updated 03:10 pm EDT, Fri October 7, 2011
ATT wants Apple to exaggerate iPhone 4S speeds
AT&T is pressing Apple to give in to its network marketing strategy with the iPhone 4S, an internal memo slipped out on Friday. It's "working with Apple" to patch in a change where the new iPhone will show "4G" near its signal indicator when on the HSPA+ network. The change as relayed in This is my next's copy would be to underscore the "unique network advantage" of AT&T's version.
A firmware update was supposedly coming, although when wasn't mentioned.
The change if it comes about would partly run against Apple's own attitude towards network speed claims. During its Let's Talk iPhone event, Apple's Phil Schiller expressly said Apple wouldn't get into claims of what constituted 4G. It took the unusually honest approach of treating the iPhone as 3G but contending that the 14.4Mbps speed was fast enough to compete with others.
In the most literal definition, no current cellular network reaches the true 4G speeds defined by LTE-Advanced and WiMAX 2. Even common definitions of 4G have usually required a technology switch such as regular LTE or WiMAX. AT&T's HSPA+ service is technically 3G and, while much faster than the EVDO that Sprint and Verizon have to use, isn't 4G in the truest sense.
Sprint was the first carrier in the US to claim 4G speeds with its WiMAX network. T-Mobile sparked increasing chaos, however, when it decided that any 3G over 7.2Mbps could be labelled as 4G. The step led AT&T to start rebadging its HSPA+ as 4G and even Canadian providers that had previously sworn to be accurate about their 4G claims.