One of the iPhone 4S' hype points is that its dual antenna HSDPA compatible setup allows it for faster data speeds than the older iPhone 4. How much faster is that on Australian networks? I hit the streets to find out. If you've already got an iPhone 4, the reasons to upgrade to an iPhone 4S are less than they are, say, for an iPhone 3G/3GS user. Still, one of the points that Apple made regarding its performance was that the new antennae design and chipset allow it to get better and faster data access speeds, as well as making it a more stable phone for calls and texts. Texts are so tiny as to be untestable, and voice calls are beset with problems in terms of assessing quality, especially as the problem in a voice call may be entirely based at the other end of the call. Data though — that's a number, and it's a number I can count. There's still a need for some caution with these figures, though; if there's one thing that's consistent with mobile networks and data, it's that they're inconsistent.
How I tested This isn't the world's most comprehensive test, and I'm not going to pretend it was. What I was primarily interested in looking at was whether the iPhone 4S' dual antennae and HSDPA compatibility delivered better data results over Australian networks than the iPhone 4.
Tests were run using the Speedtest.net iOS app while staying in the same spot at Circular Quay in Sydney's CBD. It's one of the busiest mobile markets in the country, but equally one that's awash with mobile signal. The same handsets were used for testing in each case, switching between a Telstra, Vodafone and Optus micro SIM. Tests were run three times each to get a network average for the iPhone 4S and then the iPhone 4 in as quick a succession as technically feasible. One random observation here: If you keep drawing out iPhone 4S from a bag in Circular Quay, seagulls will assume you're throwing food out and swarm you. Smartphones are not typically edible.
Conclusions There's not much of a real, perceptible difference. Yes, the Telstra score is marginally higher for the iPhone 4S than the iPhone 4, but the reverse is true for both Vodafone and Optus. At these kinds of speeds, the differences are likely to be imperceptible; this is exactly why when telcos talk network speeds, they always talk "up to" rather than "more than" figures.
Your Complete iPhone 4S Speed Guide
Local speed tests are a good start, but that's only part of the iPhone 4S speed story.
It's faster. Screens slide smoother, apps launch quicker and stuff just works better. But that shouldn't really come as a surprise-we've seen the difference between an A4 and an A5 processor before. More »
You asked for it, so I’ve done it. The iPhone 4S vs the Samsung Galaxy S II. Which phone reigns supreme? More »
The iPhone 4S is faster than the iPhone 4. How much faster? And how much faster than its non-Apple kin? We did some benchmark bench pressing to find out. More »