Who needs iPhone 4S LTE when you've got iOS 5.1?

Wow, it's like magic. Apple frequently uses that word or some extension, right? Calling iPad "magical". Well something magical happened to an iPhone 4S one of my family members owns. Upgrading to iOS 5.1, which Apple released today, changed that cute signal indicator from 3G to 4G. What an upgrade! All for free, too.

But wait! My speed test isn't any faster. It's still slow mo as ever. I conducted three speed tests in a row from my apartment. Ah, cough, cough -- .16Mbps, .94Mbps and .60Mps downstream. Woohoo! Gimme some of that 4G, AT&T!

Of course, it's all a change in name only, and somewhat deceptive one at that. Apple had rightly called HSPA+ 3G until now. Other AT&T handsets call it "4G" and next-gen network phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket "4G LTE". There's enough confusion about what is 4G, without Apple mucking up things even more.

But the change means that Apple and AT&T can claim iPhone and the new iPad are 4G. Whoa, the marketing planets have aligned. Quick, call the Mayans or Nostradamus before the world ends. I can feel gravity's pull now! iPhone 4S is now 4G, even though it's HSPA+ and not LTE. Hey, it's just like the new iPad, which is 4G LTE. The reality distortion field caused by this thing is overwhelming!

No wonder Verizon can't get people to adopt LTE, with all this alternate-reality 4G hypnotism going on. AT&T claims it has the nation's largest 4G network -- all accomplished with LTE available in 28 metro areas compared to Verizon's 196. Last week, the folks over at big V acknowledged a scant 5 percent of their subscribers used LTE, which is real 4G.

Or wait, did that number go up today? I don't have a Verizon iPhone here. Does iOS 5.1 magically turn 3G to 4G there, too? Please tell me if yours changed. Either Verizon's network of, ah, 4G subscribers just got bigger or AT&T got some more marketing FUD to murky the 4G waters.

Apple shouldn't get off easier here, with a little more cuffing from me. The company gains even more from market confusion about 4G, considering there is no LTE iPhone. Suddenly the 4S -- and presumably 4, too -- appear to be more competitive to LTE Androids, all while Verizon pees away money on infrastructure upgrades and marketing.

I know this: Verizon LTE pulls down average 15Mbps from my apartment. Even AT&T's LTE is good for 8Mbps to 10Mbps, consistently. But iPhone HSPA+ is, well, you can see from the screenshot, 4G in name only.

Sometimes reality is stronger than the distortion field.

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