Does the iPhone 12 Have 5G? Yes It Does

Here's what you should know about 5G on the iPhone

The iPhone 12 (all models) is Apple's first phone to include 5G. If you’re not familiar with this new network type, it promises ultra-fast speeds and low latency so that you can download movies quicker, stream in high-def, and have smoother online gameplay for more of a real-time experience.

iPhone 12 with 5G text

5G’s Massive Speed Boost

At speeds that are theoretically 20 times faster than 4G, 5G’s main selling point is definitely its speed.

Apple says that iPhone 12 users can, in ideal conditions, expect download speeds that are twice as fast as what you'd get with 4G: 4 Gbps with 5G and 2 Gbps with 4G LTE.

However, there are three types of 5G that are available to you depending on where you are and who your provider is: low-band, mid-band, and mmWave. The one you use determines the speed and coverage you receive.

  • Low-band 5G can go the furthest distance, so it covers the greatest area to reach the most people, but its speeds aren’t as great as the other bands.
  • mmWave, or millimeter wave, grants the fastest 5G speeds but it’s extremely unreliable. It won’t penetrate walls, so it doesn’t work indoors, and you often need a direct line of sight with the 5G tower to use its full speeds.
  • Mid-band 5G is the middle of the two that combines the best of both: decent speeds and good coverage.

You can’t pick which 5G type to use because they’re determined by the carrier and where you're using 5G, but the point is that speed varies tremendously based on those things.

The iPhone 12 on Verizon's 5G network, for example, is said to be able to reach gigabit download speeds with 200 Mbps uploads.

To get the 4 Gbps Apple claims the iPhone 12 can deliver requires you to be on a mmWave network. Only models in the US support this higher-frequency 5G version.

Getting 5G on iPhone 12

So how do you get it? Unfortunately, merely owning a 5G iPhone doesn’t grant you access to all of those benefits because 5G networks aren’t available everywhere you go. If you do manage to get on this next-gen network, your phone will perform at far greater speeds, but if not, you’re stuck using 4G like older iPhones.

5G networks are up and running all over the place (albeit scattered), but there are two things you need to do first before realizing the full benefits of 5G on iPhone 12:

  1. Determine where there’s 5G service from your carrier.
  2. Subscribe to a plan that’s compatible with this new network (most include it by default).

If you don’t travel much and you live in an area that isn’t currently covered with 5G, you simply won’t get 5G-level service. Even if you own the iPhone 12.

Whether you’re looking into getting the phone or you already have it but can’t get the speed enhancement, take a look at which carriers offer 5G right now. Each of them have coverage maps you can use to see exactly which cities, and sometimes which city blocks, have 5G.

If 5G hasn't arrived where you spend most of your time and there's no guarantee that you'll have it soon, we recommend avoiding the new iPhone for now if you're only interested in it for the improved speeds.

Since you need a data plan to use 5G, you should pick one from your carrier that supports 5G. Most of them include it as part of all of their unlimited plans:

  • Verizon: Start Unlimited, Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, and Just Kids
  • AT&T: Unlimited Elite, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Starter
  • T-Mobile: Essentials, Magenta, and Magenta Plus

Remember that MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) don’t necessarily support 5G just because the owners of the towers they use do. Visible, for example, didn't support 5G until some time after Verizon did.

5G-Specific Features

5G demands more power from the iPhone. This is clear in tests provided by Tom’s Guide to compare how long the iPhone 12 battery lasts when it's used over a 5G network versus a 4G network. It showed a 2 hour differential on both the regular and Pro version.

If you follow that link, you’ll see how the iPhone 12’s battery life tests compare to the iPhone 11 over 4G and some other 5G-compatible Android devices. It's clear that you'll take a battery hit if you use 5G full time.

Fortunately, you don't necessarily need 5G-level speeds for everything you do on your phone. Browsing the web is probably snappy enough without 5G, and the same goes for checking the weather, backing up old photos, etc.

Apple has a few solutions that are supposed to help you use 5G when you need it but disable it when you don’t:

Smart Battery Control

Similar to Low Power Mode that disables some of your phone’s features to when you need it to last longer, the iPhone 12 includes Smart Data mode (called 5G Auto in the settings) to disable 5G for the same purpose.

When your iPhone doesn’t need 5G speeds, like when it’s making updates in the background, it automatically uses LTE to save battery life. But as soon as speed does matter — if you’re downloading a season of your favorite show — iPhone 12 jumps to 5G.

Switching over to the slower network will, obviously, make everything slower. But if you need 5G for other things like downloading files or video calling, you can always manually choose 5G.

iPhone 12 5G setting

Software Optimization

iPhone 12 also uses an app optimization technique to let some apps benefit from 5G supposedly without using additional power.

It can determine if you have an unlimited data plan so that it can be more relaxed and allow you to use 5G on more apps since data usage isn’t a concern. For example, enabling Allow More Data on 5G lets you lean on the 5G connection to have HD FaceTime calls, download iOS updates, and stream videos and songs.

iPhone 12 5G data mode settings
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