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Just curious — could anyone explain the exact meaning of all the connection type symbols in iPhone?

Let's see, wifi and 3G, the fastest connection types, are quite clear, but how about the others: E is probably for EDGE (aka EGPRS), but what does the circle (O) mean? (2G something? GPRS? Or is the latter a higher-level concept in mobile data transfer?) EDGE is presumably the better of these two? (In practice I haven't noticed great difference as both are much slower than 3G.)

Finally, how do UMTS or W-CDMA fit in this picture? And if EDGE is a 3G technology too (as stated in Wikipedia), what kind of 3G technology exactly does iPhone's "3G" refer to? (Also, please correct me if there are more than the four types I could remember.)

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I didn't migrate at first because the question was old and wasn't sure that it was still relevant, as there could still be a newer version of this question already on Apple.SE. Migrated anyhow. Cheers! :) –  studiohack Aug 17 '11 at 14:21
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migrated from superuser.com Aug 17 '11 at 14:20

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3 Answers

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As per the iPhone User Manual on Page 21. (Some manuals this would be Page 14)

On GSM (All but Verizon/Sprint):

  • 4G = LTE (or HSPA+ on AT&T)
  • 3G = UTMS/HSDPA
  • E = EDGE
  • o = GPRS

On CDMA (Verizon or Sprint in the USA):

  • 4G = LTE
  • 3G = EV-DO
  • E = no equivalent - not possible
  • o = 1xRTT
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Thanks for the authoritative reference! (To me it seems to be page 14 in the PDF.) Meaning of GPRS still isn't perfectly clear as Wikipedia says it's available in 2G and 3G systems en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Packet_Radio_Service — but I guess I'd need a degree in mobile telecommunication technology anyway to fully understand this multitude of standards. :-) –  Jonik Aug 18 '09 at 21:10
    
@Jonik - The Status Icons reference I looked at was on page 21. To be honest that was all I was looking for :) –  Diago Aug 18 '09 at 21:31
    
I'm not totally sure what the phone is doing exactly when using GPRS, but I can tell you from experience that the circle means the phone has a data connection, but it's too slow to be worth using. :) –  Electrons_Ahoy Aug 19 '09 at 2:59
    
@Diago kuvaboksi.fi/mediaobjects/orig/pub/2009/08/19/… Oh well, maybe your link mystically takes me to a different PDF :) –  Jonik Aug 19 '09 at 11:45
    
@Jonik. It is actually possible. However there could be two signal charts in the manual, or we could just be using different page sizes. I do know Apple does do country redirection thought. –  Diago Aug 19 '09 at 11:58
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From Apple's online iPhone How To: Status icons

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The circle is GPRS, and UMTS or W-CDMA are technologies that make up 3G. Edge is not a 3G connection, it is a 2G connection.

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Hmm - but Wikipedia says: "EDGE is considered a 3G radio technology and is part of ITU's 3G definition." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_Data_Rates_for_GSM_Evolution –  Jonik Aug 18 '09 at 20:55
    
Sorry my bad. –  Notorious Arab Aug 19 '09 at 19:00
    
It may be in the ITU 3G definitions, but that Wikipedia entry reads like propaganda. EDGE is typically referred to as "2.5G" (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2.5G for another perspective) by everyone else and does not require the UMTS technology to work. –  jrg Aug 20 '09 at 22:08
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