Smartphone data usage increased by 50 percent during the second quarter of 2013, Citrix reported, and mobile data projections set overall data usage to 300 percent its current levels by 2017. A large reason for this mobile data increase is the increased availability of 4G networks, as 4G phones see twice as much data usage as phones with slower connections. As 4G LTE smartphones become more common, overall data consumption, especially with mobile TV and video content, will rise.

A data network such as 4G is the type your mobile phone uses to connect to a wireless data network. The 3G network could attain speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps, while 4G goes up to 12 Mbps in theory but 300 Mbps in practice. The upload rate is 100 times higher than 3G network, at 500 Mbps, while the highest download rate is 1 Gbps, according to Diffen. Essentially, 4G is close to a standard home Internet connection speed, while 3G is closer to DSL speeds. Most new phones are adopting 4G as the standard for their data connection, making it more attractive to wireless service providers to build up their 4G network.

The Downside

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the 4G network, however. The main drawback is your coverage area. 3G has been around significantly longer than 4G, and the coverage area reflects that. While your 4G phone can switch back and forth between the two networks, it’s hard to justify picking up a 4G phone if you only get 3G speeds. The other issue is that 4G connectivity is currently only available in newer, high-end smartphones. If you want access to the faster network for watching mobile TV and videos, but you don’t really care about having the best processor, you don’t have a lot of choices out there currently.

Who Benefits Most?

If your smartphone is something you only use to check your text messages, email and social networks on, you’re not going to get the biggest benefit out of a 4G connection and it’s probably worth waiting for the price on 4G phones to drop before you take the plunge. However, if you use your smartphone extensively for data through streaming movies and television shows as a second-screen device or for serious gaming or as a primary Internet tool, having the 4G option is valuable.

Another benefit is for people who live in rural areas who don’t have good broadband Internet penetration. While you might not have access to high-speed Internet outside of satellite, you may have access to 4G coverage. You can even bundle your existing internet and services with 4G for better pricing and rewards, according to That coverage is more solid and faster than most satellite connections, so it’s worth considering. Most wireless service providers allow you to use a Wi-Fi hot spot service or app to turn your phone into a wireless router for your computers. This gives all of your devices access to the 4G connection. Although if you connect many devices through your phone, you’ll encounter slowness as the bandwidth gets used up.

~ Jasmine Leighty