Nicole Nguyen Tests 5G’s Effect on Battery Life on iPhones and iPads

Nicole Nguyen, writing for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

So, I wanted to compare 5G and 4G battery performance for myself. I streamed a long YouTube video of relaxing ocean footage, with video quality set to “Auto,” on different Apple devices until they ran out of battery, first on 5G, then on LTE. It isn’t a perfect test, but it proved to be a consistent way to witness 5G’s added battery drain. [...]

The new SE lasted nearly an hour longer on 4G than on 5G, while the new iPad Air and iPhone 13 Mini went for about 1.5 additional hours. And while the iPhone 13 Pro ran a remarkable 12 hours and 50 minutes on 5G, it still lasted about 2.5 hours longer on LTE.

Nguyen includes a tip at the end of her column explaining how to create a simple Shortcuts automation to switch cellular networking to LTE when your device’s battery hits a certain threshold, like say 40 percent. But I look at these results and wonder why I enable 5G at all. There is nothing I do with my iPhone — nothing — where I find LTE even just a little bit “too slow”.

I wrote about 5G, including mmWave “ultra wideband”, networking speeds in my review of the iPhones 12 and 12 Pro back in October 2020. Verizon’s ultra wideband network speeds are truly extraordinary — I still typically get 1,500–2,000 Mbps down with 5G ultra wideband. With both regular 5G and LTE, I typically get between 50–100 Mbps down — and I see a regular 5G connection far far more often than I do 5G ultra wideband. I don’t see any practical advantage to regular 5G compared to LTE. Those crazy-fast ultra-wideband download speeds are like owning a car that can go 200 MPH. So I’m just going to set my iPhone to use LTE all the time and save battery life. I’ll turn 5G Auto back on if I ever run into a situation where my LTE signal seems weak or slow.

The carriers certainly aren’t going to suggest you do this because their current marketing campaigns are entirely about how great their 5G networks are — even though they’re only now starting to deliver meaningful real-world advantages over LTE. And Apple’s not going to suggest you turn off 5G either, because they are co-marketing partners with the carriers. But I’ll suggest it: try turning off 5G to save battery life and see if you miss it at all.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022