Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you will have already heard of the 4G craze that's revolutionised mobile technology. Offering users the chance to experience super-fast downloading and streaming speeds, this is the stuff that technology enthusiasts drool over. As with all new developments, there's a myriad of questions that need to be answered.
Typical subjects to ponder are where 4G is available, what are the best phones you can get, is 4G really for me, and more. Fear not however, as this handy guide aims to drag you out of the quagmire of uncertainty, before dusting you off and placing you on the path of enlightenment.
Sounds good, but can I even get 4G where I am?
There's really no point having a shiny 4G-enabled handset if you can't get the coverage, right? This is one of the 'no brainers' that Kevin Bacon insists on reminding us about when we're getting ready to watch a film at the cinema. Cities up and down the UK are now able to experience the joys of super-fast mobile browsing, but country-wide availability won't happen until 2015. So for the time being, which lucky places have been privileged enough to receive this wondrous gift?
Currently, EE has the largest amount of coverage. Of course, this is hardly surprising considering it had almost a year's head start on its competitors. Great swathes of the nation, from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, right the way down to Southampton, Portsmouth and Plymouth have been allowed access to the new network. The company aims to provide 98 per cent of the UK with 4G availability by the end of the year.
O2 customers can make the switch in locations such as Newcastle, Bradford, Birmingham and Coventry. It intends to be able to offer the service to 98 per cent of the population by the end of 2015, a full year later than EE.
Vodafone has also begun to roll out its super-fast network in a number of cities, recently adding Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle and Manchester to the fold. It also aims to bring 4G to the masses by the next of next year.
Three is doing things entirely differently. Instead of releasing it en-masse throughout a number of locations, only 3,000 lucky customers have been hooked up to the service. The network is calling it a trial period and has announced that a further 42 locations will be activated during the coming year.
Hooray, I can get it – but what phone to choose?
Success. You've found you can get coverage in your area, but now the small matter of deciding which shiny handset to purchase rears its ugly head. The most popular handsets include the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5S, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z1. So let's have a quick look at the runners and riders.
Samsung's flagship model comprises of a five-inch, Full HD screen and is backed by quad-core processor. It also has a 13-megapixel camera. Apple's new 5S handset is currently the smallest phone of its kind on the market and contains a powerful 64-bit processor and a fingerprint identity centre.
The HTC One has a 4.7-inch Full HD display and contains a 4-megapixel camera, which displays larger pixels than usual. Meanwhile, the Xperia Z1 has a five-inch Full HD display and 20-megapixel camera. Its crowning glory however, is the fact that it is completely waterproof, unlike its competitors (remember the internet spoof that caused gullible iPhone users to drown their handsets?)
In the words of Columbo: just one more thing
Phew, almost there. Once you've got the basics covered, the big question is if the network is right for you. Well, considering 4G will eventually replace the existing service, you'll either have to make the plunge of your own accord or be dragged kicking and screaming to conversion – think Cybermen and you probably get the idea.
Speaking on a purely technological level, the new network is up to ten times faster than its 3G counterpart, so that in itself should make you sit up and think. It may still be prudent to hold back a little if you haven't dived head-first already, just to see if there is any decrease in tariff prices as EE's dominance weakens. However, sooner rather later, you're going to want to make the switch.