Talking tech can feel like a contest to use as many acronyms as possible – especially when it comes to switching from 4G to 3G and all the other G’s in between.
But when it comes to your phone’s network connection, it’s not just a task of navigating the acronym jungle. Understanding the difference and value between 3G and 4G can help improve your overall mobile experience, so let’s get to work setting the rumours straight.
What’s with the “G”?
Chances are when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi your phone will display either ‘3G’ or ‘4G’. Both G’s are wireless internet standards, and the G stands for “generation”. If you’re on a 3G network you’re using the third generation, if you’ve got 4G displayed you’re using the fourth. Simple right?
As with all technologies it gets better with age, so should you be on the 4G bandwagon, or is 3G enough? Let’s find out.
4G is faster, much faster
Both the 3G and 4G network essentially do the same thing - connect your mobile device to the internet. The main noticeable difference is the speed at which you can send and receive data. At times, the 4G network can be up to ten times faster than its 3G counterpart – this all depends on factors like the phone you’re using and your location, but there’s no doubt that there’s a noticeable speed difference between the two networks.
It’s not all over for 3G
As with any mobile signal, the strength varies depending on your distance from the network receiver. As 3G is older and more established, its signal covers more of Australia. This means that if you have a 4G phone you’ll be able to access faster speeds in cities, but your phone might drop back to trusty 3G as you head into more rural areas.
You can check out the areas where 3G and 4G coverage is available across Australia using our network coverage map.
4G and your data allowance
There’s no difference in the amount of data you use when downloading a file using a 3G or 4G connection – the file size is the same. However, you may find that because you spend less time waiting for files to load when using the 4G network, you can browse more sites, watch more videos and send more selfies in the same amount of time – that’s why you might find yourself using more data over 4G.
It’s pretty common for those whizzing around in 4G cyberspace to install more apps and generally use their phone more frequently. Any apps you’ve downloaded will use your phone’s internet connection to send push notifications and other updates even when you’re not actively using the app itself – this can all add up and munch away at your data allowance without you realising. So make sure you’ve selected the right mobile or data plan to ensure you’ve got enough data to get you to you next renewal.
The G that’s best for your battery
It’s difficult to say whether 4G uses more of your phone’s battery life than 3G. How long your phone can last from a single charge before running out of juice depends on a few factors, including what phone you’re using, the operating system it’s running off, not to mention all the different apps you’re using.
That said, if you find yourself doing more things you love online when using a 4G connection like watching videos, Snapchatting or streaming music then that’ll likely lead to a flat battery quicker than usual. The good news is that newer phones are designed with better batteries that can handle operating over both 3G and 4G, so if you’re upgrading from an older model the likelihood is you won’t notice a difference.
The best of all the G’s
The 3G network is Australia’s backbone coverage, especially as the even older 2G is now being turned off. Most voice calls are still made over 3G networks, though 4G is slowly making an appearance. If you can only access 3G on your phone, the next time you upgrade your mobile you will be probably be 4G ready. You won’t need to do anything to turn on 4G; your phone will just automatically access the best network available.
So there you have it, if your phone and location are 4G compatible there aren’t really any negatives, so get up with the G’s and enjoy a speedier connection.