If you are one of the lucky new iPhone 12 owners and live in an area where 5G is already available, there is good news for you. You have likely already noticed that your phone’s signal will sometimes show a “5G” and may be wondering what that means. 5G is one of the main selling points of the iPhone 12 lineup. Given that, it’s important to know what type of 5G you are connected to and how it may impact your signal experience. Let’s take a look at the 5G icons on your device and what exactly they mean for you.
5G Coverage Types
Depending on where you are in the world, there are two primary types of 5G network coverage: Sub-6GHz and mmWave. Depending on the network type, there are pluses and minuses to both of these two competing frequencies. For iPhone 12 models sold in the United States, there is support for both types of networks. Models sold outside the U.S. will typically only come with the Sub-6GHz technology. Anyone on a network that supports Sub-6GHz 5G will likely find themselves on a low-band signal that does a good job of penetrating deeper into buildings. That said, the Sub-6GHz network is also slower than mmWave technology, so there is a tradeoff of better coverage and signal strength but slower speeds.
Customers using any iPhone 12 model on a network that supports mmWave technology will find the opposite is true. The signal does not travel as well or as deep into buildings. However, when you have the signal, it’s much faster. This really only impacts iPhone 12 users in the United States. For now, none of this really makes a difference, as 5G networks are still in their infancy stage, and it’s unlikely any iPhone 12 owner will consistently see maximum 5G speeds for more than a few minutes.
iPhone 12 5G Icons
All iPhone 12 models can show all of these following icons. Where and when they will show them is really dependent on your network. For users in the United States, Verizon owners will typically see one type of 5G logo. AT&T and T-Mobile users will see something else. Apple already has its own explainer of the 5G icons, but let’s dive a little deeper.
- 5G: If you see this symbol in the status, the biggest takeaway is that you are connected to a 5G network. It also means that your phone has hooked into the network of a Sub-6GHz 5G connection. This is not the fastest 5G standard but is the connection that has greater travel, so it is the most common.
- 5G+: When you see this on your phone, you are connected to your carrier’s higher frequency version of 5G and your phone is actively connected to that network. This is more commonly known as mmWave and is the highest-speed service available in the United States. As mentioned above, only an iPhone 12 model that is purchased in the United States can be used on networks available in the U.S.
- 5G UW: This is very similar to 5G+, but Verizon, a carrier in the United States, has a different symbol associated with its mmWave network. As noted above, connection on this network will result in faster speeds but worse in-build penetration. The same warning as 5G+ applies here, as only phones purchased in the U.S. can connect to this U.S.-only network.
- 5G E: This is a bit of a tricky one that is specific to the United States’ AT&T network. This does not mean a 5G network, just a faster LTE connection. When AT&T iPhone 12 models are connected to the carrier’s 5G network, you will only see 5G or 5G+. In this particular case, the iPhone 8 and later can display the 5G E symbol.
When 5G Icons Do Not Appear
If you are not seeing any 5G icon displayed as part of your iPhone 12 signal, you are not currently connected to a 5G network. Instead, you may see a Wi-Fi symbol or 4G LTE, 4G, etc. This can apply whether or not you are in a 5G-capable area based on your carrier’s network. If you are in a 5G area and your phone is not connecting, that is nothing to be concerned about. By default, your iPhone is set to “5G Auto” for voice and data. What that means is that your iPhone 12 will only connect to 5G when it provides a much faster speed. Otherwise, it will continue to use the LTE network of your carrier.
There is no question that 5G is the future of smartphones and that it’s a promising future at that. If you are not a fan of iPhones, there are also several other 5G phones around, or perhaps you can wait and check if 5G is coming to your area soon so you can reap the benefit of a 5G connection.