Last Updated: Nov 16, 2013
Stay Connected: Choosing the Best Connection for Your Device
Today, there are several ways to connect your device to our network and the Internet. In this article we describe each type, when to use (or not use) each one, why, and how.
Wi-Fi, formally WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), allows supported devices to connect to the Internet and exchange data wirelessly within an average range of 400 feet in unobstructed conditions.
Wi-Fi, which many claim to be short-speak for "wireless fidelity," is actually short for nothing—other than a turn of phrase coined for marketing purposes. Wi-Fi's popularity continues to grow, and is now often used as an incentive to draw customers into storefront establishments, like coffee shops and retail stores.
When to Use Wi-Fi, and How
Even if your device supports our 3G/4G/LTE network, whenever you find yourself in a Wi-Fi hotspot, Wi-Fi's the way to go. While we're always working diligently on our Network Vision towards a time one day soon when there's not a nook or cranny in this world that our network doesn't reach, when it comes to connecting wirelessly, make the most of Wi-Fi by using it wherever available.
To find out if you're in a hotspot, while specific to each device, most now allow the option in Settings to automatically alert you when you're within the range of a hotspot. To determine whether the network is open or secured, simply look for the lock icon on the connection's signal strength indicator. If you're in a restaurant, a friend's house, a public space, don't be afraid to ask for the password. Most places will be glad to provide.
When to Not Use Wi-Fi (and why)
When traveling or in an area where Wi-Fi connectivity is scarce, most devices with Wi-Fi capabilities also have a means to disable it. In doing so, you can conserve a significant amount of battery life—a commodity that becomes even more so the further away you get from areas most likely to have Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi is also less secure than other forms of connectivity. While various forms of encryption serve in an increasingly more secure manner of protecting Wi-Fi connections, consider alternative forms of connecting to a network when exchanging sensitive, confidential or private information.
4G/LTE and 3G
In the world of telecom, 4G refers to the fourth generation of mobile phone communication standards. The first form of 4G Sprint introduced was Wi-Max, in 2008. We have since evolved into the most cutting-edge iteration of 4G/LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution.
When and How to Use 4G/LTE
If you have a device that supports 4G, are within a 4G/LTE coverage area and on-the-go, 4G/LTE, you should automatically connect to our 4G/LTE network. Turn off your device's Wi-Fi when you would like to turn to 4G/LTE, as it will not only conserve battery power, but alerts your device to default to the 4G/LTE network.
When to Not Use 4G/LTE (and why)
If you're in an area where other forms of connectivity are available, rely on those before connecting to 4G/LTE—and especially, of course, if you haven't opted for one of our unlimited data plans. If you need to up/download data, it's a good idea to wait until you're in an area where you can connect to Wi-Fi, as large amounts of transmitted data can quickly eat up usage, as well. Sprint is aggressively working on the build-out of our 4G/LTE network, with more than 100 additional markets in the next few months alone. For the most up-to-date info on LTE coverage, click here.
Short for third generation, the 3G network is where your device will default when not on Wi-Fi and not in an area yet covered by our 4G/LTE network. Or, if you own a device that doesn't support 4G/LTE, 3G will be its go-to network when not on Wi-Fi.