With the iPhone 12, Apple presented its first smartphone with 5G in autumn – all new devices in the iPhone 12 series are equipped with it. But what does that actually mean in everyday life, especially in terms of battery life? We explain how Apple starts into the 5G era.
Many months before the actual presentation, it was clear: the iPhone 12 will get 5G. In fact, Apple particularly emphasized the feature in its virtual keynote, even if the competition has been working on the topic for a long time. Nevertheless, the mobile communications industry is hoping for a push for the fast 5G network through Apple's support. So that the bill works out, the new iPhone can handle various cellular frequencies. This is especially important if you are traveling in several countries.
This is what you need for the 5G start
- A 5G-capable smartphone, i.e. any model of the new iPhone 12 series
- A mobile tariff with 5G
- A location with 5G coverage, it is best to find out more from your network operator
mmWave vs. Sub-6 GHz: the differences
Now it's getting a little technical: While the iPhone is in the US in the fast mmWave network, German users have to make do with the sub-6 GHz network. The difference: mmWave reaches higher speeds, but the range is lower – ideal for large urban areas.
The sub-6 GHz network, on the other hand, does not achieve quite as high speeds, but has a greater range – perfect for more rural areas. In Germany, mmWave does not currently play a role because it is simply not available. But it also means: in terms of speed we are (not only) lagging behind the USA.
Supported 5G frequencies
In Germany, the iPhone 12 series transmits in the following frequencies:
- n1 (2100 MHz)
- n2 (1900 MHz)
- n3 (1800 MHz)
- n5 (850 MHz)
- n7 (2600 MHz)
- n8 (900 MHz)
- n12 (700 MHz)
- n20 (800 DD)
- n25 (1900 MHz)
- n28 (700 APT)
- n38 (TD 2600)
- n40 (TD 2300)
- n41 (TD 2500)
- n66 (AWS ‑ 3)
- n77 (TD 3700)
- n78 (TD 3500)
- n79 (TD 4700)
In the USA, the faster frequencies n260 (39 GHz) and n261 (28 GHz) are also supported. These frequency ranges are not yet available in Germany.
LTE vs. 5G: up to ten times faster
At Telekom, the 5G expansion is progressing. Image: © Telekom 2020
While speeds of theoretically up to 1 gigabit per second can be achieved in the LTE network, it is even 10 Gbit / s with 5G – ten times the speed. Admittedly, such values are not even close in practice, which is due to various factors. The decisive factor is not only what the mobile phone providers offer their customers, but also the distance to individual masts and any sources of interference. In Germany, the three mobile network operators Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica (O2) are working on expanding their 5G networks.
Incidentally, LTE serves as the basis for 5G technology, which is basically just an upgrade. Existing radio masts can often be expanded with 5G antennas. In practice, however, this sometimes results in the problem that LTE and 5G are equally fast – sometimes 5G even gets the short straw. Namely whenever the available bandwidth is split between 4G and 5G customers. Then it can happen that you are traveling much slower with 5G than with LTE.
The iPhone 12 supports 5G in the Vodafone network in the high band (3.5 gigahertz) and in the mid band (1.8 gigahertz). Image: © Vodafone 2020
What about the battery life?
Initial tests have confirmed what was already clear: surfing the 5G network drains the iPhone battery significantly faster than the LTE network. So not only is the speed higher, but also the battery consumption. Apple has responded with a clever feature: if you activate the smart data mode, the iPhone 5G will only be used if it is available in sufficient quality and there is a current need, such as the download of a large file. The cell phone then transmits again in the slower, but more energy-efficient LTE network.
You can find the options for this as follows: " Settings> Mobile network> Data options".
Voice and data
- 5G Auto: If 5G does not improve performance, the iPhone will automatically switch to LTE.
- 5G on: If 5G is available, the iPhone always uses 5G.
- LTE: iPhone uses LTE network even when 5G is available.
- Allow more data in 5G: content such as videos or services such as FaceTime in higher quality with available 5G.
- Standard: automatic updates and background tasks when using mobile phones. Normal quality for FaceTime and videos.
- Data saving mode: data usage is reduced in both WLAN and cellular networks to save data. Automatic updates and background updates are paused.
Is the breakthrough for 5G coming now?
In order for 5G to become established, it not only requires consistent network expansion, but also 5G devices – with the iPhone 12 there are many new users who come into contact with 5G for the first time. And with Apple's support, it is clear that upcoming iPhones will also be compatible with the 5G standard. These are ideal conditions for 5G to prevail. It will take some time until then: According to Statista, experts are expecting around 164 million 5G smartphones to be sold this year. Worldwide.
iPhone 12 Buy now at
- All new iPhone 12 cell phones use the 5G network
- In contrast to the USA, they use the slower sub-6 GHz network here
- In addition to the iPhone, you need a 5G mobile phone tariff
- 5G must be available at your location 5G
- In practice, 5G may be slower than LTE – because the bandwidths are divided
- The iPhone 12 has a data-saving mode in which 5G is only used when necessary