While Apple entered the 5G phone market after Samsung, the iPhone 12 line has been a major splash for 5G adoption. Competition between US carriers to win over iPhone customers with the best 5G experience is real, so we’re curious how the next generation of wireless service has been so far for readers.
I spent the first six months of using a 5G iPhone with both AT&T and Verizon while living in Orlando, Florida. AT&T has been my carrier since the iPhone 4, and its 5G service was all over the city. I added Verizon to the mix for comparison and testing because it deployed faster ultra-wideband 5G at select venues around Orlando and the surrounding area.
Standard AT&T 5G was more broadly available for me than standard Verizon 5G, and 5G speed tests generally favored the former carrier over the latter. Think triple-digit download speeds versus double-digit numbers.
Verizon’s ultra-fast 5G UWB service, however, unlocked unreal speeds that rivaled the best home wifi service. Download speeds that instantly climbed beyond 1,000 Mbps are astonishing, even if you aren’t sure what to do with that performance. Who doesn’t like faster download speeds?
Faster ultra-wideband 5G doesn’t have the same range as standard 5G. Think more like a bunch of home wifi routers around a large venue compared to giant cell towers with miles of coverage. This flavor of 5G is made for eliminating dead zones and over-saturation in large venues like airports and sports stadiums.
While in Orlando, Verizon’s 5G UWB service was also right across the street from my apartment building in Lake Nona (which also houses Verizon’s 5G Innovation Hub for the region).
The incredibly fast 5G service spanned a popular venue with several restaurants, outdoor music performances, and recreational activities for both kids and adults. Admittedly, I never found a real use for that super-fast download speed on my iPhone beyond using it as an impressive hotspot for providing my Mac with an internet connection. However, consistently quick network speeds should hold up to wider 5G phone adoption in the years to come that will bring more simultaneous usage.
Out of the city
As impressed as I was with Verizon 5G UWB at my go-to eat and drink spot, I found that for me, AT&T 5G around Orlando was more prevalent enough than Verizon 5G that I stuck with my long-time carrier and ended the experiment.
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I completely forgot that AT&T’s version of faster 5G, aptly named 5G+, is in development and even live in select locations across the country. I’m looking forward to testing AT&T 5G+ for the first time this weekend in New Orleans at the stadium where the Saints play if the service reaches the outer vicinity.
I moved from Orlando to my hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, in the spring, so my 5G experience has changed. I’m now wedged between two cities with AT&T 5G, but LTE is still the fastest network where I actually live. This has me interested in how long it takes the carrier’s 5G service to reach everywhere that LTE is provided today.
Still, I’m impressed that AT&T 5G service is broadly available in more rural areas around where I live. Seeing 5G service along the route between cities is reassuring when you’re away from wifi.
As an aside, there is one very practical difference with 5G that affects my iPhone. There’s a place near me with shops and restaurants where AT&T LTE slows to a crawl. This is presumably from network saturation because dropping to 3G effectively brings you back online. Except 5G iPhones no longer let you drop to 3G from LTE because LTE is considered the drop from 5G.
The good news is another shopping center where AT&T LTE slows to a crawl now offers AT&T 5G. Using the 5G network has the same effect as dropping to the less used 3G network — only the download speeds match modern rates. This has me hopeful for the future when AT&T 5G is deployed across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Speaking of the future, it already feels like we’re living in it with the iPad Pro with 5G. Those faster speeds are really useful on a larger screen where my work expands, and I’m more likely to use Group FaceTime, stream 4K videos, and download large files.
I’m generally satisfied with where we are with 5G during year one on the iPhone. Rumored support in the next iPhone SE will make access to 5G more affordable than ever, and more deployment of 5G+/UWB will continue to surprise and delight.
How is your experience with 5G so far? Share your thoughts below in the comments, and we’ll revisit 5G progress next summer to compare.
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