When is 4G not 4G?? It’s all marketing….

So Motorola is coming out with their highly touted new Android phone the Atrix 4G on AT&T’s 4G network (well, it’s sort of a 4G network ever since the rules for what is and isn’t 4G were relaxed a bit, but we’ll give AT&T and T-Mobile the benefit of the doubt and agree that their new HSPA+ network is “4G” for all intents and purposes).  Motorola has a lot going for it as they can really design some fantastic hardware, and according to the guys at Engadget, this phone packs some serious heat.

But right now there’s all this buzz around phones with “4G” this and “4G” that.  Advertisers and marketers for the wireless companies are pushing the “4G” label around as much as they can and the unfortunate thing is that it’s actually working.  Uninformed consumers actually assume that they’re somehow better off with a 4G-capable phone right now than with one that isn’t (for the real scoop on 2G, 3G, 4G and everything in between, check out Engadget’s fantastic primer on the subject).

Well, as Denny used to say, the proof is gonna be in the puddin’.  According to Engadget on the Atrix 4G:

AT&T and Motorola are billing the Atrix as a 4G device. Hell, it’s got the term in its name! We wish that we could report back that we saw 4G-like speeds on the phone, but it’s actually quite the contrary.

In comparison to other handsets we’ve tested on the network in the same spots, the Atrix 4G actually got lower speed rankings on both downstream and upstream tests. In general, we saw an average download speed of around 1.5 Mbps, while uploads were even worse at just about 0.15 Mbps. We did see download speeds spike occasionally into 2.2 Mbps territory, but that wasn’t the norm. During the testing, the phone had four or five bars, and was clearly displaying the HSPA+ icon.

The odd thing is that if you compare the device against the iPhone 4 on AT&T’s network — tested in exactly the same locations — you see much different results. On the iPhone, data speeds were consistently in the 2 or 3 Mbps range for downloads, and hovering around 1 Mbps for uploads.

At this point it’s hard to say if it’s the phone or the network.  Could be one, the other, or both.  But the point is, don’t believe the label and understand that 4G is under developed right now that it’s just too early to get excited about which phones are 4G and which ones aren’t.  Give it about a year and then we should really be seeing 4G phones and devices really start to surpass their 3G counterparts.