4G isn't fast enough for tablet and smartphone users

4G isn't fast enough for tablet and smartphone users

Summary: Keynote asked mobile users what bugged them the most about their smartphone and tablets. The number one answer was Web pages were to slow to load.

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The Internet and Web pages are too slow for smarpthone & tablet users.

In theory, a 4G connection will give you up to 100Mbps (Megabits per second) speeds. Right. The reality is, on a good day at exactly the right spot, you may see 30Mbps 4G download speeds. Usually, though, you'll do well to see speeds above 10Mbps and,  according to an end-user survey by Keynote Competitive Research that's not fast enough.

In a survey of 5,000 U.S. smartphone and tablet users, Keynote found that “while expectations vary somewhat depending on the platform – desktop, smartphone or tablet – they are definitely increasing (PDF Link). In short, user expectations no matter the device are for very fast performance. Many sites, especially on smartphones and tablets, continue to be slow and disappoint consumers on a regular basis. Bottom line: Keynote’s research shows that the ‘expectation gap’ for performance has tightened considerably across platforms, and vendors ignore these increased expectations for blazing fast performance at their own peril.”

When it comes to “frustrating mobile Web experiences over the past two months, two-thirds of smartphone users cited ''Web pages slow to load.'" The next biggest pain point, felt by nearly half of the panel, was 'Website not optimized for smartphone.'” 64 percent  of smartphone users want Websites to load within four seconds while  82 percent wanted a mobile website to load within five seconds.

Tablet users felt the same way. Keynote found that 60 percent of tablet users expect to wait less than three seconds to get to a Website. Good luck with that. Keynote found that almost no sites in their survey of popular Web sites performance could deliver those kinds of speeds to iPad or iPhone users.

So what can be done? Well, mobile users would like more speed, of course, and nearly half of them would like smartphone optimized Web sites. That won't be enough.

First, there's not enough 4G bandwidth to go around. He more 4G users there are in an area the more the available bandwidth is split up between users. In addition, AT&T and Verizon will both slowdown, aka “throttle,” your service to make sure everyone gets their share of the available bandwidth.

In addition, HTTP itself hasn't aged well. Chris Storm, author of The SPDY Book) explained that to show a Web page HTTP needs to start and stop numerous Web page connections per page using no more than six connections at at time. Once your connection goes over 4Mbps, Storm said, you won't see much Web page load performance improvement on conventional text or JavaScript heavy Web pages.

Storm suggests the real improvement for for mobile users and the Web sites that want to make them happy, is to move to browsers and Web servers that support Google SPDY (pronounced speedy, a replacement protocol for HTTP.

Storm explained, with  “SPDY, there is no limit to the number of Web requests that can be issued concurrently over a single SPDY connection. Because requests are interleaved on a single channel, the protocol is more efficient over TCP. HTTP, on the other hand, can only fetch one resource at a time and support, at most six connections at a time. SPDY's net effect is to cut down on latency as the Web browser and server don't have to waste time ping-ponging data requests and responses back and forth.” For mobile users the use of SPDY alone would mean Web page performance improvements of 28 to 55%.

Keynote's Don Aoki, senior vice president of professional services added, “This survey reveals that a majority of mobile users are choosing to consume on-the-go information through their mobile browsers, while personal tasks like email and banking are often accessed through mobile apps whether on smartphones or on tablet. Mobile consumers have options on how they can access and consume their digital content. For brands, it’s critical to integrate and develop mobile strategies that are viable across multiple types of mobile devices, and to evaluate the experience of smartphone and tablet users through online research tools like Keynote WebEffective.”

Whatever you decide to do, one thing is for sure, mobile users are not happy with how fast Websites are coming up and you need to fix that  or you can kiss your site's smartphone and tablet visitors good-bye.

Related Stories:

AT&T acquires NextWare to expand 4G coverage

Web performance optimization and why It matters

Google speeds up the Web with SPDY

How to check on your Internet connection

Topics: 4G, Broadband, Browser, Emerging Tech, Google, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, Tablets

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19 comments
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  • There's more to mobile web than bandwidth speeds.

    Assuming that the phone itself isn't having problems processing a page (and it does happen), then 3g/4g coverage's biggest problem is that you're NOT getting a constant stream. I've had to constantly reload pages three or four times before it remembers that I have an internet connection and proceeds to quickly download the page. It's not that 4g is slow (and trust me, it's faster than tons of people's residential connections, mine included, even at that 10 MB/s. I fluctuate anywhere between 1 mbps to 15 mbps on a cable connection)
    Aerowind
    • Device as well

      I find that on my home network, over wi-fi, my smartphone is a much slower experience than viewing the same pages on my laptop - one of the main reasons I only use the smartphone for browsing when I need one piece of information, where it isn't worth running down into the basement and waking up my computer.
      wright_is
  • I use wifi only on my 3rd gen iPad

    And for me at least speed is not an issue.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
  • Not buying it. What's this 6 connection limt thing?

    Iv'e heard of old browsers back in the dial up days imposing their own limits but nothing in the http protocol. Nothing that any mobile broswer couldnt up or remove. And most of the other connections for .js .css .png etc. will just hit the cache. This sounds like a bs article to push spdy. Forget spdy and concentrate on mobile formatting html5 only sites. And btw I want 1 sec pageloads not 4.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Just because you haven't heard of it...

