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You finally got 5G on your iPhone – but here’s why you might want to disable it

Published May 7th, 2021 6:01PM EDT
iPhone 5G How to turn
Image: Apple

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In stark contrast to many other tech companies, Apple has never had an overriding obsession with being the first company to bring a product or technology to market. On the contrary, a consistent tenet of Apple’s product strategy has been to focus on being the best as opposed to the first.

For this very reason, Apple wasn’t exactly in a rush to roll out new iPhone models with support for 5G connectivity. While the hoopla and hype surrounding 5G being able to “change the world” was immense over the past few years, Apple took the position that introducing 5G devices without a sufficient amount of 5G coverage from carriers served no purpose.

And so, Apple took its sweet time and didn’t include support for 5G connectivity until it released its iPhone 12 lineup last September. The improved data speeds enabled by 5G are certainly welcome but there are some downsides to 5G worth mentioning as well.

Aside from the fact that cellular range with 5G is subpar relative to 4G, iPhones with 5G chipsets churn through battery life at a much faster clip. Suffice it to say, if your daily usage habits don’t exactly require blazing-fast connectivity, you might be better off switching 5G off completely to prioritize battery life.

Hardly a controversial perspective, even Apple itself concedes this point which is why the company last year introduced a new “Smart Data Mode” which dynamically switches between 4G and 5G depending on which apps are currently running. So if you’re just perusing some posts on Facebook, you’ll likely be content with 4G. But if you’re all of a sudden interested in watching some high-quality Netflix content, your iPhone will automatically switch to 5G.

It’s a clever solution, to be sure, but if battery life is hugely important to you, you may want to switch off 5G altogether and only turn it on in situations where you really need it.

If you’re keen on turning off 5G on your iPhone 12, all you have to do is open up the Settings app, select “Cellular” and then select “Voice & Data.” Here, you should see three options: 5G On, 5G Auto, and LTE.

5G On uses 5G at all times, even in instances where battery life is impacted. 5G Auto, meanwhile, only uses 5G when it will not have a serious impact on battery life. And LTE, of course, turns 5G off completely. While 5G Auto is likely preferable for most people, you’ll definitely want to select the LTE option if you’re in a situation where you need to maximize battery life at all costs.

Another setting to be aware of is Data Mode. By going to Settings > Cellular > Data Mode, you can toggle “Allow More Data on 5G” on and off. This setting, when on, “provides higher-quality video and FaceTime when connected to 5G cellular networks.”

Opting for the “Standard” option, meanwhile, reduces cellular data usage by “pausing automatic updates and background tasks.”

With the settings above, you can set your 5G usage to work just as you need it to strike a fine balance between data speeds and battery life.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.