Why Apple’s iPhone doesn’t need 3G

Apple’s decision not to use 3G in their iPhone has left one question unasked, “Does 3G really improve the user experience dramatically?” Carl Howe asks for SeekingAlpha.

“Bandwidth doesn’t affect the mobile phone experience nearly as much as most people think. And in some cases, high bandwidth Internet is actually worse for the user than a low-bandwidth one,” Howe writes. “How can this be?”

• People confuse network bandwidth with latency
• High bandwidth radio networks are more error-prone
• Phone processors and software don’t necessarily keep up with fast data transmission
• High bandwidth networks drain batteries

Howe writes, “Carriers, analysts, and consumers alike have an unhealthy obsession with bandwidth to the exclusion of other important factors that affect the user experience with a phone. Just as the computer industry finally figured out that more gigahertz wasn’t necessarily better for users, the phone industry is going to discover the same point (and for the same reasons). And companies that use limited bandwidth in smarter ways to deliver a better user experience — like Apple — are going to have a leg up on their competitors no matter what network they use.”

Much more in the full article, including explanations of the above bullet points, here.


  1. 3G isn’t the end all be all. My friend’s Moto Q with 3G doesn’t web surf really any faster than my iPhone. A big part of the reason is because the browser on the Q sucks to holy hell. Web pages literally open maybe a couple of seconds quicker on the Q is all, it’s hardly a noticeable difference. And when on wi-fi of course, the iPhone is 2-3x faster than the Q on 3G is at rendering pages.

  2. I have a Vodafone data modem for my MBP, and in a year’s operation I have only seen 3G a handful of times.

    Coverage (in the UK) seems to be VERY sparse, except in metro areas which are not where I need to work.

    Sure 3G may be nice to have but I doubt that it’ll make much practical difference to iPhone usage, to me at any rate.

  3. I played with a new Palm Centro yesterday…..I was able to tune into NFL Network in seconds…LIVE TV. Don’t tell me there is not a difference. I am upgrading from a Treo 650….slow internet…just like the iPhone. Centro = $99. Comes with AIM, MSN messenger, and Yahoo messenger out of the box. Only available from Sprint, which is fine with me. I love Sprint, they are the reason I didn’t buy an iPhone. I could write all about why Sprint is the best, but I’ll let you look for yourself.

  4. My brother-in-law in Hong Kong has a 3G phone (HSDPA). It’s basically a single-touch iPhone, but one neat feature is that it has built-in GPS functionality. It was pretty cool hearing the phone call out directions as he was driving. 3G may not be the end all or be all, but there are definite benefits.

  5. I call bullshit on this article. There is no such thing as a network that’s too fast. It’s true, factors like UI, battery life and error correction are all very important, but if you have all three of those and a slow network, forget it.

  6. @Joe – like this one? This is the slowest-loading page I know of.

    This is like the folks arguing that cooperative multitasking is better than preemptive. The tech is behind for good reasons, but it’s behind… and it’ll stay that way until Jobs and Co. find a chipset that meet their specs. Period.

  7. Nick Holla,
    You’re missing the point. No one is saying there isn’t speed increases with 3G. What’s being said is that sometimes that speed increase carries problems that outweigh the benefit of the speed.

  8. With 3G and the camera on the front-side, when I am connected to my friend, he can see me ad I can see him. How could my friend see me when the camera is on the back side of the iPhone? Seeing my friend on my iPhone screen is what communication about rather than only hear his/her voice !!

  9. 3G is mandatory.

    In many cases while on EDGE iPhone cannot receive phone calls (they go direct to voicemail)

    This IMO is the reason there is no iPhone SDK or iChat on the iPhone. anything that keeps the EDGE active is going to expose this issue more and more.

    3G is mandatory

  10. Wow, you all are stoopid.

    EDGE — Checking email? Missed Call
    EDGE– Surfing the ‘Nettt? Missed Call
    EDGE– Checking Weather? Missed Call
    3G — No missed calls.

    Whenever that Broadcom 3G chip comes out in 6 months, iPhone will offer 3G. The rest is simply excuses.

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