Tech

How to switch your iPhone 12 between 5G and 4G networks to get the fastest speeds

Key Points
  • Apple's new iPhone 12 family supports 5G networks, but sometimes 5G isn't always as fast as the older 4G LTE network.
  • Network speeds matter when you're trying to download big files, stream movies or download a lot of music at once.
  • Here's how to check your iPhone's 5G and 4G LTE speeds and how to pick the fastest network.
iPhone 12 Pro
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple's new iPhone 12 family supports 5G networks, but sometimes 5G isn't always as fast as the older 4G LTE network. In some places, like where I live in New Jersey, it's slower than 4G LTE because of the way carriers are upgrading to 5G.

Network speeds matter when you're trying to download big files, stream movies or download a lot of music at once.

While the iPhone 12 can smartly switch between networks to save battery life, sometimes it doesn't always use the fastest network. But your iPhone lets you easily jump back to the older, sometimes faster network.

I'll show you how to do that in this guide. I'll also show you how to check your network speed. Then you can decide which network you want to be on. As 5G networks expand across the U.S., you may want to keep checking in to see if it gets faster in your area.

How to switch between 5G and 4G LTE on your iPhone 12

The iPhone 12, by default, will save battery by switching between 5G and 4G LTE as needed.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I'll show you how to switch between 5G and 4G LTE. Then I'll show you how to run a speed test on both networks so you can see which is faster. Keep in mind you'll want to make sure Wi-Fi is off, since we want to test your wireless carrier network not your home Wi-Fi.

  • Open "Settings."
  • Tap "Cellular."
  • Choose "Cellular Data Options."
  • Pick "Voice & