Hands down anyone who has access to 3G would prefer to use that on any smartphone, Android or not. However, I keep running into situations

Using 2G on an Android smartphone: How fast is 2G?

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Hands down anyone who has access to 3G would prefer to use that on any smartphone, Android or not. However, I keep running into situations where 3G is not available and I have to fall back on 2G, that is GPRS or EDGE. I have already written about such experiences on a Windows Phone smartphone. Today, I was without 3G service and had to make do with 2G mobile internet on my Xperia P. How fast is 2G internet and how was my experience with it?

How Fast Is 2G?

Let’s look at the theoretical maximum speeds first. 2G encompasses three different technologies – GSM, GPRS, and EDGE. Here are the full names of those abbreviations and their theoretical maximum speeds:

  • GSM / 2G (Global System for Mobile Communications): 9.6Kbps
  • GPRS / 2.5G (General packet radio services): 35Kbps to 171kbps
  • EDGE / 2.75G (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution): 120Kbps to 384Kbps

I use the term “theoretical maximum speed” because in real life conditions, your internet connection will not achieve those speeds due to several factors, including: network congestion, natural obstructions, the limitations of your device, among others.

My Social Networking Experience

With the official Twitter app for Android, I got a lot of “Cannot retrieve activity at this time…” errors and very few tweets posted.

Social Networking on 2G Internet - how fast is 2G

My Experience With Instant Messaging On 2G

For the most part, chatting via WhatsApp worked well. Facebook Chat was a bit more epileptic. I have observed over time that WhatsApp handles poor internet better then Facebook Chat does, even over a 3G connection. Google Hangout didn’t seem to like EDGE much either and it wouldn’t even load my online contacts.

My Experience With Email

Both my email accounts kept chugging along silently, receiving and sending mails without issues. It was much slower, of course. But email worked.

My Experience Using Play Store

Here was where I ran onto the greatest problem. For the most part. I got a “No connection: Retry” error when attempting to open pages or menus in the Play Store. I never got to page with the download link for any app. Play Store just didn’t seem to play well with anything but a fast internet connection.

In all, it was an experience that was less than pleasant. I kept wondering how we got by years ago, but then remembered that the smartphones of years gone by were not as advanced as what we have today. The mobile webpages of years gone by were also much leaner than today’s bloated pages. Those older mobiles were designed to function on lean resources in every way.

This is not an attempt to do a comprehensive review of 2G internet on Android. I just do wonder how those who live with only 2G coverage get by. Which is why I am going o ask: If you live with only 2G coverage, what has been your experience with using your Android smartphone like? Feel free to share too if you use any other type of smartphone or even non smartphones.


  1. For about a week or so now, MTN has been on EDGE only in my area and the experience has been terrible. It more or less mirrors what you detailed in this post. I had to always use WiFi for stuff to work in any sane manner.

  2. Being on Airtel, using 2G.most of the time has been necessary in recent times.

    Not using Facebook, Google Hangout , push email or Twitter apps .Whatsapp works here effortless.

    Google Play does. not work with 2G, but then, I get my apps in other ways, so that does not.bother me in the least.

    the only downside here is the snail speed when.downloading. the upside is decreased battery depletion rate.

    Conclusively, I can cope emminwntly with the slow speed occasioned by 2G.

  3. I have beeen using Airtel’s uber slow edge (looks slower than that of glo, MTN, Etisalat) on my android for most of the time owning to the fact that the HSDPA+ service is epileptic in my area.

    Gmail works without a glitch,
    whatsapp works perfectly
    Facebook works great too (ever since I updated it to the Facebook app with chat heads and the latest version is even more better)
    Google Play store works just as long you are willing for it to load or alternatively I use opera mini to access the play store and initiate downloads (any file download above 5mb is usually done via Wi-Fi)
    Twitter is my pride and joy on 2g it works very well unless when am trying to view images then the waiting game begins.

