5G is one of the iPhone 12’s main features, but it’s not readily available to everyone.
Apple is in the process of releasing four new iPhones, with the first two — the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro currently available, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini start shipping on Nov. 13 — all of which are equipped with 5G connectivity. Even though the latest crop of iPhones can connect to 5G cellular networks, you may find out that your wireless plan won’t give you 5G access, or if you’re like me, you live in an area that doesn’t have 5G coverage. Some reports even indicate that 5G drains the iPhone 12’s battery faster than the LTE connection we’re normally connected to. In other words, right now, 5G may not live up to your expectations.
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To be clear, Apple has built a new Smart Data feature into the iPhone 12’s software that only uses a 5G connection when you’re doing something that requires it — like streaming a video or playing a game on a cellular connection. The goal of switching between an LTE and 5G connection in the background is to extend the iPhone 12’s battery life. So the battery life reduction you experience may end up being negligible. I personally haven’t been able to test the difference because, as I just mentioned, I don’t have 5G coverage. That said, if you don’t want or need your phone to connect to a 5G network, you can disable 5G with just a few taps on your iPhone’s screen. You don’t have to do too much to turn 5G on or off, but there’s more that you should know.
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
How to turn off 5G on the iPhone 12
Open the Settings app then go to Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data and tap LTE. Your phone will then turn off its 5G connection, reverting to (sometimes) slower LTE connection. You can always turn 5G back on when you want it, or when service in your area improves by repeating the steps above and selecting 5G Auto. Or if you’d rather your iPhone 12 not use Apple’s Smart Data mode, you can force it to always use a 5G connection when available by selecting 5G On. Install OTA updates over 5G? It’s possible.
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
One more thing…
If you decide you want to leave your iPhone 12’s 5G connection on 5G Auto, it’s a good idea to double check this setting. Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Data Mode on your iPhone. There you’ll find three different options for how aggressive your iPhone will be with how it allows apps and services to use your 5G connection. For example, with Allow more data on 5G selected, your FaceTime and streaming video will come through in “high-quality,” and your phone will even allow you to download future iOS updates over a 5G connection. Read through the descriptions for each data mode and select the one that works best for you — and remember, even if your carrier touts unlimited data plans, odds are there’s some sort of limit after which your internet speeds will be slowed down. If you’re waiting for your iPhone 12 to be delivered, get your current iPhone ready now, ensuring a smooth upgrade process when it does arrive. After that, read through our guide that covers four different ways to set up your new phone, and then dig into these settings.
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