Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

4G Networks and Macs vs. PCs

Q:

I know T-Mobile and Sprint already have 4G networks. Do you know when 4G on Verizon is coming out? And have you heard anything about 4G on AT&T?

A:

Sprint has a 4G network in scores of cities, and T-Mobile has a souped-up 3G network in many cities that it says can achieve 4G speeds. Verizon has pledged to introduce 4G service in several dozen cities by year-end. AT&T is planning to start rolling out 4G next year.

Two important caveats apply here. First, the term “4G” is a slippery one. While all of these networks offer faster data speeds than traditional 3G, they don’t actually meet the technical definition of 4G speeds set by the international standards body that defines such things. Second, to get the full speeds offered by these new networks, most people will need a new phone. Currently, there are only a handful of phones that can do so.

Q:

My daughter is graduating from high school and has been accepted to several Ivy League universities. She going in to the medical field. Her friend is urging her to get a Mac instead of a PC. What would you suggest?

A:

As I noted in my buyer’s guide last week, Windows PCs come in more varieties and are usually less expensive up front, which could help offset college costs. Macs have extremely high customer satisfaction, according to most major surveys, better built-in software and, perhaps most important, they aren’t susceptible to the vast majority of malicious software, a particular problem on college campuses that can cost money and time and risk losing work.

I’d suggest that once she selects a college, she should check to see which type of computer the college suggests and supports, what the academic prices are, and whether there is any special software required for pre-med courses that would favor one type of machine over another.

Q:

Thanks for your recent article on Ford’s latest automotive digital system. My biggest concern with these various electronic applications is how fast they can become obsolete. I can imagine keeping a $36,000 car for eight to 10 years. I can’t imagine many of the electronic systems will still work with the phones and who knows what else by then. Will Ford provide software upgrades to keep the vehicle relevant?

A:

Yes. Ford has developed a system that allows you to download updates to its SYNC digital system from the Web to a USB flash drive, using your computer. You then insert the portable drive into a USB port in the car to upgrade its software. More information is at http://bit.ly/cK33kD.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox and my other columns online at http://walt.allthingsd.com.


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