the iPhone on Verizon is technically slower than it is on AT&T, it still feels plenty fast in normal, everyday use. Apple has done an excellent job of balancing software and hardware for incredible Web speeds that never feel slow, regardless of network.
My main complaint is that the 4S doesn’t take advantage of Verizon’s 4G LTE network. this would’ve been more understandable a year ago, when the network was still emerging. but Verizon’s 4G is now available in 194 cities, covering 200 million subscribers. The carrier expects to cover two-thirds of the U.S. population by mid-year, and to cover its entire existing nationwide 3G footprint with LTE by the end of 2013. Not only that, but Verizon already has more than 10 LTE devices to choose from, all of which have demonstrated excellent network speeds in our tests.
Take the Samsung Galaxy Nexus ($299.99, 4 stars), for example. In the same series of tests against the iPhone 4S on AT&T and Verizon, it averaged 4.8Mbps for downloads and 3.7Mbps for uploads, which is a significant step up from either iPhone. And those numbers are lower than what we usually see on Verizon’s LTE network.
Another thing to consider is data usage. Sprint is the only carrier to offer the iPhone 4S with unlimited data (unless you were grandfathered in with an earlier plan on AT&T or Verizon). So if you use a considerable amount of data, you may want to give Sprint a look.
Although the cell phone life cycle is decreasing at a rapid clip, two-year service contracts aren’t getting any shorter. So when you buy a new phone, it’s nice to know that you’re buying into the future. While the iPhone 4S is an excellent handset, and is going to make many Verizon users very happy, it isn’t going to have much staying power once Apple decides to go 4G.
If you aren’t too concerned about network speeds and you want an iPhone on Verizon, then get the iPhone 4S; it’s the best one yet. but if you’re looking for the fastest, most powerful smartphone the carrier offers right now, you should be looking for a 4G LTE device like the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx ($299.99, 4.5 stars).
Benchmarks Continuous talk time: 9 hours 22 minutes
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