    My experience on 2G has been OK although I wish it was faster like etisalat’s 2g (when it is not raining) or glo’s

  4. Am having the same problem whenever there is 2g network on my galaxy s2 and y duos. Browsers like google chrome, fire fox beta, dolphin, do not open. but opera for android opens on edge network. Other applications like google play, facebook, twitter, llipboard will always respond no network connection try again. Smartphone without good internet network to me is useless.

  5. I’m not a very active user of Facebook and Twitter so I access their services through Opera Mini which works just fine on 2G networks. WhatsApp had no issue with 2G networks too, except downloading video and music files occasionally. I use K9 Mail for my e-mail needs which works fine with 2G networks too.

    The only area I run into problems some times is downloads generally and opening and downloading apps from the Google Play Store. Google Play Store will not work well except the 2G connection is very steady and not too slow too. In most cases, it works very well at night but struggles during the day time, but still works. I do get error messages, but if I persist it usually works.

    For most times, I always switch to 3G whenever I need to visit the Play Store if it is available because it is a lot easier and faster and I never attempt downloading any file more than 10MB on 2G networks.

  6. I’m still trying to figure out the purpose of GPRS these days. I have never managed to load a page or do much of anything else apart from Whatsapp. Even then…

  7. 2g on Android sucks, playstore never opens, just opera mini and whatsapp work. Mister Mo I was just thinking can our network be calibrated to work on Android the way Blackberry works?

  8. I use an OS6 Curve 9300. I’m ALWAYS on 2G. I access the app store, push email works like a breeze, WhatsApp works but requires the network to be atleast stable if not fast, if it isn’t stable it won’t fetch messages at all. Browser works well to, but it’s touch and go if not stable, same with Opera Mini. The Facebook and Twitter apps work decently, but once I wanna view a pic, I have to wait a ridiculously long time(up to 3-minutes sometimes)…

    BBM is the oga patapata of them all, that app can almost run on anything except GSM and SOS, no matter how bad the service is, even if it’s stable for 30-secs, then 30-secs is all it needs to sync and fetch all messages.

  9. yea if you’re dealing with slow connections and a fast internet is important to you, then Blackberry is the way to go, their data compression process works like a miracle, this came into play for me when I was in school, there wasn’t any 3G and the 2G crawled at best, I was using a Nokia N96 at the time but when I saw how much faster my friends blackberry connections were I just had to change even if I didn’t like BB very much atleast my sanity would be intact.

  10. I quite agree that Blackberry is king when it comes to using 2G. Android performs abysmally with 2G…really think some work should be done to change this. As a result of my personal experiences, I will classify 2G as basic and plus(no be my fault; blame our networks!). On basic 2G, I get to use only the Twitter for Andy and some email. Browsing is horrid. 2G + allows me to access more on my T4Android, use email, Instagram, LinkedIn and native browsing. Google play never works on (any) 2G but Whatsapp simply glides on it.

  11. For me, 2G works quite good. I use whatsapp, opera mini, imo messenger for fb, gtalk and fast for fb app. They work flawlessly without any issues. For email, k9 works best. That much is enough to satisfy my smartphone needs.

  12. I use vodafone 2G.. the only downside i feel using 2g on android is the connection vanishes (the ‘E’ symbol o status bar keeps fading) every 10-15 secs though I have my mobile data kept on… and using nokia 5130 i never had this type of problem. I wonder what the problem of these androids :-[

  13. I use an android phone which is locked on 2G meaning I can’t a access 3G at all.I Use airtel which is much slower than etisalat but slightly better than mtn. 3G seems to be my least problem. I can download large files using yandex opera mini at night. During the day I can browse pages with ease via Uc mobile.I can easily chat on whatsapp and 2go for android .play store don’t work on 2G but there are dozen other android market that works on 2G .1mobile market and mor genie…

  14. So 2G isn’t so bad on android after all And with airtel ,there isn’t much different between 2G and 3G .BTW I forgot to mention dolphin mini browser works perfectly fine and opens facebook exactly like the official android or iPhone Facebook.the only problem it consumes so much data and battery like the fb app itself .but much faster

  15. hmmmm mine is worse.2g everywhere i go.apart from the fact that i download facebook most times,i dont have any prblem again

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