The Basic Knowledge About 5G Icon That Means on iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max

By | November 28, 2020

Upgrading to an iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, or 12 Pro Max will take advantage of the ultra-fast 5G speed, but which 5G network are you actually using and which one is better than others? Depending on your carrier, you might see 5G, 5G +, 5G UW, or 5G E in the status bar next to signal strength, and there are quite a few differences between the two.

Just because the new iPhone supports 5G doesn’t mean it’s not confusing. Apple does little research on the user side and knows how to make it intuitive enough to understand, but 5G is the domain of wireless carriers, and carriers can complicate things as they see fit.

There are four main “ranges” of speed in 5G, each with very different characteristics, requirements and expectations. Additionally, some operators change icons to represent these different ranges, while others do not change icons at all.

Let’s take a look at the basics by going through each 5G icon below. However, if you’d like to go through the full 5G training, check out our complete 5G guide.

5G icon doesn’t mean the reality speeds

In fact, this means that you can use one of these networks whenever you see 5G, 5G + or 5G UW in the status bar (as you can see below), with the exception of 5G E, which is not 5G. This does not mean that you are using it, it means that you can plug it in whenever you need it. So you can see one of these three symbols and you can still get 4G or LTE speed. This is thanks to Apple’s new Smart Data Mode.

The iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, or 12 Pro Max will analyze your work and activity, and will use 4G or LTE if you decide your current work doesn’t benefit from 5G, 5G +, or 5G UW speeds. If you think 5G performance will improve the quality of service, you will switch to 5G, 5G + or 5G UW, but I’m not sure when it will switch.

According to Apple, Smart Data Mode saves battery life as 5G networks consume more battery power, even in very small amounts, compared to 4G or LTE. Apple believes most customers want to use LTE when 5G doesn’t offer many of the benefits to maximize battery savings.

Smart data mode is optional, however, so you can change it in your Cellular Voice & Data settings to see if the icon in the 5G, 5G +, or 5G UW status bar means you are actually connected. Effectively. For more information, see the Smart Data Mode Guide.

5G status icon overview

Most often you see a simple “5G” sign. As expected, this symbol means there are 5G networks in the area. Major wireless carriers may be using 5G networks, but I don’t know if these are the first two bands of the 5G spectrum: low-band or mid-range 5G. Also, things are very confusing because some carriers use 5G badges for high frequencies.

Lower band covering frequencies in the lower spectrum below 6 GHz between 600 and 700 MHz. Typical download speeds range from 30 to 250 Mbps (megabits per second), and each low-range tower can extend its services over hundreds of square miles. Thus, 5G can move to more rural and remote areas. No matter how slow it is, 5G is almost always faster than 4G or LTE in the same region.

The middle band covers frequencies in the middle spectrum in the less than 6 GHz range between 2 and 6 GHz. Typical download speeds are between 100 and 900 Mbps, and each mid-range tower can extend its services for miles around it. You can see the best performance in big cities with more towers. The worst average speed you can get is the maximum average speed you can get in the lower range, but it is more consistent when you’re in the service area and you can feel ridiculously fast in the right place.

All major players such as AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint / T-Mobile will now use 5G badges for low and mid-range networks. Sprint / T-Mobile controls the 319 MHz spectrum nationwide, which is known to be double AT&T and three times Verizon. However, since Sprint / T-Mobile does not label bands differently, it will also use 5G indicators for high-range networks. AT&T and Verizon use different icons as listed below.

The high band covers 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies from 24 to 52 GHz. This is a significant leap forward in the frequency range below 6 GHz. Typical download speeds range from 1 to 3 Gbps (gigabits per second). We’ve seen some devices go up to 4 Gbps and higher, and some manufacturers have stated that their 5G modems have surpassed 7 Gbps. However, in the real world 1-3 Gbps is expected.

Each high frequency tower or “smart cell” can distribute, provide and receive services over a mile, but cannot travel well through buildings or trees, and rain can also affect the signal. Some types of glass and walls can block all high frequency waves. This is why smart cells are usually deployed in high traffic areas where large numbers of people gather, such as sports arenas, concert venues, convention centers, etc. Congratulations when you see high speeds outside. It will hit the jackpot, but you must leave it as it is to take advantage of it.

