AT&T's Fake 4G Phones May Actually Get Real 4G Soon

It's been well documented that AT&T's 4G phones aren't just slow—their upload speeds are often slower than its 3G network. So what happened to that extra G? Turns out it's not the network itself that's borked; it's the phones. AT&T has intentionally crippled the Motorola Atrix and HTC Inspire—the carrier's only fourth-gen network phones—by actively disabling the handsets' HSUPA capability. Gross. But there may be sweet relief coming soon.

AT&T says that they'll activate HSUPA in the Inspire and Atrix in April with a software update, according to Wired, and that the Samsung Infuse 4G will launch with HSUPA turned on. Why the delay at all? They're apparently performing "the testing and preparations necessary" for people to enjoy the HSUPA experience.

Just to reiterate: the Atrix and Inspire are presumably fully capable of achieving the 5.5+ Mbps speeds promised by HUSPA, but until AT&T flips that switch they're stuck with an embarrassing 300 Kbps upload speed. It's great that 4G may be fully functional soon! Both both phones have been advertised and sold since launch as 4G devices. And it's not like AT&T warns people in advance that their fancy new 4G handset may well be slower than their old one.

It's true that the definition of 4G is a moving target, essentially a slightly different fabrication told by each carrier. But being HSUPA-capable doesn't make a phone 4G if that HSUPA is disabled. You know what other devices are HSUPA-ready? The iPhone 4. iPad 2. And no one's slapping a 4G label on them.

When I buy a loaf of bread, I don't expect to see a lump of raw dough in the bag. And that's what AT&T's selling right now: "4G" phones that are half-baked, at best. [Wired]