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4G LTE: How fast is the new iPhone 5?

The new iPhone 5, which was unveiled Wednesday in San Francisco, has no shortage of features. Perhaps chief among them: 4G LTE. 

By Matthew Shaer / September 12, 2012

Apple exec Greg Joswiak discusses the new iPhone 5 at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Reuters

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The new iPhone 5, which debuted today, is the lightest and thinnest iPhone to date. 

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It's also the first Apple smart phone to truly take advantage of 4G LTE technology. (The iPhone 4S was sometimes branded as a 4G phone, but as Horizons editor Chris Gaylord explains in a helpful primer, the 4G on the iPhone 4S was actually more like 3G+.) Expect much improved download times and faster Web browsing. The iPhone 5, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller explained at a press conference earlier today, "just screams." 

In the US, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint will all offer 4G LTE plans for the iPhone 5. (T-Mobile, which doesn't carry the iPhone at all, is left out of the mix.) In Canada, CNET reports, 4G LTE carriers include Bell, Telus, Fido, Virgin, and Kudo; in Europe, it's Deutsche Telekom and EE. That's a lot of coverage. Modest question: How fast will the LTE connection be on the new iPhone, exactly? 

Well, Apple puts download speeds at an astonishing 100 megabits per second, or Mbps – more than twice as fast as the 42 Mbps Apple says you'd get from a 3G connection. But in an itsy bitsy postscript, the company offers a caveat: "Speeds will vary based on site conditions." Over at Gotta Be Mobile, Chuong Nguyen suggests users heed that warning. 

"[F]or many of today’s average American consumers, [Apple's posted] speeds may not translate into real-world usage," Nguyen writes. "While the hardware may be capable of supporting these speeds, achieving these speeds in real life depend on more than just the hardware on your phone."

Instead, it will depend on the proximity of towers, the strength of the network, and in fact, whether 4G LTE is even available in your neighborhood at all. 

You might get that 100 megabits per second, in other words, in optimal conditions.

And you might not.

Planning on picking the iPhone 5? Drop us a line in the comments section. And to receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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