Comparing Wi-Fi, 4G, LTE, 3G, GPRS, and EDGE for Your iPad

Wireless (that is, cellular) carriers may offer one of three data networks relevant to the iPad as of this writing. For now anyway, only the third-generation and later iPads can take advantage of the speediest 4G or LTE networks the carriers are rolling out as fast as they can.

The second-fastest network is called 3G, and there are older, even slower data networks called EDGE and GPRS. Your iPad starts by trying to connect to the fastest network it supports. If it makes a connection, you see the 4G or 3G icon on the status bar.

If it can’t connect to a 4G or 3G network, it tries to connect to a slower EDGE or GPRS network, and you see EDGE or GPRS icons on the status bar.

Most Wi-Fi networks, however, are faster than even the fastest 4G cellular data network — and much faster than 3G, EDGE, or GPRS. So, because all iPads can connect to a Wi-Fi network if one is available, they do so, even when a 4G, 3G, GPRS, or EDGE network is also available.

Last but not least, if you don’t see one of these icons — 4G, 3G, GPRS, EDGE, or Wi-Fi — you don’t currently have Internet access.