Though its thinner profile and longer screen are two of the iPhone 5’s top draws, I’m more interested in what’s inside Apple’s newest handset. Yes, after a long wait, the iPhone 5 finally adds support for 4G LTE data networks. Of course, I have to point out that a galaxy of Android phones (get it!) have long offered the feature, but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that the iPhone has caught up.
Early reviewers of the iPhone 5 have already praised the big jump in data speeds from the iPhone 4S. Indeed, CNET’s Scott Stein called the new data speeds “stunningly fast” in his iPhone 5 review earlier this week. In his testing, AT&T’s LTE network was even faster than his home Wi-Fi.
Yet, you don’t get the full story of LTE until you compare the iPhone 5 with its immediate predecessor, the iPhone 4S. That device topped out at 3G on all carriers, even if AT&T tried to tell a different story. The difference is striking, both in CNET’s anecdotal use and in the official speed tests that we conducted. And to make things interesting, I also threw in the Samsung Galaxy S3, which also runs on LTE.
Before you get to the results, I’ve a few words about how I conducted the tests. For each phone — as a reminder, that’s the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S, and the Galaxy S3 — I conducted 5 tests in the same location using Ookla’s SpeedTest.net (available free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play). Each test pinged the same San Francisco server and recorded the download and upload speeds in megabits per second.
For now, I’ve conducted tests only on Verzon’s LTE network. CNET has an AT&T iPhone 5 for review, but it’s currently in battery tests so it can’t be disturbed. Once it’s done, though, we’ll conduct the same number of tests using the same phones on AT&T LTE network. Comparing Sprint’s LTE results is trickier at the moment since Sprint’s network covers only 19 cities. But we’ll add results for that carrier as soon as we can.
|Test 1 download||11.92 Mbps||8.77 Mbps||1.02 Mbps|
|Test 1 upload||10.87||13.93||1|
|Test 2 download||7.17||10.58||1.76|
|Test 2 upload||2.88||9.36||0.96|
|Test 3 download||10.05||7.3||1.78|
|Test 3 upload||8.58||15.7||0.87|
|Test 4 download||10.48||9.95||1.96|
|Test 4 upload||7.59||14.35||0.84|
|Test 5 download||9.27||7.75||2.03|
|Test 5 upload||7.44||14.39||0.88|
As you’d expect, both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 smoked the iPhone 4S. But even the LTE handsets weren’t in line. The iPhone 5 did slightly better with with download speeds while the Galaxy S3 enjoyed a bigger margin on upload speeds. To you, that won’t mean a whole lot. Instead, the bigger point is that LTE will soundly beat any device on 3G. Keep in mind that your results may vary depending on your location, the strength of a carrier’s network at a given the time, and the number of people using it around you. Carrier network performance changes constantly so there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll get the same results as I found.