Shootouts: LTE on Verizon vs AT&T; Flipboard vs Zite vs Pulse

Comparative reviews can be very helpful, and I wanted to be sure you saw two recent ones that I thought were particularly useful. First of all, one of the most important features of the new iPad is LTE — a fourth generation data protocol that gives you superfast Internet speeds. Both Verizon and AT&T are rolling out LTE networks, and if you're thinking of getting an LTE iPad, an important choice you face is which carrier to go with. In some cases, your choice will be clear, because one might not be available in your area. But if both are available, you'll want to know which is better. Fortunately, AppleInsider has gone to the trouble of doing some detailed testing of the relative performance of each carrier, using actual data throughput as a measure. Their conclusion was the performance is similar, but they raise important considerations regarding each service.

The reported that Verizon's network is capable of being "spectacularly fast": sometimes reaching 40Mbps for downloads and up to 19Mbps for uploads. This is faster than the cable or DSL service in many homes. But as you might expect, performance varies, and this is a key consideration. The speed exceeded 20Mbps for downloads only about 18.8% of the time. However, it did exceed 10Mbps 65% of the time. That's good. The rest of the time, speeds ranged from 1.9-10 Mbps.

AT&T's spread was similar to Verizon, though fell below AppleInsider's baseline threshold speed of 5Mbps about a quarter of the time, which was less often than Verizon. In 63% of their tests, AT&T exceeded 10Mbps.

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One major difference between the two services is upload speeds. AppleInsider said that AT&T more consistently provided faster upload speeds. Another difference is breadth of coverage. Verizon offers broader coverage than AT&T. But what happens when you're in an area that doesn't have a Verizon or AT&T LTE network. Here AT&T has an advantage, because the fallback speed of its HSPA+ network is faster than Verizon's 3G network.

The AppleInsider article gives an excellent overview, explaining what LTE is, what the considerations are, and certain drawbacks of LTE. The article also includes convenient graphics showing the coverage area of Verizon's and AT&T's networks.

Another excellent comparative review worthy of your attention is iMore's shootout that examines three FREE iPad apps that aggregate Internet and social network content in a gorgeous, magazine-like format: Flipboard, Zite, and Pulse. Flipboard was first out the gate and has been hugely popular. I wish there were a generic term for this kind of app. I hesitate to call them aggregators, because simple RSS apps can do that. What immediately set Flipboard apart was that not only could you identify areas of interest, as with an RSS reader, but also it could gather content from your social networks — and laid it all out almost like a magazine of curated content. The first time you use the app, your feeling is, "Yes, this is the way it should be." The contrast between viewing Facebook posts on Facebook and on Flipboard is dramatic, the way that Flipboard clumps similar items together. 

All three apps are easily customized to your interest and draw content from a wide range of online sources. The review concludes that Flipboard is the best at aggregating content from social networks. Zite has the simplest interface. And Pulse attempts to efficiently pack a lot of content into the home screen so that you're navigating less. All three make a good choice, but iMore chooses Zite as the overall winner, in part because it learns your interests and new recommends content.

All three are also available for the iPhone.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.