Wednesday, March 23, 2022

5G’s Effect on Battery Life

John Gruber:

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.


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.


Update (2022-04-12): Tim Bray:

Either I didn’t believe the supposed customers really needed what 5G offered, or I didn’t believe the opportunity was anywhere near big enough to justify the trillion-dollar build-out investment. Six years later, I still don’t. This is a report on a little online survey I ran, looking for actual real-world 5G impact to see if I was wrong.

John Gruber:

There are some people who report getting good 5G coverage in remote locations that have poor LTE coverage, and 5G seemingly does work much better than LTE in places like stadiums and arenas with big crowds of people.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

3G's use case was a massive bandwidth boost. In city centers, I could reach ~50 Mbit/s down with it. Even in the country side, it was a big improvement. Almost good enough for landline use.

4G boosted bandwidth, too, but really the much bigger win was no longer needing to wrap packet-based networking, i.e. it's "IP-native". Thus, a latency boost: from ~200ms pings to ~30. Again, beginning to compete with landlines.

(I'm using "3G" as an umbrella term for UMTS, HSDPA, HSPA+, etc., and "4G" for LTE, LTE Advanced, etc.)

What does 5G do, exactly? What problem does this solve?

At best, you can argue that its increases free up space on the shared medium. That's… about it.

5G doesn't pass Steve Jobs's "you've got to start with the user experience, not the technology" sniff test, so far.

(However, historically speaking, neither did 3G. 3G/UMTS was hyped around 2000, with applications such as video chat. It really wasn't until the late 2000s that the phones actually made good use of it, and video chat too much longer yet to become much of a thing.

Likewise, 5G is hyped with things like autonomous cars, so maybe it'll become useful somewhere around 2254. Beam me up…)

Agreed, I'd be perfectly happy with better 4G coverage. From what I've heard though, 5G is mostly for IoT of the future.

"But I’ll suggest it: try turning off 5G to save battery life and see if you miss it at all."


This is why when I upgraded to the iPhone 13, I kept my 4G plan and didn't upgrade that, so I never have to deal with 5G at all! Its great.

(The other reason is that the 5G plan was actually more, especially if I wanted to stream HD video, which is a ridiculous restriction on some plans).

Leave a Comment