iOS 5.1 Upgrades AT&T iPhone 4S To Bogus “4G” Status

iOS 5.1 Upgrades AT&T iPhone 4S To Bogus “4G” Status

Our awesome Twitter follower @presstopher was one of the first to get iOS 5.1 downloaded on his iPhone and noticed an odd update – his AT&T iPhone 4S (that runs on the 3G network) is now lying, claiming that it is running on a 4G network. iOS 5.1 changes AT&T iPhone 4S to show that they are using a 4G network. It’s complete malarkey and we’re stunned that Apple and AT&T have made this move.

When the iPhone 4S was announced Apple never claimed it was a 4G device. The most Tim Cook said was that “our competitors call this 4G. We won’t argue with him.” He knew the iPhone 4S’s ability to tap into AT&T’s HSPA+ network wasn’t 4G, it was just super-amped 3G,

LTE and WiMax? Those are 4G. But the iPhone 4S isn’t running on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, nor is it capable of straddling the 4G cables of AT&T’s LTE network. It’s a 3G HSPA+ device. Apple currently only has one 4G LTE device: the new iPad.

Now Apple has a real 4G device, and what do they do? Cheapen the term by rolling it back and appluing it to AT&T’s HSPA+ network, something they had too much dignity to do before. It’s a marketing point indicating Apple’s feeling the crush — real or psychological — of competitors laughing that the iPhone 4S isn’t 4G, even now.

Ummm, Apple, you don’t need to have our software tell us our new iPhone 4S’s are 4G. We know they’re not and we’re ok with it. As much as AT&T and T-Mobile want to claim that their HSPA+ networks are 4G, they’re really not. We can wait for the iPhone 5 to have a true 4G iPhone. No need to diminish the jump to LTE with a lie.

  • wyattwd

    HSPA + is ’4G’.. kind of. This move was for the better because now we can differentiate EDGE 2G, HSPA 3G and HSPA+ 4G services.

  • iBurrisJr

    I love it!!! Bahahahaha. Mine is the same.

  • recyclops117

    As you may or not remember at the iPhone 4S announcements he 4S clearly has the speeds of other AT&T ’4G’ android smartphones so if they get the phony labels why can’t apple? I’m not saying its right but if android gets to use this false advertising to gain sales for AT&T why can’t Apple??

  • MacHead84

    Atleast now its possible to tell what true band you are connected to. But not really a big deal one way or the other.

  • Vincent

    Ah, this is actually USEFUL to me.  Now I can tell my area has at least HSPA+ 4G coverage.  Previously I didn’t see a useful way to know which parts of town had HSPA+ and which did not, well without running tedious benchmarks. I live in a smaller town not one of AT&T’s 28 LTE markets so it wasn’t really clear to me how to establish the coverage of even the “lite” version here.

  • taylerz

    It’s beyond me how you became a writer for Cult of Mac.

  • Agree (with Alumnus)

    It is a big deal, because they are advertising speed, and then they are now ‘throttling’ users grandfathered into the unlimited data plan… There will be issues with respect to them meeting their part of the contract, but that was already discussed elsewhere…

    In fact, I went to upgrade to an iPhone 4s, and on the at&t website, I HAD to make a selection for data, and unlimited was not available. So I did not do it through at&t… I went to the apple website BEFORE it went down for refresh this morning….

    When I ordered the iPhone 4s through the Apple website, it listed my features as unlimited data and the now deleted 1000 messaged for $10

  • cjgarrison

    This web site is BOGUS! It should be called CultofAndroid (which you guys blend in with anyway)! It’s cult of mac, not cult of smack! Stop bashing Apple over petty bs, there are plenty of other web sites that do that already and I dont read them since it’s bs and you need to stop dishing it out on top of it

  • prof_peabody

    This is a stupid article.  Technically, it isn’t 4G but what is?  

    Technically, we actually won’t see “real” 4G (by the textbook definition) in North America for about two more years, possibly three.  

    It’s faster than regular 3G, so it’s “4G.”  
    Also, real writers don’t use “bullshit” in their articles.

  • Mr. Williams

    It’s a bug… Geeze!! Notice what it says on your iPad. You people act like children.

  • Mr. Williams

    Agreed! This place sucks.

  • Samuel Shallenberger

    If you look under the “Learn More” while your iPhone is upgrading to 5.1, one of the “new features” listed is an improved AT&T data bar. This isn’t a bug, it was added on purpose.

