Same Phone (Almost), Two Networks, Different Results

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For a time, the only thing that mattered was that Verizon Wireless finally had an iPhone. Now, both it and AT&T have the iconic device and all is equal.

Well, not so much. Ars Technica has a story and a nice set of graphs that describe the differences in speeds of the two networks' versions of the iPhone. The site's investigators found that the Verizon iPhone loads data slower than the AT&T iPhone "in most major areas." It points out that AT&T uses High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) on a Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) network, while Verizon runs Evolution Data Optimized Rev. A (EVDO Rev. A) on a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network.

That's a lot of confusing acronyms. The concept is pretty easy, however: A phone is only one piece of several puzzle pieces that fit together to determine speed.

The story says that GSM networks have a theoretical maximum speed of 14 Megabits per second (Mbps) and CDMA only 3 Mbps. The tests produced much data. The story said that there was much nuance, but the overall winner seems to be AT&T. That's a bit interesting, considering the heat the carrier got for its iPhone problems in New York City and San Francisco.

According to Ars Technica, however, AT&T is doing well, at least in the Chicagoland test locales:

When it comes to the best of the best Speedtest results (ping times, download speeds, and upload speeds), the AT&T iPhone won. AT&T also won the best of the best app download times (the best time was 43 seconds) and the best of the best YouTube loading times (2 minutes and 1 second). Basically, AT&T won everything when it came to its best results compared against the Verizon iPhone's best results.

If the challenge for Verizon is the pokey nature of EVDO Rev. A, change may be coming. The Wireless Federation reports Ericsson said this week that it has successfully deployed what it claims is the first CDMA 450 MHz EVDO Rev B network in Scandinavia. The network was deployed with Net1/ice.net and runs across rural Denmark, Sweden and Norway. No other details were available, however.

Last year, Qualcomm introduced a chipset-the MDM6600-that ended up in the Droid Pro for Verizon. Engadget said in late December that it supports HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev B.

The bottom line is that the difference in performance between the two flavors of iPhones is strong evidence that those interested in gadget performance should pay at least as much attention to the networks as to the devices themselves.