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Tech Showdown: 3G vs. 4G


Cell phones, tablets and other portable electronics connect to a cellular network for internet access anywhere. These advanced networks are what make it possible to text, video chat and keep up with your social media feed. The third generation of cellular network, 3G, is the most widespread service but provides relatively slow speeds. The next-generation network, 4G, offers speeds similar to WiFi so you can enjoy more demanding downloads. Compare the differences between these networks to learn more about which is right for you.


Tech Showdown: 3G vs. 4G - Sears



Download/Upload Speed


Regional Availability

WidespreadLimited to major cities, depending on carrier

Data Usage

Low to moderateHigh

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 WiFi - Widespread 3G networks make it possible to connect smart devices without worrying about finding a wireless hotspot, so you can stay connected constantly.
Using a smartphone on a 3G network

Limitations of 3G

  • Slower speed - Speed is generally slower than 4G or WiFi, and without excellent reception it may be difficult to stream music or videos to your tablet or smartphone.
  • Battery drain - Mobile devices will often use more battery power connecting to 3G compared to WiFi. 


4G Networks


Video chatting on a smartphone using 4G

Advantages of 4G

  • Fast connection - 4G networks are much faster compared to WiFi, and can handle data-intensive tasks like streaming video.
  • Secure access - Compared to using a public WiFi 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. Check to see whether your area gets coverage to get the most out of your device.
  • Rapid data usage - It's easy to eat up a lot of data when you're streaming media 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.