Will you get better battery life if you turn off 5G?


The first 5G phone hit the market in 2019 and by now, there’s a fairly good chance that you have one by now. If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that your phone can work on 3G, 4G, LTE, and 5G. These are actually totally different broadcasting standards and your phone works perfectly well no matter which it’s using.

Throughout the last 18 months, cell carriers like AT&T have been working hard to improve 5G coverage throughout the nation. In densely populated areas, they’ve installed millimeter-wave 5G towers that provide massive speed increases. In the suburbs, they’ve taken a different path.

Most of the 5G in the country uses frequencies that were originally designed for 3G or over-the-air TV. 3G, once the darling of the tech world, is so obsolete that cell carriers can’t wait to turn it off. So, there’s some extra capacity out there. Also, for the last several years, the FCC has been actively moving TV broadcasters away from channels 37-51 so those frequencies can be used for 5G.

The downside of 5G that they don’t tell you

Every new cellular technology is a huge power hog when it first launched. When 4G launched in the mid-’00s, customers complained because they got as little as 30 minutes of battery life when online. That’s a pretty extreme example, but every improvement in speed has come to market alongside huge battery drain problems.

There’s no doubt this is true of 5G as well. I couldn’t find any data where anyone had really tested it to my satisfaction, but there’s no question that there’s a power drain issue. It’s probably not severe in most cases, but there is a power drain issue.

As 5G continues to evolve, it will be less of an issue. Battery technology will slowly improve, and chips will get more and more efficient. But for now, if you aren’t satisfied with the battery life from your 5G phone, turn off 5G.

On iPhones

go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data, and tap on “LTE.”  This will stop all 5G. You can choose “5G Auto” but this doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference right now.

On Androids

Every Android phone is going to be different, but they’re similar in general. These steps work on a Samsung 5G phone. With a little creativity it should be possible for you to figure out how to do it on other phones.

  • Open the Settings app
  • Tap Connections
  • Tap Mobile networks
  • Tap Network mode
  • Select 4G/3G/2G (Auto)

When should you turn off 5G?

First of all, look at the network icon on your phone. If you’re on Wi-Fi, then don’t worry at all. 5G is only active when you’re away from Wi-Fi.

If the icon says 4G or LTE, you’re also not on 5G so turning it off isn’t going to make a difference. If it says 5GE, you’re not on 5G either. I know that doesn’t make sense but 5GE is AT&T’s name for advanced LTE, not 5G.

If the icon says 5G (not 5GE, that’s different), then you are on 5G. If you’re not happy with your battery life, try turning off 5G and you’ll probably see a modest boost in battery life. It’s probably going to be more obvious in inner cities where phones are using millimeter-wave 5G, because that’s the most power-hungry.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.