In a Triumph of Marketing, AT&T Falsely ‘Upgrades’ Apple’s iPhone 4S to ‘4G’

Besides all the new iPad details revealed yesterday, Apple also released said about the update to the current OS software for the iPhone and iPad, which brings ”4G” to ATT iPhone 4S owners… sort of.

4G or not 4G? The topic is at the center of a controversy as a little 4G indicator symbol that suddenly showed up on iPhones as of Wednesday. Photo: Michael Kmak/Flickr

Those that updated their AT&T iPhone 4s with the newest software may notice that a 4G indicator has now taken the place of the 3G logo in the top left corner.

However, that doesn’t mean iPhone users will be enjoying faster speeds on their iPhones. Apple and AT&T have simply changed the naming to reflect AT&T’s new name for its HSPA+ network.

“AT&T iPhone 4S customers have been getting 4G speeds since day one,” AT&T’s Director of Corporate Communications Emily J. Edmonds told reporters.

AT&T offers the faster 4G LTE service for some of its smartphones and tablets, the iPhone 4S does not have the internal chipset necessary to connect to that network, writes The Huffington Post.

Instead it connects to the HSPA+ network, an older, though enhanced, 3G network whose peak data rates are slower than those on LTE, but which AT&T and T-Mobile both refer to as 4G on their website and advertising materials.

“The simple reason is that it’s a 4G device,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said in a phone interview. “AT&T runs two 4G technologies: One is called HSPA+ and the other is called LTE. This is an HSPA+ device, hence the 4G indicator.”

“I’ve seen that criticism, but it’s been accepted for some time by a variety of standards bodies that HSPA+ is a 4G network,” Siegel added. “I understand what people are saying but [HSPA+] has been recognized as 4G.”

Apple singles out that this is simply a name change on its part as well.  ”AT&T has rolled out a nationwide HSPA+ network and they refer to this high-speed network as 4G.  With iOS 5.1, iPhone 4S users will now see this reflected in the status bar,” Apple’s Natalie Harrison told ABC News.

But of course, that didn’t stop users from thinking the iPhone 4S has suddenly become a 4G device. On Twitter, @mariissaaaxo wrote, “ooo i am lovinn the 4G on my iphone now!”

Ian Weaver tweeted, “I have 4G on my iPhone now?! #hellyeah.” And @JakeGoecks13 bragged, “How bout the new update to the iPhone for AT&T makes it 4g now #movinup.”

Well, AT&T has faced plenty of criticism from technology experts on its 4G nomenclature. Despite the fact that the network is technically faster than 3G networks from Verizon or Sprint, it still isn’t as fast as LTE, which many consumers have come to associate with the “4G” term.

AT&T has been calling its HSPA+ network “4G” for the last year and many smartphones available from the carrier, such as the Galaxy Note, etc. are marketed as 4G.

Meanwhile, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said it had no right to decide what was 3G or 4G.

He said: “This [HPSA+] is what the majority of our competitors claim when they talk about 4G performance. We’re not going to get into a debate in the industry about what’s 4G and what isn’t – we’ll leave that for others to talk about.”

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