With its faster download and upload speeds and lower latency, 4G is simply better than 3G for many things you might want to do with your phone or tablet device.
We rely on being constantly connected to the internet, whether at home or out and about and our smartphones and tablets are used for much more than calling each other. Indeed, if you tot up all the times you use your phone for different purposes, you might be surprised to find out just how little of that is spent talking to somebody in comparison with checking social media accounts, playing with connected applications, browsing the internet and many more activities that require a constant data connection.
That's why 4G, with real-world speeds that rival the national home broadband average, is a no-brainer for anyone with a smartphone these days. If you want to make best use of your shiny new phone, you need internet connectivity to match. So, these are just some of the things that run much better when you have 4G.
1. Video calling
Video calling applications like Skype and Apple's own FaceTime are adaptive in that you will get the best picture and audio performance possible, depending on your internet connection. That means you can do both over 3G, but not only does 4G provide greater bandwidth, allowing more data to be transmitted and received per second, it also has a faster response time - latency.
This is the amount of time it takes for information to be transmitted between two sources and the lower the better. Lower latencies prompt devices to attempt to send more data in one go, which improves picture and audio quality. Image quality for video calling is therefore higher and less pixelated and that there are less errors during a call. The same can be said when using other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, with call quality being greater the more bandwidth available.
If you need to use a laptop or other device without mobile internet connectivity and there is no Wi-Fi, a great option is to tether your phone via a cable or Bluetooth and use your smartphone's internet connection. Naturally, a 4G connection with faster speeds would be more ideal in that situation, as you will be getting almost a home broadband or Wi-Fi-style experience.
A dedicated 4G mobile wireless dongle, otherwise known as mobile Wi-Fi, can also be used to ensure you have your own internet hotspot to take with you wherever you go. As long as there is coverage, you will be able to connect to the internet.
Not only do faster speeds improve gaming experiences on tablets and phones, with the ability to upload and download scores, Facebook integration, game updates and more, the lower latency offered by 4G services means that multiplayer online games are more feasible.
First person shooters like N.O.V.A. 3 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout offer console-like multiplayer match-ups, with players competing live with and against each other over the internet and latency is essential for ensuring that play is smooth and uninterrupted. Many live multiplayer games won't even let you play against others on 3G.
Although it is possible to watch TV and movies streamed from services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix over a 3G connection, you will undoubtedly get a better experience when using 4G. Most if not all video streaming services use adaptive picture technologies, which means that the picture quality differs depending on the strength and speed of the internet connection.
While Netflix recommends a minimum broadband connection of 5Mbps for HD-quality video streaming and the UK national average for 3G is 6.1Mbps, that is not going to be achieved at all times and will dip below that top speed depending where you are. That will result in the film or TV show you are watching to revert to SD quality at times. Indeed, with the higher latency, you might even experience buffering. And in our experience using 3G to watch streamed video, you might not even get the video to play.
The national average speed for 4G is 15.1Mbps, which is more than enough to ensure a stable HD-quality stream, even when it dips a little. The video can also take less time to start on 4G.
Sometimes when out and about you might need to download large files. We've often needed to download an app or two when not near a Wi-Fi hotspot and while some phones restrict downloads to a maximum amount over a mobile connection, in order to preserve user data limits, they will often still allow downloads around 100MB, which will take over two minutes using a 3G connection (according to UK average). The same 100MB file will take less than a minute using a 4G connection (based on the UK average speed). Some 4G connections, such as EE's 4G+ service would munch through it in less than 30 seconds.
6. Picture uploading
One of the things that most cloud services offer is instant picture uploading. Whenever you take a picture with your smartphone, not only does it store it to your phone's internal drive, you can have it automatically save onto your Google Drive, iCloud, Amazon Cloud, Dropbox or another cloud storage solution.
This is a smooth process when connected to 4G but we've found that it can take ages when connected via 3G or even not happen at all until you get to a Wi-Fi connection.
That's because the upload speeds offered by 4G are very impressive, often dramatically better even than home broadband. EE's average upload speed in recent nationwide tests were 14.7Mbps, which means that a full resolution picture taken on a phone (which tends to be less than 2MB in size) will take less than a second to upload. The average upload speed for 3G is 1.6Mbps. The same picture therefore would take 10 seconds or more to upload.