What Is Up With 5G?

Remember a few years back when there was hype that the next cell service upgrade would be mind-blowingly fast? 5G service promised download and upload speeds equal to or exceeding a fiber optic data line wired directly to your phone. The benefits of such a feature were things like…remote real-time tele-surgery? Streaming gameplay in high-res? The question: so how’s that working out for ya?

9to5mac recently asked, “Is 5G worth it?

The piece cites a report showing the answer to be a firm, “Nope.” It also gives other evidence to the same.

Does 5G even exist?

Here’s my take. After the iPhone 12 — with 5G! — debuted two years ago, do you know how many people in my circles I’ve heard say they enjoy the new cellular speeds? Zero. Not a single person has said they’ve even experienced 5G. The only people I’ve ever heard say they’ve seen 5G speeds have been reviewers from tech sites. That’s it. And again, it’s been two years or more since the next-gen cell connection began to launch.

So despite 5G service and multiple 5G phones being in the market for the past few years now, my personal experience so far shows that it has not lived up to any of the hype at all. I have to trust tech reviewers’ reports that 5G service actually exists in a few spots amidst big cities. And I assume it’s eyelid-peeling fast…but to what end?

Do we even need 5G?

There was a push for 4G/LTE cell coverage years ago because people wanted to stream video on their smartphone without buffering or loading and they wanted good quality playback. We consumers finally got that and have been watching YouTube and Netflix on our phones with no problems; it’s great! 

Video streaming on-demand to phones is a solved problem. Any other consumer (normal person) usage of cellular data is less demanding. So 4G/LTE certainly seems to be more than adequate. Thus there seems to be no real need for 5G in the first place. (This is similar to saying we don’t need 4K quality video because HD looks good enough already.)

I actually have been paying for an expensive AT&T cell plan for a couple of years now that includes 5G service though I’ve never seen such speeds. One reason is likely because the area where I live lacks 5G coverage. The other reason is my aging iPhone 8 Plus remains solidly in the past with only a 4G/LTE modem inside.

And you know what? Data speeds are very good and are available everywhere. Besides being plenty fast, the more important point is the ubiquity of my cell data coverage. I can totally rely on the fact that when I need fast-enough service, I’ll have it.

What good is blazing fast 5G speed if it’s not even available?

My next iPhone might have a 5G chip in it. And it still might not matter because I doubt 5G service will be available and reliable in my region, at least for several more years. So I’m not champing at the bit to get a 5G phone. In fact, I’ve considered avoiding a 5G iPhone until I’m certain my area has good 5G coverage. I don’t want a 5G phone battery dying in short time due to hunting for a 5G signal but never finding one. I’d rather turn 5G off or not have it at all. My 4G iPhone works great; its cell data is wonderfully dependable.

As a matter of fact, I’ve written this entire blog post on my MacBook Air tethered to my iPhone 8 Plus hotspot during a rainstorm and have had zero glitches, no dropped connections, all via 4G/LTE.

I don’t know what’s up with 5G, but 4G is great.

Do you experience 5G service on a 5G phone; what’s that like, is it game changing for you?