Over the past year, mobile data has become a topic in the mainstream media. The stories are mostly about AT&T’s network growing pains, how iPhone users are overtaxing the networks and are experiencing greatly reduced bandwidth as a result.
Carriers love talking about bandwidth. It seems to be the only thing that matters in terms of mobile data. When the iPhone 3G came out, the dumbed-down line that was used to describe the difference between 2G and 3G in Apple’s marketing was that 3G is “twice as fast”.
I have been trying to make heads or tails of this whole data speed thing for quite some time. I had noticed in more than a few instances that 2G is just as fast, and sometimes faster than 3G. With all this marketing about how much faster 3G is, I set out to do a few tests of my own to determine if 3G is a must-have, or if carriers are trying to oversell the technology as a giant leap when it’s really just an incremental step.
WiFi vs 3G vs EDGE (2.75G)
These tests were each conducted 10 times each, with the top score and the bottom score omitted from the average time. Tests were performed at off-prime time hours to get the speediest results. I am using a Rogers BlackBerry Bold 9000 with only the testing apps running.
For years BlackBerry has been engineered from the ground up to deal with small amounts of compressed and encrypted data. Let’s see how all the GSM connection types deal with the most important part of communicating with a BlackBerry: messaging.
2.75G 1.2 seconds
3G 2.3 seconds
WiFi 1.0 seconds
2.75G 3.1 seconds
3G 3.6 seconds
WiFi 2.1 seconds
2.75G 3.9 seconds
3G 5.1 seconds
WiFi 2.2 seconds
BlackBerry has recently experienced a huge consumer boom. Let’s compare the different connection modes with some typical consumer uses: browsing and rich media.
YouTube: History of Dance – time until video begins streaming
2.75G 9 seconds
3G 4 seconds
WiFi 3 seconds
Web Browsing: BlackBerryCool Store – total load time
2.75G 10 seconds
3G 7 seconds
WiFi 6 seconds
Radio Tuning – time until audio begins streaming
2.75G 22.0 seconds
3G 9.0 seconds
WiFi 2.0 seconds
- Best speed results in both low latency and high bandwidth scenarios
- Additional Battery drain
- Works while you are on a call
- Best carrier-connection scores for messages, and IM.
- does not work while you are on a call, messages and IMs poll after your call is over.
- Draws slightly less power than 3G.
- Best score for rich media, transfers.
- Works while you’re on a call.
- Marginally slower than 2G for small amounts of data.
High bandwidth is great for transferring large files and streaming music and video. Low latency is great for messaging and other applications that need to access smaller chunks of information, but is only 15% faster on a very small time frame (an average of a half-second faster).
Leave us a comment and let us know your opinion. What do you prefer, low-latency or high bandwidth activities? Does wireless connectivity play a big role in your choosing of a new device?