Back in October, just after Apple had launched iPhone 4S, a report claimed that AT&T was working with Apple to change the network indicator to “4G” from “3G”  for iPhone 4S.

Apple has included that change in iOS 5.1 according to the release notes.

As you may recall, the iPhone 4S supports  14.4 Mbps HSDPA, which is marketed by some carriers around the world as “4G” technology even though technically speaking it’s not “4G”.

Phil Schiller had explained Apple’s stance at Let’s Talk iPhone event in October:

Now, if you follow the phone industry, these numbers might sound familiar – 5.8 up, 14.4 down. Where have I heard that before? Well, this is what the majority of our competitors claim when they talk about 4G performance. The Motorola Atrix 4G, the LG Thrill 4G, the HTC Inspire 4G – they even put it in their names. We’re not going to get into a debate in the industry of what’s 4G and what isn’t. We leave that to others to talk about. What’s most important, when it comes to real-world performance – the iPhone 4S is just as fast as all these phones. In fact, we think with some of our software enhancements, it’s even faster in real-world use.

Clearly, Apple feels that the iPhone 4S meets or exceeds current standards for what some smartphone manufacturers call “4G.” This may be the reason why they have caved in to AT&T’s demand to use the “4G” network indicator for iPhone 4S.

So iOS 5.1 turns iPhone 4S into a 4G iPhone on AT&T’s network, but unfortunately without any increase in speed.

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