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3G vs. 4G

Most cell phones, tablets and other portable devices connect to a cellular network for Internet access anywhere. The third generation of cellular network, 3G, is the most widespread service in the United States but provides relatively slow download and upload speeds. The next-generation network, 4G, offers speeds similar to Wi-Fi so you can enjoy more demanding downloads like streaming media anytime. However, 4G is not available in all locations yet. Compare the differences between these networks to find out which meets your data needs.

3G

4G

Download/Upload Speed

SlowerFaster

Regional Availability

WidespreadLimited to major cities depending on carrier

Data Usage

Moderate/LowHigh

3G Networks

Advantages of 3G

  • Available almost everywhere - 3G networks can be accessed almost anywhere you have cellular reception, since they are now widespread throughout the U.S.
  • Get online without Wi-Fi - Widespread 3G networks make it possible to connect with 3G-enabled devices without worrying about finding a Wi-Fi hotspot, so you can stay connected constantly.
Limitations of 3G
 
  • Slower speed - Speed is generally lower than 4G or Wi-Fi, and without excellent reception it may be difficult to load larger content to your tablet, smartphone or other device like videos and media.
  • Battery drain - Mobile devices will often use more battery power connecting to 3G compared to Wi-Fi. For example, if you're moving in and out of 3G and 4G network areas during a train commute, your device will use extra power switching between the two connection types.

4G Networks

Advantages of 4G

  • Fast connection - 4G networks are much faster, comparable to Wi-Fi, and can handle data-intensive tasks like streaming video.
  • Secure access - Compared to using a public Wi-Fi network without password protection, mobile networks are generally more secure, so you can feel more confident accessing and browsing your important data on a 4G-connected device.
Limitations of 4G
 
  • Limited availability - Each cellular service provider is continuing to roll out 4G services throughout various cities and regions in the U.S. You'll need to check that your area gets coverage to get the most out of your phone.
  • Rapid data usage - It's easy to eat up a lot of data when you're enjoying streaming media and browsing many websites on 4G. If you don't have an unlimited data plan, you'll want to pay careful attention to your usage on this kind of connection.