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What Does LTE Mean on My Phone?

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If you've ever wondered what LTE means when it appears on the top corner of your phone (or what it means when it's not there), you're not alone. Many people don't know what LTE stands for or why it matters. In this article, we'll explain what LTE is and how those three little letters can impact how fast your phone does all the things you need it to do.

What Is LTE?

Short for long-term evolution, LTE is a 4G (fourth-generation) network technology, a significant leap from the 3G network. Compared to 3G, LTE can use higher frequency bands and have more bands to choose from. To understand this better, think of 3G as a congested city road compared to LTE. It's slower and more crowded, so it can't handle as much traffic. 

LTE, on the other hand, was rolled out to provide better high-speed data transmission resulting in faster download speeds and smoother streaming experiences on your mobile devices, whether you have an Android phone, Apple iPhone, or another LTE-capable device. This can make a big difference in everyday phone use, particularly when gaming or video calling, where every second counts.

What Do the Different LTE Symbols Mean?

When using your phone to make a call or scroll your favorite social media platforms, you might notice different symbols appearing on your phone's screen. These symbols represent the type of network your phone is currently using. 

Here's a quick breakdown:

  • 5G: Indicates that your phone is connected to a 5G network, the newest and fastest generation of cellular technology.
  • LTE: Means your phone is connected to a 4G LTE network, one of today’s widely available high-speed cellular technologies.
  • LTE+ or 4G+: Shows that your phone is using LTE Advanced, a more efficient and faster version of LTE.
  • 3G: Indicates that your phone is connected to a 3G network. While 3G is slower than LTE, it can be a fallback, especially in rural or remote areas where 4G LTE and 5G networks are not readily available.
  • E (EDGE): This is a step below 3G, so it’s even slower.

Does LTE Affect My Phone's Performance?

LTE influences your phone's performance in several crucial ways. More specifically, it affects your mobile data speed, call quality (by using Voice Over LTE or VoLTE), battery life, and your overall phone experience. 

When you're connected to a strong LTE network, your cell phone should smoothly move through your favorite apps, streaming services, and web pages. You should be able to enjoy high-quality video calls, load web pages in a snap, and stream music without any issues. When your phone is connected to one of today’s 4G LTE networks, you likely won’t experience any data interruptions or outages.

On the other hand, if your phone is connected to 3G or your LTE signal is weak, you’re much more likely to notice issues with your network, and your phone might struggle to load high-definition videos or download larger files.

It's a less-than-ideal situation that can leave you feeling frustrated — but with the right understanding and tools, you can optimize your LTE coverage for a seamless mobile experience.

Are All LTE Networks the Same?

Different carriers offer varying levels of LTE coverage and performance. Some carriers provide higher peak speeds, while others give you more consistent coverage.

While AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and UScellular all have their own 4G LTE networks, they are also in a race to expand their 5G networks

How Can I Ensure I'm Getting the Best Coverage?

Getting the best coverage and data plan depends on your location and personal preferences. Don't worry. We've got some tips to guide you:

  • Check the coverage: Before choosing a carrier, check their coverage maps to ensure they have robust LTE service in your area. Thankfully, LTE is available in roughly 99 percent of the country.
  • Choose the right phone: Some newer models, like the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, are better equipped to take advantage of advanced LTE speeds. Likewise, newer devices are 5G-compatible, enabling your cell phone to switch easily between 4G and 5G networks as needed. 

Just keep in mind that the 5G roll-out has been gradual, and while it offers superior performance, 4G LTE networks still provide an excellent balance of speed and coverage for most users. Think of 4G LTE as your reliable, tried-and-true option, while 5G is the exciting, flashy newcomer.

The Bottom Line

Now that you understand what LTE means and how 4G LTE and 5G networks can impact your mobile experience, you may find yourself considering a new phone. That’s where our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder below can help. It lets you compare the best phone deals you qualify for at your carrier to promos from other carriers in a matter of seconds. 

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