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Verizon Wireless fastest network, Samsung Galaxy S9 fastest phone

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All four major U.S. carriers have wide ambitions for 5G, the next generation wireless networks that are being built out. In the meantime, though, we’re all living as we have been in a 4G world, where Verizon Wireless cemented its position as having the fastest mobile network in the U.S. That’s according to the results of drive tests conducted in May by PCMag, the fifth year in a row that Verizon earned top honors.

But what also became evident in PCMag’s tests, done in conjunction with crowdsourced speed data from Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence, is that when it comes to benefitting from the fastest networks, the device you are carrying can make all the difference.

And on that measurement, Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9 flagship, outraced the iPhone X. The S9 recorded download and upload speeds in May of 41.80 Megabits per second and 11.36 Mbps, respectively, compared to 31.18 Mbps and 9.88 Mbps for the iPhone X. In geeky terms, the S9 has gigabit LTE with 4×4 MIMO, the takeaway of which is better speed and range. The iPhone X lacks that technology. 

But it’s hardly a slowpoke. PCMag points out that the iPhone X has—sorry another geeky term—something called 256QAM–which means it can pack more information into one burst of data than the iPhone 7 did. 

In the network showdown, Verizon won or tied in 19 of the 36 cities tested, leading in every region of the U.S. except the Southeast, where it placed behind the overall runner-up T-Mobile.  

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AT&T ranked third overall, with Sprint, which is waiting on regulatory approval to merge with the far faster T-Mobile, pulling up the rear. But even the fourth-place finisher had something to cheer: Sprint’s download speeds rocketed up recently; the carrier led on downloads in five cities. 

PCMag reports that T-Mobile’s strength came in mobile uploads, which bodes well for those of you on the network who create a lot of content for social media.

And the good news overall, is that compared to last year’s tests, all the carriers are delivering faster and more consistent 4G LTE connections. 

PCMag’s analysts spent May 2018 driving within and between 30 cities, with four Samsung Galaxy S8 phones continually running speed tests based on a customized version of Ookla’s Speedtest.net software. Both PCMag and Ookla are owned by publisher Ziff Davis. Testers collected more than 124,000 data points, and then balanced downloads, uploads, latency, and reliability to create a “Speed Score.” 

Verizon’s score was 99. T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, followed with scores of 93, 88 and 75, respectively.

Of course, while the tests obviously measure the performance of existing 4G mobile networks, the future is all about 5G, which you’ll increasingly hear more about towards the end of this year and into 2019 and beyond. Each carrier is embarking on its own 5G course. AT&T and Verizon are going for top 5G speeds over smaller areas. T-Mobile’s 5G, on the other hand, may not prove quite as fast as its rivals, but the nation’s third largest carrier is looking to blanket the nation. 

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter

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