Measured in megabits per second (Mbit/s, Mb/s, or Mbps), the download speed indicates the maximum data transfer rate at which a device can access online content – from messages to audio and video, as well as app downloads. The download speed is typically higher than the upload speed.
Multiple factors impact how fast data travels, and actual transfer rates typically fall below what internet access providers list as the peak rate. When it comes to mobile devices, internet access (also known as mobile broadband) is significantly impacted by the generation of the cellular signal technology supported by the device and covered by the provider, with each generation offering faster data transfer than the previous ones (e.g., 3G, 4G, and the upcoming, controversial 5G). Other decisive factors in regards to download speed are local network coverage, network capacity and demand at a given time, as well as wireless interference, weather conditions, and obstructions (such as buildings, trees, hills).
When buying a new gadget, we recommend checking the highest download and upload speeds supported by its chipset. However, even high-end products may seem to get slower with time, as apps and websites demand increasing resources. Moreover, downloading more apps as time goes by also implies more background data syncing – the good news is that you can usually manage background data permissions yourself.