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iPhone 12 dies two hours faster when connected to a 5G network

Published Oct 21st, 2020 6:35PM EDT
iPhone 12 5G battery life test
Image: Apple

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  • Early iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro battery tests show that 5G has a significant effect on battery life.
  • When Tom’s Guide tested the battery life of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, both phones died about two hours faster when 5G was on the entire time.
  • Apple has included a Smart Data Mode feature that automatically switches from 5G to 4G in order to save battery, but you might just want to turn 5G off.

In theory, 5G is a major advance for the smartphone industry. Theoretical top speeds for downloads and uploads are far higher on a 5G network than on a 4G LTE network, 5G networks can handle more traffic, and the latency is lower on 5G. Unfortunately, 5G connections also consume more energy than 4G connections, which is why Tom’s Guide decided to find out how much of a difference 5G would make on the iPhone 12’s battery life.

Tom’s Guide explains that their battery test consists of surfing the web “continuously at 150 nits of screen brightness, launching a new site every 30 seconds until the battery drains.” In order to see how drastically 5G affects battery life, the site ran the test on both an iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro over 4G and 5G.

With AT&T’s 5G network, the iPhone 12 lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes. After switching over to a 4G connection, the same iPhone 12 survived for 10 hours and 23 minutes. The iPhone 12 Pro fared slightly better, with a battery life of 9 hours and 6 minutes on 5G and 11 hours and 24 minutes on 4G.

For comparison’s sake, here’s how long four popular 5G Android phones lasted (at different refresh rates):

  • Galaxy S20 5G (60Hz/120Hz): 9:31/8:04
  • Galaxy S20 Plus 5G (60Hz/120Hz): 10:31/8:55
  • OnePlus 8T 5G (60/Hz/120Hz): 10:49/9:58
  • Google Pixel 5 (60Hz/90Hz): 9:56/9:29

As you can see, even with a higher refresh rate (which consumes power that much more quickly), three out of the four Android phones outlasted the iPhone 12, while two topped the iPhone 12 Pro. With the standard 60Hz refresh rate, all four Android phones beat the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. As Tom’s Guide notes, this is not the only way to test battery life, nor is it the definitive way, but it’s clear that the first 5G iPhone models aren’t the longest lasting.

Apple knew it had a potential problem on its hands before the iPhone 12 began shipping, as the company made a point of highlighting its Smart Data Mode during its reveal event on October 13th. This feature automatically switches you from 5G to 4G to save battery life, but it only activates in specific situations. If you really need your battery to last, you might just want to manually switch over to 4G. After all, many of the early reviews suggest that 5G networks are still so limited and spotty that you shouldn’t be upgrading solely for 5G in the first place.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.