AT&T is reportedly pressuring Apple to advertise the 14.4 Mbps theoretical maximum download speed of the iPhone 4S as "4G" in the iPhone's status bar. Given AT&T's aggressive attempts to market HSPA+ as 4G, that's not surprising. What is surprising is that according to This is my next, Apple is apparently bowing to that pressure and will show "4G" in the iPhone 4S status bar. AT&T has confirmed it is "working with Apple" on the matter.
While HSPA+ is faster than the standard supported by the iPhone 4 and earlier phones, it is not "true" 4G even if AT&T is advertising it that way. Given the litigious nature of the mobile industry, particularly any time Apple's involved, it seems like a terrible mistake for Apple to bow to AT&T and advertise a feature the iPhone 4S doesn't actually offer.
If AT&T and Apple do indeed tout "4G" in the iPhone 4S status bar, you can be virtually certain you'll be seeing the following headline or some variant of it all over the Web very soon afterward: "Class action lawsuit begins over false '4G' iPhone claims." You can be just as certain that various pundits will go out of their way to blame Apple more than AT&T. It's all so very predictable that it's hard to imagine what possible advantage Apple sees in agreeing to AT&T's proposal.
We've dug through the iOS 5 firmware in an attempt to locate icons for 4G status in the iPhone 4S status bar. We weren't expecting to find such an icon in iOS 5.0, and we didn't -- all that's there are the icons for EDGE, GPRS, and 3G (UMTS). If Apple is indeed planning on hyping 4G in the status bar, it's going to have to come about in a future iOS update.