  • anncoultersadamsapple

    How old are you?

  • Mr. Williams

    Really? Then why does my iPad still say “3G” after upgrading?

  • Skywaytraffic

    Probably because an iPad and an iPhone are two different things.

  • Samuel Shallenberger

    Is it AT&T? If so, I honestly have no idea. Maybe just because Apple realized that they were losing customers because people wanted Android phones that they thought were faster. My point is that it wasn’t added accidentally, it’s there for a reason and Apple isn’t hiding it.

  • Mr. Williams

    Yes it’s AT&T. Losing customers? They sold 37 million iPhones last quarter. Christ!!

  • Barton Lynch

    I think it’s good to do this. It’s good to know that you’re on HSPA+ instead of just normal 3G. Also, the LTE iPad says LTE instead of just 4G, so there will be another differentiation, and this will not “devalue” 4G as you have said.

  • Barton Lynch

    because the iPad 2 doesn’t have HSPA+

  • gettysburg11s

    What a dumb article.  it proves that these “writers” are just out to grab headlines.  For better or worse, everyone has known for a while now that an HSPA+ network is recognized as a 4G network, regardless of how anyone “feels” about it.  AT&T and Apple have done something perfectly valid.  People are certainly free to dump AT&T and get an iPhone 4S on Verizon or Sprint.

  • DieFledermaus

    It’s not a bug. Read the notes for the iOS 5.1 upgrade.

  • DieFledermaus

    He’s probably saying the same about many of these commenters.

    I, for one, whole-heatedly agree with him. The crap that comes out of AT&T’s collective hole is enough to make someone want to curse.

  • Buster

    hmmm…i guess you’re right Tayler, i do kind of suck at this. I’d love to get some tips from you if you’d be so kind. What’s the link to your Apple news website?

  • Shpaklata

    Look at Wikipedia:
    “Currently both HSPA+ and LTE are termed as 4G technologies by the industry.”

  • davester13

    Yeah, except HSPA  only changed to ’4G’ once Verizon started advertising their 4G network and AT&T couldn’t compete with their 3G network, so they renamed it to be 4G.

  • Sean Shamus McCabe

    Oh god the world is coming to an end!!! But seriously who gives a shit about the whole 3G/4G BS anyway.

  • oakdesk30

    Sorry, buddy, but Heine is right. This is *not* 4G and should not be labeled as such. Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it right. What is it going to show when 4G is actually deployed? 5G? Silly question, AT&T will probably call their 4G service 6G.

  • Trisjen Harris

    Apple is lying on this one, I call bluff!

  • twitter-16071221

    Oh stop it. Anything above HSPA 7.2 is 4G. Ask T-Mobile. Ask AT&T. And now Apple. I am pulling down almost 10Mbps and get 3.5Mbps up speeds on my iPhone 4S! That, my friends, is NOT 3G. It’s incredible. Remember, there are those who say that the current speeds of LTE on both Verizon and AT&T do not qualify for “4G”. So whatever. 4G HSPA+ up to 21Mbps is 4G, DC-HSDPA up to 42Mbps is 4G and LTE at 73Mbps is 4G.

    Did you guys know that Verizon calls EVDO Rev. A “3G”? hahaha yea, right! If maximum speeds of 3.1Mbps theoretical and realistic ones at 2.5Mbps is 3G, then HSPA+ 14.4Mbps and up is 4G

    P.S.: I’m still not going to lose my 5.0.1 jailbreak over this shit, though. :-D

  • Mastawee

    Current LTE and WiMAX do not meet the minimum 100 Mbit/s to be defined as a true 4G, the entire thing is a marketing ploy

  • tornacious

    Ha ha ha! Well played, Buster. Put that winer right in his place.

  • tornacious

    Dude, you’re STILL paying for texting? Why, when the Textfree app gives unlimited texting for free? I’ve been on Textfree since it started and turned a lot of folks onto it. Check it out. And, no I don’t work for them.

  • tornacious

    Because iPad doesn’t support HSPA+, only iPhone 4S does. I updated my iPad 2 to 5.1 and it still says 3G, as it should.

  • SimsDaniel

    Steve Jobs would never do this….

  • Agree (with Alumnus)

    Do you mean the app from Pinger? I just downloaded it the other day, and need to figure it out :) Then, off goes the whole texting thing. :)  It would be nice if one could set up multiple phone numbers for use in Canada or Europe!

