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EE 4G review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £36
inc VAT

4G is the future, but only dedicated uploaders of content and those who want streamed video on the go need to rush in now



The good news is that all the EE smartphone tariffs come with unlimited calls and text messages, the bad news is that none of them come with unlimited data. This is a real shame, as those who want high-speed data are also likely to want lots of it, but EE are offering data caps up to 8GB which should satisfy even the heaviest users – unless you were thinking of replacing your home broadband connection entirely.

Tarriffs start at £36 per month for just 500MB of data, though we doubt that will satisfy many people interested in 4G. The 1GB plan is £41 per month, 3GB for £46 per month, 5GB for £51 per month and 8GB for £56 per month. If you’re currently on an unlimited tariff then best check you handset (Settings/Data Usage on Android) or your bill to see how much data you use at present.

Wi-Fi hubs and dongles are available with data caps up to 5GB on 18-month contracts. 2GB costs £16, 3GB is £21 and 5GB is £26. You can use bandwidth monitor from to measure your data usage.

These tariffs certainly aren’t cheap, but they don’t work out much more expensive than getting the identical 4G-ready handset on 3G sister-network Orange. Shop around however for the cheapest 3G equivalent and you can get a 3G Samsung Galaxy S3 on Vodafone with unlimited calls and texts plus 1GB of data for £29 – that’s £12 less a month than EE. So you’re certainly paying a hefty premium for some combination of the 4G hardware and contract.

There are a number of sweeteners with EE contracts to try and help the medicine go down. The most tempting is the free movie download you get every week from now till February.

EE 4G EE is offering free movie downloads until February

If the extra cost doesn’t put you off, then mobile data is probably very important to you. The big question then is whether you’ll use more data once you’ve got a faster connection, and that’s a very tricky one answer. First let’s look at just how fast a connection you can expect from the new service.


We tested the service around London, mainly in the centre of town plus various places in South-east London. At our desk we saw speeds of up to 40Mbit/s download and 12Mbit/s upload. More commonly, averaging results across numerous tests we found the service provided around 20Mbit/s download and around 6Mbit/s upload. That’s many times faster than 3G HSDPA offers, where we often saw uploads and downloads of around 1Mbit/s. We will have other test handsets over the next three weeks and different members of staff will be adding to this review based on their – admittedly London-centric – findings. Coverage was good, with a 4G signal available almost everywhere we went. It wasn’t consistent though on public transport, with numerous drop-outs as we commuted into the centre of town by train.

EE 4G review EE is offering free movie downloads until February

Some have argued that with so much extra speed, the amount of data we use will spike instantly. We think that’s a bit simplistic, and believe it’s more likely to grow with time as services start to take account of these faster mobile speeds. For example, at present the BBC’s mobile iPlayer app on Android only offers pitifully poor quality video, even in its highest-quality setting. We presume this is so no one runs up a huge bill using it and then blames the BBC, but to anyone with a 4G handset it’s just frustrating. The same applies to YouTube, even in HQ, though to a lesser extent. Netflix subscribers meanwhile can enjoy a high-quality mobile stream, but the data overheads are huge, see usage below.

EE 4G review iplayer Once things are moving onscreen, the BBC’s iPlayer mobile app simply falls apart in quality terms, but higher-quality video will eat up data quickly

That said, we did find ourselves watching more video on the go with the handset, largely because it was an obvious test scenario, rather than because we really wanted to. It was quite enjoyable to watch a programme while waiting for someone in the pub, but try to use it on public transport was very patchy with the signal cutting in and out and breaking up the stream intermittently for up to a minute at a time. The same went for audio streaming, it’s not the amount of data that’s the issue but rather maintaining a constant connection while moving.

We find it takes a lot longer to read a webpage than download it, and so you shouldn’t use much more data when browsing. You will be able to upload pictures much faster, but smartphones are very good at doing these kinds of tasks in the background anyway, so unless you’re a serious fiend at uploading pics to Facebook we doubt you’d upload more just because its quicker to do so. One place we can see 4G being useful is in uploading video clips on the go, which was so slow before as to be almost pointless.

Another good use for 4G is for those working on the go, who need to open, work on and save large documents in the cloud. A 4G dongle would make your life considerably better, and for work it’s far easier to justify the cost – whether that’s buying a dongle or tethering a laptop to a smartphone – which is permitted under all contracts.

next page … OUR USAGE and CONCLUSION

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