As you may have seen the UK finally joined the 4G club today as EE as put its devices on sale through its new rebranded stores. Gone are Orange and T-Mobile shops, and in their stead are EE stores – with the Orange and T-Mobile logos neatly placed in the corner so people have some idea what this newcomer to the high street is all about.
I walked in to the store on Tottenham Court Road in the heart of London and to take a look at the store and see what sort of speeds the network was offering on Day One. I initially picked up a Samsung Galaxy S3 (which is huge by the way) and looked to run a speed test. However, I noticed that the phone was connected via Wi-Fi, which on a display stand advertising EE 4G doesn’t seem like the smartest move. I tried to manually go into the settings and turn it off, but was thwarted by a password screen. Not a great start.
I then picked up another Android phone of unknown (or at least unremembered) parentage, but was immediately put off by the cheap, plasticky feel and the confusing mess of icons that is Android. Where does one start with that OS? It’s hard to know. I didn’t have time to mess around so with relief I found on display an iPhone 5 – connected to EE LTE, with Wi-Fi. The Speedtest.net app was preinstalled, so I just had to fire it up – simples.
On first attempt I got 13.90Mbps down and 9.80Mbps. The latter is impressive – faster than my home connection, but the former – a bit meh. The second go was better – 26.68Mbps down and 13.27Mbps up. Not bad, not bad at all. Of course, this is day one – the equivalent of driving sports car at speed on an empty motorway – but it’s promising.
If we’re being harsh, and we are, one thing to note to note is the ping of 50ms – good, but not outstanding. That said, we’ve been told that LTE would be responsive, and it was. Web pages loaded quickly, video streamed instantly and I could scrub through with no lag.
While I was using the phone an assistant came up to me and asked if he could help. I asked if he could make EE tariffs cheaper. He looked bemused.
Much has been made of the fact that the EE prices seem very expensive to UK consumers. There’s the £36 starting point for a 500MB of data, and £56 a month top whack for £56 8GB on a lengthy two-year contract . If you’ve bought a phone outright and you want SIM only, you need to pay £31 a month for 3GB and £36 for 5GB. I’m paying £10 a month for unlimited data, so in no way do the EE tariffs seem attractive to me.
The service I’m with, an MVNO on O2 called Giffgaff offers low tariffs but has no shiny stores to pay for, and no phone-based customer care either – just a website and a forum full of knowledgeable, active users who can help you in seconds if you need assistance. The types you might say, that would be very likely to want to be early adopters of a fast network to really make the most of data, and would probably pay a bit more to get it. A bit more – maybe 100% more – but not 260% more.
One has to wonder who EE is aiming for, with its big stores, big phones, and its big prices. Not me. I sent the helper on his way, and I went on mine.