The new iPhones are here for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint and at long last, they've got 4G LTE. So which iPhone 5 is fastest? And does it make any difference that it supports both 5GHz Wi-Fi in addition to 2.4GHz. There's pretty definite winner, but more importantly a very clear loser.
Disclaimer: Data speeds are finicky. Some carriers are strong in some areas and weak in others. As a result your milage my vary significantly. We did our testing outdoors, on a roof, in downtown New York City.
Much to no one's surprise, Verizon's LTE seems to be dominant here. The Big Red iPhone 5 had the highest score on Big Red, just edging out the Galaxy S III (also on Verizon). The iPhone 5 on AT&T came in third, just ahead of the HTC One X on the same network.
Way, way, waaaay behind we have Sprint, which doesn't have an LTE network set up yet, except for in a few smaller cities. Stuck on 3G (for now), it pulled down an average 1.5 Mbps, which is quite slow! The upload test failed completely, despite resetting the phone. This was the same problem with Sprint's EVO 4G LTE.
Sprint's truly unlimited data plan makes it a tempting buy, but without 4G it was painful to use. You can really see the disparity in the top image. (Sprint's LTE network will be slowly rolling out over the next couple of years.)
But what about Apple's claims that iPhone 5's Wi-Fi will be vastly superior because it now supports 5GHz bands in addition to 2.4GHz bands? Turns out that wasn't just hype. The iPhone 5 averaged 37.8 Mbps downloads when it was connected via 5GHz. It was only able to download at 8.7 Mbps when it was on 2.4GHz. The gap was even more exaggerated on the upload side. On 5GHz, it averaged 26.9 Mbps. On 2.4GHz, just 3.7. You can see it in pretty colors here.
The takeaway here is that yes, as one would hope, browsing, streaming, and downloading will be much faster on the iPhone 5. And while it doesn't blow the doors off its Android competition, it's certainly in the same league—if not a little bit ahead.