  • ThatsLogical

    Spot on way to take some criticism. Additionally, Tayler isn’t “write,” he’s “right.” Leander, how about that editing? Buster, how about that spelling?

  • zviivz

    The 4G is crap! Did a speed test and the average download speed is 1.3 Mbps. The upload speed is 0.3 Mbps. You call that 4G, AT&T???! 

  • coldgoldenfalstaff

    Probably depends on where you are. I’m getting 3.9-4.3 Mbps on Speedtest with the 4G indicator on in Chicago

  • Buster

    that’s still slow

  • Ed_Kel

    I’m consistently getting 5.50mbs where I live (West Mich). I’m about twice as fast as my brother’s 4G EVO and 3 times as fast as my dad’s Sprint iPhone 4S 3G. 4G is between 6-12mbs in the real world and being 0.5mbs slower than the low end of that spectrum leads me to wonder why the hell you would waste time writing this article? We can argue all day long about whether or not it is 4G fast, but there is no denying that AT&T’s HSPA+ network has the capability of producing speeds that is 3 times faster than 3G; borderline and at times, meeting 4G speeds which makes the new indicator valid.

    In this article there is no reference to what you think the network indicator should read, just whining and bitching once again about AT&T and Apple lying to you. Pretty poor stance to make if you ask me, especially on an Apple site. 

  • Ed_Kel

    I’m getting 5.53mbs/1.68mbs…

  • Ed_Kel

    Real writers don’t defend their articles in the comment threads either. This guy is the king of douchebaggery. 

  • Ed_Kel

    You need to do your homework before you comment… HSPA+ is a recognized 4G network and the baseband is capable of delivering 4G speeds. You think that just because your network indicator reads 4G that you should have blazing fast LTE “like” speeds and that is simply not true. HSPA+ has been known to be faster than WiMax and capable of keeping up with LTE, so what is so wrong with labeling the HSPA+ baseband on the 4S 4G?

  • ScottW

    Chris, you understand AT&T’s motive.  When I updated my 3Gs to the 4s last Fall, AT&T tried to drop my unlimited domestic & international data plan stating that the 4s was 4G and that it voided my contract (i.e. they were providing a different/upgraded service).

    AT&T is looking for any & every way to drop the 17 million customers from their grandfathered, unlimited plans.  They recently tried to throttle us, which caused an uproar.  Sure they could stop extending the courtesy/benefit of grandfathering when customers upgrade their devices–I understand it’s not a right.

    By adding 4G to the indicator, AT&T now has a simple, visible explanation to tell users why they won’t be able to g/f their unlimited plans once they upgrade (cuz they HSPA+ vs 4G debate is too complex for the common user to understand).

    BTW, I ran a SpeedTest after upgrading to iOS 5.1 and compared it to a co-worker using an iPhone 4 on 3G.  My 4s on “4G” came in at 0.91 Mbps; his 3G speed was 1.6 Mbps.  We were standing right next to each other.  Both using AT&T, so we were using the same signal, right?

    This update to AT&T’s network icon is a scam.  Beware fellow unlimited data plan customers.

  • seansleepyshark

    AT&T is intentionally deceiving consumers – the iPhone 4S is not and never will be 4G capable… story here:  http://www.sleepyshark.com/att

  • Agree (with Alumnus)

    I understand the corporate profit very well. :)

    I made a product that made over $100M for one of the big eyecare companies in the USA and I received nothing in return. :)

    I am certainly NOT opposed to corporations making [a reasonable] profit, but I am opposed to them making obscene profits.

    This sadly happens in a country where regulation is not enforced, whether it is GE polluting the Hudson River with PCBs or at&t cutting service and increasing prices. If you want to increase prices, fine, but make sure there is a noticeable increase in service as well.

    That said: you can now buy a SIM from Straight-Talk that will give you unlimitred voice / data / web / text on the at&t network and will work in any at&t phone. All this for $45. This is by far the best deal for people who limit their calling and travels to the USA. I need service in Canada (sometimes) and in Europe (once or twice a year) so the issue is a bit more complicated for me…

    I will probably NOT upgrade to a 4s thru at&t, because they will NOT unlock it for use in Europe. at&t will aslo GLADLY suspend your service for a month, as long as you PAY THE REGULAR BILL during the suspension!!! That is very noce of them! 

