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The future is here

Remember when cameraphones launched for the first time, a few years ago? They were awful things, big and blocky with dreadful 0.6-megapixel cameras, and no USB connectors so the only way to get photos off them was to spend 50p on a picture message. We spent the first weekend after they launched temping in a Vodafone store, selling them to idiots. It were rubbish.

Anyway! After cameraphones came 3G phones, with video calling, which no-one used, and faster data, which everyone used. And now - how time flies - 4G is just round the corner. In fact, US network Verizon announced today it's turning on its 4G network - which runs on a system called 'LTE,' or long-term evolution - on December 5th.

What does this mean? Well, 4G is unlike 3G in the sense that there's no one video-calling style feature being presented as the 'big sell' with 4G. It's just faster for mobile internet. Much, much faster - up to 300 Mbps, which is many times the speed of the current mobile web.

That's the good news. The bad news is there aren't too many phones yet, and Verizon is really seeing it as just for plug-in internet dongles (which look like something out of Optimus Prime's toolkit). And, moreover, it's expensive: $50 a month for 5GB of data. And, er, it's in America. Europe isn't expected to get widespread LTE for at least a couple of years.

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