AT&T Wants "4G" Label on IPhone 4S

AT&T asked Apple to designate the iPhone 4S as “4G,” aligning the device with its marketing strategy and hoping to gain ground against rivals Verizon and Sprint.

According to a leaked internal memo, AT&T asked Apple to change the iPhone 4S status bar to show “4G” near the signal indicator when it’s on the HSPA-plus network.

AT&T aims with the request to differentiate itself from rival iPhone 4S carriers Verizon and Sprint, who are also carrying Apple’s latest handset, and possibly advertise itself as the only network that offers 4G speeds on iPhone. If accepted, the change will be made once Apple releases the new iOS.

AT&T’s HSPA-plus network is technically 3.5G, not 4G, but the carrier does allow devices to download at speeds fast enough to be classified as 4G. By labelling its version of the iPhone as 4G, AT&T hopes to differentiate their iPhone in the minds of customers.

AT&T is also moving ahead with the launch of a 4G network that uses LTE technology and plans to release its first LTE phone and reach more than a dozen markets by the end of the year.

Verizon is the current LTE leader with a network that spans more than half the country, and Sprint recently announced plans to launch LTE next year.

With 4G branding, AT&T makes clear its strategy to position itself as having the fastest iPhone, but it also may risk confusing customers as it launches devices that are “true” 4G in coming weeks.

Apple won’t likely comply with AT&T’s request. During the iPhone 4S event, Apple’s Phil Schiller sidestepped the 4G discussion.

By advertising 4G speed, AT&T attempts to position itself to sell more iPhones than competing carriers, but it also may add another element to the emerging 4G device market, risking more customer confusion at a time when the company heads into holiday sales and expands its own LTE launch.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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