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What 5G means for Apple’s iPhone 12



Apple iPhone 12 colors
Apple

All iPhone 12 models support 5G. While some Android phones support 5G, it is the first Apple to release phones that support 5G. So are ultra-fast speeds available everywhere? And what does 5G mean for battery life? We̵

7;re breaking it down.

Which iPhones have 5G?

All iPhone 12 models support 5G. The iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Max all include 5G support.

Future iPhones are also likely to support 5G. However, older iPhones such as iPhone 11, iPhone XS, iPhone XR and iPhone X do not support 5G. This feature requires new hardware inside the iPhone and cannot be added via a software update.

How fast is 5G?

5G speeds are more complicated than you think. This is because 5G contains several variants.

Apple's iPhone presentation showing 4.0 Gbps 5G speeds
Apple

The fastest, most hyped version of 5G uses “millimeter wave” (mmWave) technology to deliver incredibly fast speeds. When someone says that 5G can offer speeds above 4.0 Gbps under “ideal conditions”, they are talking about millimeter waves.

Here’s the problem: Millimeter wave technology is short range. In dense urban areas, it may be worth the investment to install the required amount of base stations for wide coverage, and millimeter waves can deliver high speeds.

But not everywhere covered by 5G will be covered by millimeter wave base stations. Smaller cities and rural areas would need many more base stations located closer together. Realistically, the cost of this distribution means 5G in most small towns, rural areas and suburbs is unlikely to come close to the promised fastest speeds. They will get “sub-6” 5G similar to 4G LTE.

That does not mean that 5G is bad. 5G adds additional mid-range spectrum that should be extended somewhere faster service to rural areas covered by slower low-band service under 4G LTE. 5G should make mobile data at current speeds more widespread and reliable.

5G is an upgrade – and it enables very fast speeds under perfect conditions with densely located cellular base stations – but the fast 5G speeds are not about to appear everywhere in the country.

Thers is another problem: In some cases, 5G networks have shown lower speeds than 4G LTE networks. In September 2020, a PCMag test showed that AT & T’s 5G network was slower than its 4G LTE network in almost all tested cities. This is a result of how AT&T has chosen to distribute 5G and can be fixed by mobile operators – but it shows how upgrading to 5G is not necessarily an improvement in 2020.

RELATED: Not all 5G is the same: Millimeter wave, low band and intermediate band are explained

Will 5G drain your iPhone’s battery?

One
Apple

One reason that iPhones have probably not included 5G before – apart from the fact that mobile operators need more time to build their 5G networks – is that they can use more battery power.

Apple says that iPhone’s antennas automatically switch between 4G LTE and 5G mode to save battery power. When your iPhone does not need 5G, it will use 4G LTE. When 5G speeds help, your iPhone switches to 5G. This is called “Smart Data Mode.”

We expect that Apple has been waiting for the technology to mature and that you will not see the iPhone battery life shrink due to 5G.

Where is 5G available?

If you are wondering where the 5G service is available, you can check your mobile provider’s website. For example, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all have 5G coverage maps. You can zoom in and check the color-coded map to see what your mobile operator reports are available in your area.

Keep in mind that most maps only show where 5G is available. They often do not show where fast millimeter wave 5G is available. Most of the 5G coverage shown on the map will be intermediate band and low band 5G.

Verizon is unusually transparent compared to other mobile operators here. Verizon calls its 5G millimeter wave function “5G Ultra Wideband” and shows areas that support 5G Ultra Wideband on its map. For example, if you look at Verizon’s map of 5G coverage in Los Angeles, you will see 5G Ultra Wideband (millimeter wave) available on some city blocks but not in most of the city.

Verizon's map of 5G coverage in Los Angeles

You may want to search for “5G millimeter scale” and the name of your mobile carrier or city to see if your carrier has notified you if it is available in your city.

Do you have to pay extra for 5G?

While you definitely need a 5G phone to take advantage of 5G, you probably do not need to pay extra for the 5G service. Mobile operators offer 5G services as part of their regular mobile plans.

Verizon planned to charge an additional $ 10 per month for access to the 5G network, but adopted the plan in August 2020. We do not know of any mobile operators in the US that charge extra for 5G.

Are you going to care about 5G?

In the long run, 5G is an important upgrade. For example, mobile data can be much faster in dense urban areas and stadiums. If millimeter-wave base stations are used more extensively, 5G can even transform your home Internet connection. Speeds similar to 4G LTE should be more widespread and reliable even in less dense areas.

In the short term, most are probably not close enough to mmWave base stations to see the fast speeds. Even worse is that 5G networks need more time and can be slower than their 4G counterparts. Hopefully, the iPhone will be smart enough to use 4G LTE networks when they are faster than 5G.

Apple’s release of a 5G iPhone is an important step. 5G is the future, and mobile operators will start to get even more serious about it with so many iPhone users taking advantage of it.

But by the end of 2020, is 5G a must? Well, not really. Not for most people.

Here’s the good news: All iPhone 12 models support 5G, and all support millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology. If you upgrade to a new iPhone, you get 5G support, and these 5G networks get better the longer you hold your iPhone.

But if you are happy with your iPhone and are considering upgrading only for 5G, we do not recommend it. 5G still needs more time before it is truly valuable to most people.

Of course, if you live in a dense urban area next to mmWave-based base stations, maybe a 5G-compatible iPhone would be a good upgrade! But most are not in that situation.

RELATED: What is 5G and how fast will it be?




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