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—and use apps that go online.
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.
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 your iPhone can get online almost anywhere you can make a phone call. You’ll know when you’re on one of these networks because your status bar bears a symbol like or .
The bad news is that it’s slow. Dog slow—dial-up slow.
You can’t be on a phone call while ...