    It may pay to buy the unsubsidized iPhone 4s from Apple and then use straight talk here, and get some prepaid SIM card in Canada… I haven’t thought this through yet. That way the phone will also work in Europe… and the $55 a month saved will pay for the $450 price difference fairly quickly…
    Verizon and Sprint are willing to unlock their iPhones (I talked to someone at Spring in November) so this may be an alternate path… the at&t representative told me this morning that NO CARRIERS unlock the iPhone, and then he started screaming at me when I told him that my cousin’s son had his Verizon iPhone 4s unlocked… He was calling me a liar, etc… :)

    at&t is simply getting too big and too inflexible… its one of those “too big to fail” situations… 

    also, when upgrading on at&t webpage to the iPhone4s, the unlimited data is not offered. I went through apple directly, and it was… I just have not activated the phone yet… I received it today. I am still trying to understand how to respond if they decide to throttle my data (i.e. can I just quit w/o paying the ETF)?decisions decisions

  • Brian Odom

    The iPhone does not do HSPA+.  It even says so on the specs on the official iPhone website:
    http://www.apple.com/iphone/sp

    I don’t see HSPA+ anywhere there, so I don’t know where people are getting this information from.  However, the iPhone is capable of HSDPA.  HSPA+ is the fake 4G.  HSDPA as 4G is *really* stretching it.

  • oakdesk30

    “HSPA+ is a recognized 4G network” By whom exactly?

    You’re the one who needs to do some homework. HSPA+ is not 4G. It’s as simple as that. It’s not even 4G-like speeds, because the 4G spec calls for 100Mbit/s minimum. Even Verizon’s LTE isn’t technically 4G either.

    4G is also entirely a packet switched network supporting only IP communications. Voice is provided with VoIP. Since there is no VoIP standard yet for LTE, if your indicator says 4G and you get a phone call, you’re not on 4G.

  • twitter-16071221

    HSPA’s maximum is 7.2Mbps, which includes HSDPA at 7.2Mbaps and HSUPA at 5.8Mbps. That is 3G. 4G is HSPA+, LTE, WiMAX, for example, such as the iPhone 4S at up to 14.4Mbps if in an area supporting HSPA+, the iPad 3rd gen at up to 42Mbps if in an area with DC-HSPA (DC=Dual Carrier) or up to 21Mbps, if in an area with HSPA+. I was hoping the iPhone 4S would have the 21Mbps HSPA+ 4G flavor, but in all likelihood, Apple went with the chip from Qualcomm that supports both HSPA+ (but only at up to 14.4Mbps) and EVDO (a 3G technology used by Verizon and Sprint) so that they didn’t have to make even more variations of the 4S than there already are.

  • Ed_Kel

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
    http://www.tmonews.com/2010/12

    You’re right in that even LTE can’t reach the minimum 100mbs 4G speeds though HSPA+ IS recognized as a 4G network. I can keep adding links but I think you get the point. Maybe next time you should do YOUR homework before you ask someone to do theirs.

  • Wirehedd

    I personally feel that Hunter S. Thompson was a “real writer” and he used all manner of profanities in his writing so, sadly Prof,your assertion of what qualifies as “real writer” is merely trolling.

    Try not to let your personal feelings make you look bad with spontaneous utterances like that. :)

    You’re smarter than that.

  • Ed_Kel

    The ITU, or International Telecommunications Union, has recognized HSPA+ as a 4G service stating that 
    “It is recognized that [4G], 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.”

    Is that enough homework for ya?

  • Ed_Kel

    The problem with people’s 4G argument is that they are labeling such in regards to speed. Though speed plays a big part in determining “4G”, it simply indicates that of a 4th generation network, or an evolved 3G network, like the ITU states.

  • Manish Jain

    mine is also showing 4G but its really same speed and performance I can tell.. no need to  fake. its bring the Apple image down.

  • LelandHendrix

    Does the indicator really change…I mean, does it ever show 3G when it’s in an area that DOESN’T have HSPA+???

  • twitter-16071221

    I think I can settle this: http://www.cnet.com/8301-17918

  • amharl2r

    I f*cking hate AT&T.  Why would you encourage lies to your customers?  If the point was to differentiate between HSPA and HSPA+, then why not just put HSPA+?  They don’t give two shits about their customers, and now they are telling us.  Shame on Apple for jumping on board.  I love Apple products, but this might be my last iPhone if AT&T has their hands this far up Apples ass that they have become AT&T’s puppet.

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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