Are You Getting the Best Internet Speed on Your Smartphone?

smartphone speed mobile management

Not all signal bars are created equal

Many people think their mobile device determines how fast their wireless Internet’s going to be. Phone manufacturers emphasize this by highlighting new hardware and software, such as the iPhone 3GS (according to Steve Jobs, the “S” stands for “Speed”). But your smartphone is only part of the equation when it comes to speedy web page loads and data transmission. If your company’s mobile management plan relies on high speed data transfer you need to consider what your phone will be able to do.

Your carrier’s network is the ultimate limit on data transfer speeds. A fast phone will still slow down on an older network.

How do networks and phones interact to determine your data transfer speed? We field questions about this every day. Let’s answer a few for you now.

Would the data on my Blackberry be slower than on an iPhone or Android phone?

Older Blackberries and phones are limited to slower networks, so if you’re on the second or third year of a contract you might be stuck with legacy technology such as the EDGE network. Newer Blackberries along with iPhones and Android handsets can use faster 3G networks such as Bell and Telus’ HSDPA, but there’s a catch: You need to be in range on the newer network.

In many areas you’ll be stuck with EDGE or other slower protocols, ultimately defaulting to basic GSM with no data access at all. New phones will still work, but at a reduced speed. Make sure you know your area’s coverage before you count on high transfer speeds.

What about Wi-Fi?

Some smartphones (including the iPhone – check the model of any phone you plan to get) can also connect to nearby Wi-Fi hot spots. Some carriers (such as Bell in Canada) operate Wi-Fi in busy areas. Otherwise, you can make use of Starbucks, home Wi-Fi, work Wi-Fi and other options. The great thing about Wi-Fi is that it doesn’t count as data transfer through your phone for billing purposes and it’s fast. The disadvantage is that older phones can’t connect through Wi-Fi, and it may not be available in all areas.

How can I tell what degree of coverage I have in my area?

First thing’s first: Ask carriers about their coverage in areas you plan on using your phone before you sign a contract! Once you have your phone out and about, the display will show what type of connection is available. This will normally display as follows:

3G: Indicates a 3G connection is available. This will only appear on 3G capable handsets.

EDGE: Indicates a slower EDGE (2G) connection is available.

edge (“lowercase edge”): Indicates only a GSM connection is available, with no data transfer.

Wi-Fi Symbol: The Wi-Fi symbol appears in Wi-Fi capable phones in range of a nearby network. You will be prompted to enter login information for any unfamiliar network. You can sometimes set up familiar networks (home, work) to connect automatically.

We hope this clears up some confusion and helps you find plans with the best data transfer speeds.

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