Why you should upgrade to 4G for your iPhone

Is 4G internet worth the extra expense? Should I get 4G on my iPhone?

The marketing for 4G promises a world of superfast mobile broadband that will enrich and enliven your day-to-day existence, but can that really be the case?

The UK's most popular mobile phone service, Three, offers 4G as a standard upgrade for all of its customers. Other networks like O2 and Vodafone require you to take out a costly 4G plan.

See also: Best 3G and 4G networks for iPhone 2014Everything you need to know about 4G internet

4G review: Does 4G web browsing feel faster than 3G on an iPhone?

Macworld writer Christopher Brennan took the plunge and swapped his iPhone from a perfectly reasonable 02 service on their 3G network to an all singing, all dancing 4G contract with EE, the love child of Orange and T-Mobile.

"I wasn't certain the difference would be all that noticeable, but it is," Brennan reports.

"First off, the speed increase over standard 3G is great and downloading big files is much, much faster, but where I've found it makes the most difference is for those little things like emails with attachments, Vine video or Instagram - all pop up as speedily as they would on a fast home broadband connection. It's the same with getting apps. Strangely the 50MB limit on downloading from the App Store still applies, which is a pain, but the speed bump is noticeably impressive."

4G review: Battery life and the iPhone on a 4G network

Battery life takes a hit. You can still get about a full day out of the phone in normal use, but much of this depends on your usage. Newer models such as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus offer better battery life.

Tethering eats battery life like there's no tomorrow, but then that's nothing new. And you're likely to have backup battery solutions anyway.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison

4G review: What is iPhone 4G coverage like in the UK?

Coverage in London can be surprisingly patchy, depending on your network. Although Three has good coverage numbers in London, we find it drops to 3G more than we'd expect from the capital.

We've found coverage pretty good in major cities across the country, again depending on your network.

Note that 4G isn't as ubiqutous as the older 3G, and you'll still find the iPhone drops down to a 3G connection more than you'd like. Fortunately the switch between 3G and 4G is seamless.

The iPhone has become much faster on 3G networks since the iPhone 4s introduced dual-antenna technology.

The fact is, however, that even though mobile operators claim near 100 percent UK coverage there are still areas of the UK where that means a voice signal at best. In these places it doesn't really matter whether you're on a 3G or 4G network. Instead, you just want whichever network offers you the best coverage of any type.

4G review: Online 4G data-checking services

Check your 4G coverage using these services:

EE 4G coverage checker

Three 4G coverage checker

Vodafone 4G coverage checker

O2 4G coverage checker

4G review: Should I replace my home broadband with an iPhone 4G network?

Because of mobile data caps, and intermittent services, we're not sure that 4G is a home broadband replacement just yet, but as prices fall and caps grow then we can realistically see using a mobile connection at home too.

We've randomly tested speeds with the Speedtest.net service, and even where the signal isn't at full strength we can see around 10Mbps for downloads. It might not match the 120Mbps offered by some broadband providers in the UK, but it's certainly fast enough for serious internet usage.

4G review: Is it worth paying extra for 4G?

It’s always difficult to quantify the improvement in a service where 'faster' is the main benefit. For us the improved speeds make a huge difference. The whole process of doing stuff on the go is better. The iPhone performs web-connected actions more quickly and we can tether a MacBook or iPad to fast broadband data on the go.

Additional reporting by Chris Brennan

OUR VERDICT

The data caps can be still a bit of a restriction for fulltime 4G use and we'd prefer all the services to upgrade the data limits on their services. The exception is Three, which offers an unlimited 4G data plan for a reasonable price. Aside from the additional expense, battery life does take a hit, but overall we think it's worth it.

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