I’d like to go back in time to a new device that turned out to be mostly hype. It’s a warning about things that say they will change your life.
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About three or four years ago, the big phone companies and smartphone makers in America, like Apple, wouldn’t stop talking about 5G, the next wave of cellular internet networks.
In 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We’re still in the early stages of 5G, but its incredible performance and speed have already made a big difference in how people can get the most out of our technology.”
AT&T, Verizon, and other American phone companies bombarded us with ads that said 5G would make our phones faster and better and help doctors find cancer earlier.
You may already have a 5G phone. I do. Did it make a big difference in how I used technology? Nope. (You might even want to turn off 5G, since it can drain the battery on your phone. Keep an eye out for a hint about that.)
In the future, 5G might help you more in a real way. It was also a natural and important step forward, even if it was a small one. And that’s all right.
What wasn’t okay was the 5G hype from corporations, which made us feel like fools who fall for any promise of cool new tech.
One lesson is that we can’t trust companies to be honest about how technologies like artificial intelligence, driving cars, and the metaverse will or won’t change our lives.
Misleading people about 5G
Two things went wrong with 5G: At first, it didn’t work as promised in the United States.
When people tried 5G service, they found that it was sometimes only available on one or two blocks or was slower than 4G in some places. Companies sometimes told us we were getting 5G service when it was just the same old 4G.
The second problem is that many of us who have 5G service in the US can’t really tell the difference now that it’s more widely available.
Yes, a phone linked to a 5G network could, in theory, download a full-length movie in a few seconds instead of many minutes. In theory, 5G could also make devices that are linked to a network respond faster. That means a car that doesn’t need a driver or a robotic arm used in surgery can reply to commands faster.
But the effects of 5G in the real world show that changes to technology on paper don’t always help you. There are many reasons why your phone might cut out on a FaceTime call with your family. Not having 5G instead of 4G is almost never a problem.
The tech works well. It was a mistake to use those sales pitches.
I want to say that I know 5G is good for some people right now. A 5G link can be used in places where home internet service isn’t available or isn’t very good. Some businesses are building their own 5G networks for jobs that need to be done quickly.
But the bottom line is that most of you haven’t really gained from Apple, Samsung, and phone companies trying to get you to buy a new phone or upgrade your cell service just to get 5G.
Your next phone will be able to connect to 5G, and most likely, so will your phone service. Great.
You shouldn’t have to think twice about the number of Gs, just as you probably don’t care that your next smartphone will have a more advanced computer chip brain.
The way creation works in the real world is through small changes that make technology better, faster, and cheaper.
Chetan Sharma, a telecommunications analyst and consultant, says that people moving to more expensive unlimited 5G data plans are adding about $7 billion to $8 billion to Americans’ phone bills every year.
We and the companies that make technology need to realize that not every new technology changes our lives, at least not in a way that would make a good science fiction movie.
How will you feel about new types of artificial intelligence that can write like humans if their best use is to make a million different Instagram ads automatically?
What if the big deal about computers in cars turns out to be not cars that drive themselves but driver-assistance tools that help you stop in an emergency or parallel park?
Companies tried to make us think that 5G was a huge step forward in technology, but it was just a small improvement. Not at all.
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As I said, some people have found that when their phone is linked to a 5G network, the battery runs out of power faster.
If the battery life on your 5G phone or service is bothering you, you might want to turn off 5G. Instead, your phone will connect using a 4G link.
I’m only going to explain how to do this for the iPhone 12 and later. (If you have an Android phone, you might not be able to turn off 5G.) Please keep in mind that these steps might be a little different on your iPhone.
Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data on your iPhone. Or, you might need to look in the Settings app for a choice called Mobile Data or Primary SIM.
You might see these three choices:
5G Auto means that your iPhone will instantly connect to a 5G network when it’s faster and better, and to a 4G network when it’s not.
5G On: This makes your iPhone connect to a 5G network when one is available. Your battery may lose power faster.
LTE: Even if 5G is available, your iPhone will only use 4G service.
Most of the time, it’s best to leave your iPhone on 5G Auto and let it decide whether to use a 5G network.
But if you’re really unhappy with how long your battery lasts, you could try the LTE choice and see if that helps.