Are the new 4G phones any good?
The 4G phones currently available in the UK are basically just LTE-equipped versions of current top-end 3G phones, such as the iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One, along with a few mid range handsets such as the HTC One Mini and Nokia Lumia 820.
One of the advantages to being late to the 4G party is that we're spared the rubbish "first try" handsets that we suffered back when 3G came out, so don't be shy to try the new 4G phones.
4G handsets are available on every network, though if, as in Three's case, the network hasn't launched its 4G service yet, you'll be limited to 3G speeds for the time being.
Do the 4G versions of the iPad 4, iPad Mini and iPhone 5 work in the UK?
They do! The iPad 4, iPad mini and iPhone 5 all work on the 1800MHz frequency band used by EE. However they aren't compatible with the 800MHz or 2.6GHz bands that O2 and Vodafone use, so you'll only be able to enjoy 4G speeds on the previous generation of iDevices if you get one on EE or wait for Three to roll out 4G.
A few months ago this was a major issue, but now the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad Air and iPad mini 2 have all arrived and they're all theoretically compatible with every 4G network in the UK, though when it comes to the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 only EE and Vodafone actually offer them with 4G right now.
None of the older iPhones or iPads work with 4G on any UK network, including the still-not-discontinued-yet iPad 2, so even when buying through EE or Three you'll have to shell out for the more recent of Apple's offerings.
What are the 4G download speeds?
EE boasts speeds typically five times faster than current 3G networks, though on several occasions we found it to be ten or more times faster than a comparable 3G handset in the same area.
In use it just makes everything feel much snappier and ensures tasks like checking image-laden emails and browsing complex web pages is a breeze.
EE claims average download speeds of 12-15Mbps and typical maximum speeds of 40Mbps, with upload speeds averaging around 5-6Mbps with a typical maximum of 15Mbps.
EE has also started rolling out 'double speed' 4G in select locations. So far it's available in 20 cities and, according to EE, average download speeds in those locations are 24-30Mbps, while the maximum speed is 60Mbps. Average upload speeds are said to be 11Mbps.
EE has achieved this by making network improvements which allow customers to use 2 x 20MHz of spectrum, where before they would have been using 2 x 10MHz of spectrum – essentially a bigger (virtual) pipe allowing a faster rush of data to enter your phone.
EE has even started experimenting with 300Mbps LTE-Advanced, though so far that's only available to select companies in London's Tech City.
Neither O2 or Vodafone can come close to that yet, but both networks standard 4G speeds are similar to EE's, coming in at around five times faster than 3G.
Why is 4G so fast?
4G's impressive speed increase is achieved with the use of OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Divison Multiplexing), a transmission technology used by the likes of ADSL, Wi-Fi, DVB-T, DVB-H and DAB.
Not only does it reduce latency (the amount of time taken to buffer and connect to webpages), but it also minimises interference and is able to cram greater amounts of data into the same slice of radio bandwidth.
Simply put, this enables 4G/LTE phones and tablets to stream video and play online games like never before, largely because 4G has been designed primarily as a data network, rather than a voice one and it uses the same TCP/IP protocols that underpin the internet.