One of the highly publicized benefits of having an iPhone 12 on Verizon was the service of a 5G wireless operator. Apple even brought CEO Hans Westberg to the launch of the iPhone on October 12 in October to talk about 5G. But current 5G performance on the Verizon network may disappoint people who have purchased an iPhone 12 – or any type of 5G device – for use on the Verizon national network.
According to PC Magazine testing, Verizon customers may want to turn off their 5G signal and stick to 4G LTE instead, as a more established standard may be faster than 5G in certain areas.
A key advantage of Verizon’s 5G network is the millimeter-wave signal “ultra broadband” (UWB) signal, which has a higher capacity than the 5G services below 6, offered by other operators. But Verizon’s mmWave-based network is limited to about 60 U.S. cities and selected arenas and stadiums. This is because fast mmWave signals – and they can exceed 1 Gbps when downloading data – do not travel very far and can be blocked by physical obstacles such as buildings.
To build its 5G coverage, Verizon is redistributing parts of its LTE / 4G spectrum for use as 5G, using a technique called Dynamic Spectrum Sharing. In this way, Verizon was able to launch its national network at about the same time as it debuted the iPhone 12. That portion of the Verizon 5G now reaches 230 million people in 2,700 cities across the United States.
It’s also part of Verizon’s 5G coverage that PC Magazine noted in its testing. During a speed test of the iPhone 12 Pro in New York, a publication found that the DSS 5G network is usually slower than 4G.
The problem isn’t limited to iPhones either, as the site also tested the OnePlus 8 on the DSS 5G and the Galaxy S20 FE on the usual 4G. These tests also showed that 4G offers higher overall download speeds. The problem is not limited to Verizon either, as PC Magazine tests speed in 26 cities also found AT&T’s “low-bandwidth” 5G was often slower than its 4G network.
It is worth noting that Verizon’s UWB 5G is not affected. PCMag took the iPhone 12 Pro to eight locations to test its speed, and only the first seven had the DSS 5G, which was slower than 4G and suffered from higher latency. The eighth, offered by UWB 5G, was significantly faster than both.
“For most customers, performance on our 5G national network will be similar to 4G. [DSS] is a new technology and we continue to change it in the process. We expect performance improvements by 2021 and beyond, ”a Verizon spokesman told PCMag.
How much is it worth, T-Mobile encountered a similar problem a year ago when it launched its own national network on 5G low-spectrum. At the time, speeds were slightly faster than LTE, although in some places there was no difference in performance. T-Mobile spent the past year boosting its 5G speeds, primarily using the mid-range it gained by merging with Sprint.
It’s a small comfort for Verizon customers, who are likely to see improved speeds on the road, but will have to fight at this point with no visible gain unless they spend all their time in an area that has Verizon’s mmWave-based UWB 5G. Up to that point, iPhone 12 users on Verizon might consider turning off 5G in their phone settings and keeping 4G. This can save battery life, as your phone will not constantly give a 5G signal where it is available.
Our iPhone battery tests show a gain in battery life when you turn off 5G. The iPhone 12 lasted only 8 hours and 25 minutes on 5G in our battery testing, while with 4G on its own it lasted 10 hours and 23 minutes. The iPhone 12 Pro did slightly better, with 9 hours and 6 minutes on 5G, but its 4G performance was still significantly better and lasted 11 hours and 24 minutes.