Chapter 13. Getting Online

As you may have read, the name “iPhone” grows less appropriate every year, as making phone calls fades in importance. Today, Americans send texts five times more often than they make phone calls. Among teenagers, 92 percent never make calls with their smartphones.

What do they do with them, then? Go online. On an iPhone, the web comes to life, looming larger and clearer than you’d think possible on a cellphone. You get real email, full-blown YouTube videos, hyper-clear Google maps, and all kinds of Internet goodness, right in your hand. And instead of phone calls, we have Internet-based voice networks like Skype and WhatsApp, or video-calling apps like Skype and FaceTime.

The iPhone can get onto the Internet using either of two kinds of wireless networks: cellular or Wi-Fi. Which kind you’re on makes a huge difference to your iPhone experience.

Cellular Networks

Once you’ve accepted the miracle that a cellphone can transmit your voice wirelessly, it’s not much of a stretch to realize that it can also transmit your data. Cellphone carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and so on) maintain separate networks for voice and Internet data—and they spend billions of dollars trying to make those networks faster. Over the years, they’ve come up with data networks like these:

  • Old, slow cellular network. The earliest, slowest cellular Internet connections were called things like EDGE (AT&T) or 1xRTT (Verizon and Sprint). The good part is that these networks are almost everywhere, so ...

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