The iPhone Gets 5G, but What’s It Like in Real-World Use?

Originally published at: The iPhone Gets 5G, but What’s It Like in Real-World Use? - TidBITS

Apple’s iPhone 12 line is the first with 5G, meaning the phones can tap into high-speed data from the main cellular carriers in the US. But “high speed” is relative. Depending on carrier and location, downloads are crazy fast or merely akin to 4G LTE. Julio Ojeda-Zapata tried T-Mobile and Verizon 5G.

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What’s very interesting is what T-Mobile is rolling out. They have a T-Mobile Home service which offers 50mbps to 100mbps download for $50 per month. That’s $30 cheaper than my cable.

I think we’re finally seeing the end of the Internet cable monopoly.

@julio, I suspect this is a typo and should be Mbps.

I’d get downloads of 100 gigabits per second or so,

I tried out 5G on T-Mobile around my home and campus here in Berkeley. I did nothing else than switch between force LTE and force 5G since I wasn’t sure Apple’s smart 5G switching would always kick in as soon as I launch a quick benchmark. To my big surprise I never saw any difference between the two. The best I saw on that day (Sat right after lunch) was about 20 Mbps and both LTE and 5G delivered that same speed in that location.

I’m not too worried about the speed being low because I don’t stream 4k video to my 12 mini. And I wasn’t expecting hundreds of Mbps because I know around here T-Mobile is all sub-6 GHz so no mm wave. But still, considering all the time Tim spent on 5G together with his new Swedish best friend, I would have hoped 5G midband would at least show some improvement over LTE. Oh well, it will only get better with time. Maybe I should travel to Minnesota one day to experience mm wave speeds. On second thought, nah, too cold. :wink:

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Fixed. Good catch. Thanks.

Thank you for a nice article. :slight_smile:

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I have the 12 Pro Max and T-Mobile. I didn’t expect to see 5G for months - but to my surprise, I get 5G on my morning walk consistently in my neighborhood of Summerlin Centre (Las Vegas). I haven’t done any benchmarks but it seems to perform just like LTE. Summerlin has a reputation as having very poor cell coverage so this was a pleasant surprise.


A typo, or looking to the future?

Consistent speeds in the mid-hundreds of gigabits per second are not too shabby.

Thanks for the article. It confirms that the primary reason for me to buy a 12 mini now would be to get one before Apple discontinues that nice-sized phone, and that’s good information.

Definitely a typo—thanks! When you start comparing throwing around Mbps and Gbps in an article, it’s all too easy to glaze over slightly and focus on the number rather than on the units. Fixed.


T-Mobile hasn’t implemented its mid-band (2.5Ghz) midband 5G in Berkeley yet. You might see 5G on the 600Mhz band which is almost nationwide, but it’s not much faster than 4G/LTE. Their midband is only in about 400 cities.

It’s widely deployed in Northern NJ and I’m waiting for it to get to my area.

I live on Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with T-Mobile as my provider. I can get 5G if I go out on my deck and stand in just the right spot. When I find the sweet spot I’ve seen speeds as high as 65 mbs. In the house 5G is nonexistent with LTE speeds of 15 mps. My home wireless has consistently been over 250 mps through Wave. So, for the time being T-Mobile will not be my internet provider. That being said, I am happy with my iPhone 12 pro.

In the end, few people will buy a new iPhone for its 5G capabilities. What’s important is that upgrading will future-proof yourself for the near future, when decent 5G speeds become more widely available from all the carriers.

There’s no need to rush to upgrade to “future-proof yourself.” If 5G is what you want, upgrade when it becomes available in your area. When that time arrives you might find yourself getting an iPhone 13, 14, 15, … who knows what version. You can be sure that all future iPhones will have 5G—until 6G comes along.

T-Mobile has a nationwide 600Mhz 5G network. That network isn’t any faster than the 600Mhz 4G network and doesn’t drain the battery. If you see you’re in a 5G network that’s not that fast, that’s the one you’re using.

However, T-Mobile has a 2.5Ghz midband network they’re also deploying. This network will reach speeds of up to 300mbps to 400mbps. I haven’t seen a map of this network. There are a few webpages that list cities where deployed, and I see it around where I live. I see T-Mobile’s midband 5G is now in the LA area. I don’t think it’s in the Bay Area right now.