The Real Question: Is 3G Worth it?

I’m pretty sure that I can answer the “should I upgrade my iPhone?” question in this page alone, so let’s practice being succinct!

Without a doubt 3G is a lot faster than Edge on the iPhone, but it’s worth setting proper expectations; here are the raw numbers:

iPhone 3G Data Transfer Speed in Kbps (Higher is Better) 

Edge will download at around 110kbps, 1Mbps for 3G and 3Mbps for WiFi. Fast enough for web browsing, right? Wrong.

Let’s look at some real world tests:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed - 

I loaded the iPhone optimized Facebook home page, on Edge it took 9.2 seconds, 8.5 seconds on 3G and 3.8 seconds on WiFi. What’s interesting is that the initial connection to the server seems to take much longer on both Edge/3G than on WiFi, indicating that perhaps the DNS server AT&T is using is the reason why we’re so slow here.

Next up was Digg’s iPhone optimized site:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed -


Here 3G offers a more significant performance advantage, but it still takes around twice as long to render a page as WiFi. Again, I suspect that the problem here is the initial connection to the server (I’m testing 3G battery life now but once that’s done I’ll do some DNS performance tests).

Finally we have a image heavy site, a little hardware website called AnandTech:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed -


With an image heavy website we’re bound more by download speed than by latency, so while Edge took 45 seconds to load, 3G only took 17 seconds, and WiFi barely had an advantage at 13.5 seconds.

If the majority of sites you use on your iPhone are small, text heavy sites, then you honestly won’t notice a huge difference between Edge and 3G, and it won’t feel like WiFi anywhere to you. However, if you use sites with more images and content to download, 3G will feel more like WiFi and Edge just won’t cut it.

Did that help?

Final Words

That’s it for now, I’m running tests on the iPhone 3G as I publish this so expect a much more thorough look at the phone shortly.



View All Comments

  • Cecily - Monday, March 22, 2010 - link

    It is really a classical smart phone. Reply
  • MaxxxRacer - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    My girlfriend and I just got iPhones and we have the family plan. We were transfering from Sprint and I had no isssues. I created the iphone family plan when we bought the first iPhone (friday) and on Saturday we got the second one and added it to the family plan. Do note though, that this is an iPhone family plan, not the regular family plan. Reply
  • steveyballmer - Sunday, July 13, 2008 - link

    Microsoft is working on the REAL thing!
    You will feel stupid for buying one of these toys once you see it!

    Wait people, wait!">
  • The Preacher - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    "indicating that perhaps the DNS server AT&T is using is the reason why we’re so slow here"
    You may use whatever (public) DNS server you wish as long as you have an IP connection... provided you are able to change the DNS IP on your phone.

    Just google up some public DNS server list or try this">

    It would be best if you could ping those IPs from your phone (and pick the one with shortest delay) but I'm not sure if Apple included such a "sophisticated" application. :)
  • flackman - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    This could have something to do with the added load on the airwaves at the time. I would be interested to see how it stacks up in a few weeks. Reply
  • GL - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Well our pricing plans may suck but I just did the same speed test and got 1850 kbps on 3G speeds with an iPhone on the Rogers network. Previously I was getting 210 kbps via EDGE. I'm quite pleased with the speeds, even latency seems a tad bit better over 3G (but still slow overall at 150+ ms). Reply
  • cocoviper - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    I agree. I'd like to see a feature by feature comparison
    (reception, voice quality, GPS, camera, iTunes vs Sprint music store, AT&T 3G vs Sprint 3G, etc).
  • GhandiInstinct - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Could you please compare it to the HTC Diamond and Instinct?

    I'm completely not sold on the 3G and I don't own the original.

    I hate monopolies.
  • spidey81 - Saturday, July 12, 2008 - link

    What about a comparison to the Verizon network EVDO rev.A and the new LG Dare. I just recently upgraded to this device and love it. The iPhone may have a better screen, but I honestly think the Dare has the better package. It's not a "smart" phone, I know, but it certainly has a lot of the features that the iPhone lacks. Reply
  • gramboh - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    I was going to get an iPhone 3G on Rogers here in Canada today but didn't want to waste hours in line so I put my name down for the next shipment.

    I wasted a bunch of time at work ensuring there were no valid alternatives for my needs (good phone, good browsing, good media capabilities and most importantly good UI - I will use it to read email but not reply, not Blackberry level anyway).

    The Touch Diamond looked intriguing until I watched enough YouTube reviews to discover you STILL have to type with the damn stylus because the Windows Mobile touch keypad is TINY. I can't believe they didn't implement their own widescreen large size keyboard on the Diamond. That is a dealbreaker for me. The Blackberry Bold looks semi interesting but Blackberry's web browsers thus far have been utterly useless. iPhone it is.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now