Both my iPhone 4S and iPad 2 are running iOS 5.1. Both are AT&T models. When not connected to Wi-Fi, the network indicator on the iPhone shows 4G while the iPad shows 3G. Does the iPad use a different network?

I'm not looking to stir up religious fervor over the semantics of 4G vs. 4G LTE. I'm just trying to find out if my iPad and my iPhone have the same data connection capabilities or not.


The short answer is yes - the 4G on the iPhone 4S is merely a label change for AT&T's HSPA+ network. More info can be found in this Apple.SE question.

From Apple's specs page for the iPad 2:

Wi-Fi + 3G for AT&T

  • UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz);
  • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

From Apple's specs page for the iPhone 4s:

  • UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz);
  • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • If the networks are the same, why no label change on the iPad 2? – tlatkovich Mar 9 '12 at 19:53
  • 1
    @tlatkovich - just a guess: the 4S is the current high end phone, so a marketing pitch is put in place. The iPad 2 is no longer the high end device in its class - no special marketing done there! See this CNET Q&A quote (news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-57393828-266/…): "Unfortunately, as I explained in the previous question, the new 4G icon on the updated iPhone 4S is simply a marketing trick. It is meaningless when it comes to the performance of the device." – JW8 Mar 9 '12 at 19:59

iPhone 4S supports HSPA+, while iPad 2 doesn't.

HSPA+ is technically not 4G, but is being advertised as 4G by networks like AT&T and T-Mobile in US. Pre-iOS 5.1, Apple wasn't calling HSPA+ a 4G network, but they have started calling it 4G now to match AT&T's other "4G" phones that are using the same signals and protocols as the iPhone.

If you are in HSPA+ supported area, you should hopefully get better speeds on iPhone 4S.

  • Your answer makes sense, however, the Apple specs @JW01 lists below do not show HSPA+ for the iPhone 4S. – tlatkovich Mar 9 '12 at 19:56
  • @tlatkovich, HSPA is comprised of several different protocols (HSDPA & HSUPA, among others). Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Speed_Packet_Access – JW8 Mar 9 '12 at 20:28

They use the same network and speeds will vary depending on how AT&T allocates bandwidth.

Too much is made out of theoretical speeds and not enough about actual, "real world" results. All carriers (and ISPs) throttle bandwidth depending on various factors (network congestion, area, population density, etc.). And you'll likely see no difference between the two devices in terms of network performance (or a negligible one). If you'd like to test the speeds, you can always download Speedtest.net Mobile (by Ookla), found in the App Store. But be careful how you interpret those results. Carriers are known to throttle data differently (for example, Bell Canada, at one time, throttled App Store downloads more aggressively than other data).

As for the badge, it is reflective of the device's technical capabilities. The iPad 2 was not marketed as supporting 4G speeds (unlike the iPhone 4S), which is why it does not present the respective badge. However, this is more of an artificial marketing strategy than an accurate measure of network performance, which as described above, will vary depending on many factors.

  • +1, agree with the marketing pitch reason & the theoretical vs actual speeds. – JW8 Mar 9 '12 at 20:00

Yes, the iPad 2 supports the same 14.4Mbps HSPA+ protocol the iPhone 4S does.

T-Mobile markets 4G in phones with both either 14.4Mbps HSPA+ or 21Mbps HSPA+ as both do not have a substantial difference in terms of performance with current 3G network congestion in the US.

On my iPhone 4S I reached a high-5Mbps download speed while on my 4 it reached 3.5Mbps. Meanwhile on the AT&T Galaxy S 2 with 21Mbps HSPA+ I reached speeds of 5Mbps as well.

The new iPad on the other hand expands that to the 21Mbps HSPA+ and dual mode HSPA 48Mbps DC-HSPA+ along with 72Mbps LTE

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