      Just because you are un-aware of limitation does not mean it doesn't exist.
      Maybe next time before spouting off and considering an entire article BS you might want to open google and educate yourself.
      Here I've already taken care of it for you - https://www.google.com/search?q=http+parallel+connections

      It's stated right in the HTTP protocol spec - http://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec8.html#sec8.1.4
      That clients should not maintain more than 2 connections to any single server. IE8 pushed this limit to 6 only after Opera and Firefox 2 pushed it to 4, most current browsers have maintained 6 connections in recent history.
      TimSonOfSteve
      • So in other words it's just like I said, there is no protocol limit, it's

        up to the client to pick a practical number, and all of the modern ones have empirically arrived at a number higher than the one recommended back in 1997 when clients, servers, and connections were very different. Hmmm just like I said indeed. And as written into the http 1.1 rfc back then clients can "pippeline" multiple requests over http on a single connection, this is not something spdy can do and http can't. Furthermore that 6 connection limit is to a single server, so for webpages that pull resources from mulitple domains, like this one, and is very common, they may have whatever their per server limit is for each domain. Still calling BS on this.
        Johnny Vegas
  • It couldn't be that sites like zdnet.com and

    others with tons of java script and I suspect PHP code on the other end are just turning into pigs on all but the latest and greatest devices?
    raleighthings
    • I really think

      sites are made with wired connections in mind most of the time.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • A wired connection isn't the issue

        Slower CPUs tend to really bog down on sites like this one if you open up a few tabs.
        raleighthings
        • Aren't most browsers

          hardware accelerated, and thus use GPU, these days?
          Michael Alan Goff
  • More bandwidth does you no good...

    ...when you hit the cap on that expensive data plan. Faster just means you run out more quickly.
    cornpie
  • You really think it's 4G speed that is the bottleneck? Doubtful.

    Look, if it's a web page that is slow to load, and you have a web connection of anything over about 1-2mbps, it's almost certainly not your connection that is slowing things down. The web server is taking it's time to process the page dynamics, or there's some other bottleneck. There are many links in the chain to deliver a web page. I'm not sure you can blame the final delivery guy, which is what 4G is to the mobile device.
    ArtInvent
  • All this talk about Servers and connections... What about DNS?

    If the mobile sites information is stored directly in the DNS then the load times will be dramatically reduced. all the talk of how many connections a server can have etc are unecessary...

    Telnic is already doing this with DNS and the future of this is huge. Comments welcome..
    tweetstore
  • The issue isn't really the "speed",

    it's the ever-increasing amount of junkola that almost
    every web site feels it is absolutely necessary to cram
    down the pipe to visitors. Every time we as users/visitors
    manage to obtain some sort of increase in connection
    speeds, the web sites just increase the size and number
    of images, advertising, scripting, dynamically produced
    content and on and on and on. This is an old song and
    dance that we've been subjected to for as long as I can
    remember. My 120 BAUD modem became too slow, upgraded to 300 BAUD, ok for awhile then it was too slow,
    upgrade to 1200, then 2400, then 9600, 14.4, 28.8, 33.6,
    56k, then 128k ISDN, 256, then DSL broadband at 1mps,
    then 1.5, 3, 6...it never ends. The more we upgrade to
    improve the situation, the more junkola we have to fetch.
    wizard57m-cnet
  • Google Alalytics/Flash Ad's/Affiliate money grubbing etc....

    Faster internet, whether Cellular or fixed link is showing up slow websites service pages to you.

    Main reasons seem to be aggregation of linked alalytics sites, Flash Ad sites and other money grubbing affilitie links and tracking.

    Stuff Ad Block plus on Firefox, and many dig slow sites start to fly.

    If you could block all the other analytics and money grubbing affiliate tricking and ad words etc the internet would fly.
    neil.postlethwaite
  • It's the Advertising

    While they are making us pay for 4G, they are only providing 3.1G.
    thenitewatch
  • no speed problems here

    my 4g is pretty darn fast.
    Sites having problems are generally the ones with a lot of links to advertisers whose ads are having trouble loading for one reason or another. And its hanging up your browser being able to render those objects. It has nothing to do with speed.

    I can understand iphone users having issues since they are all stuck with 3G at best. But I don't see how people can take very long to load a html page when they bandwidth is 10mbps. Even 5 mbps it should be pretty darn fast.
    rengek
  • I agree

    pages are often slow to load on a tablet or a smartphone, but if you go on Wifi it usually isnt too much faster between 4G and a good WiFi. its the devices themselves not being fast enough to load what the users want in the time they want.
    Jimster480
  • Faster,Bigger...Slower

    The truth lies in the combination of the aforementioned comments.
    Once upon a time programmers prided themselves in writing neat and quickly executed code primarily sot they did not tax the cpu's, memory and storage devices on which their programs were run.
    Once upon a time a purchased a 40MB harddrive and I thought I would never need more storage.
    Programs grew ,processors became faster to deal with the growth, storage became larger for the same reason and with the increased use of the internet for everyday interconnectivity, the need for bandwidth and speed also increased. Find and old program that ran on DOS Basic and compare the size with a modern program which performs a comparable task and you will be amazed at the difference in size.
    theraven50