EDGE is at least as good as 3G for iPhone

Amid the hype and noise of the Apple iPhone launch in Europe, one of the main points of contention has been the lack of 3G in the device.

Many expected the European version of the wonder phone to ship with a higher speed data connection and some operators even grumbled that lack of 3G was what turned them off the device, although this was probably sour grapes.

But one consultancy thinks that the lack of 3G won’t do Apple any harm at all. In fact, US-based consultancy and analyst firm Blackfriars Communications, reckons EDGE might even have the… well, edge, over 3G.

Blackfriars analyst Carl Howe, said that 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 low bandwidth.

Howe said the main issue is that people often confuse network bandwidth with latency. The gist of this argument is that because mobile phone networks use narrow band radio signals, loading web pages on a 3G phone may actually take about the same amount of time as an EDGE network. High bandwidth radio networks also tend to be more error prone.

A better known fact is that high bandwidth networks drain batteries quicker. Generally speaking, if a device wants to connect to a network ten times faster, the device will consume 100 times the power – a problem that has long dogged the development of 3G devices.

Finally, Howe notes that the processor/OS/software combination is just as important to the user experience as anything. If the device can’t keep up with the data transmission speed of the network then all that extra bandwidth is for nothing.

“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),” said Howe. “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,” he said.


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