Sprint / T-Mobile has 1160 MHz millimeter-wave spectrum across the country, which is higher than AT&T but less than Verizon. However, it is currently being deployed in much fewer cities.

  • CA: Los Angeles
  • GA: Atlanta
  • NV: Las Vegas
  • NY: New York
  • OH: Cleveland
  • TX: Dallas

To know exactly how fast a 5G signal connects when your iPhone says “5G”, take a speed test.

5G+ status icon overview

Simply put, 5G + is AT&T’s name for mmWave 5G networks. MmWave 5G is what marketers want to think all 5G really is. These networks are very fast and offer the potential for speeds comparable to fiber optic Wi-Fi. I will quote above to reiterate what mmWave 5G means for network speed.

With this explanation in mind, if you see the 5G + sign on your iPhone, you will be celebrating in a few minutes. But don’t get too carried away with it. mmWave is still in its infancy. In addition to the limited range of services and the ability to effectively penetrate facilities, there are also location restrictions. In this article, AT&T has only launched 5G + in 15 states in some “innovation areas.” such as:

  • AZ: Phoenix
  • CA: Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Oakland, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, West Hollywood
  • FL: Jacksonville, Miami, Miami Gardens, Orlando
  • GA: Atlanta
  • IN: Indianapolis
  • KY: Louisville
  • LA: New Orleans
  • MD: Baltimore, Ocean City
  • MI: Detroit
  • NC: Charlotte, Raleigh
  • NV: Las Vegas
  • NY: New York City
  • OH: Cleveland
  • OK: Oklahoma City
  • PA: King of Prussia, Philadelphia
  • TN: Nashville
  • TX: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Waco
  • WI: Milwaukee

5G UW status icon overview

High Frequency 5G from Verizon is the 5G Ultra Wideband (UW) or 5G UWB brand. Like 5G +, 5G UW indicates the availability of Verizon’s mmWave 5G network. All information in the above section applies here. With 5G UW, you can get incredible speed and performance, but the coverage is poor. Don’t be surprised if the UW symbol turns into a regular 5G symbol again.

One of the advantages Verizon 5G UW has over AT&T’s 5G + and Sprint / T-Mobile’s mmWave 5G is coverage (but other new features). In this article, Verizon 5G UW can be used outdoors in 55 cities such as:

  • AR: Little Rock
  • AZ: Phoenix, Tuscon
  • CA: Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose
  • CO: Denver
  • DC: Washington, D.C.
  • FL: Miami, Panama City, Sarasota
  • GA: Atlanta
  • IA: Des Moines
  • ID: Boise
  • IL: Chicago
  • IN: Indianapolis
  • KY: Louisville
  • MA: Boston
  • MD: Baltimore
  • MI: Ann Arbor, Detroit
  • MN: Minneapolis, St. Paul
  • MO: Kansas City, St. Louis
  • NC: Charlotte, Raleigh
  • NE: Omaha
  • NJ: Jersey City
  • NV: Las Vegas
  • NY: New York, Syracuse
  • OH: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colombus
  • OK: Oklahoma City
  • PA: Philadelphia
  • RI: Providence
  • SD: Sioux Falls
  • TN: Memphis
  • TX: Arlington, Dallas
  • UT: Salt Lake City
  • VA: Norfolk, Richmond
  • WA: Spokane
  • WI: Milwaukee

5G E status icon overview

5G E has nothing to do with 5G. It’s me. squat. lightning. No really. This is an AT&T marketing ploy that makes 5G coverage look bigger than it actually is. This trick was more effective before the actual 5G network was released, but the name was just as deceiving as it is now.

If you see 5G E on your iPhone using AT&T, you know it’s not in the 5G zone. It’s not even 5G low band. It’s just “fast” LTE. You can pretend your iPhone 12 supports 5G when you see 5G E, but you know that iPhones that weren’t 5G before (like iPhone 8 and up) can also connect to this fake network.

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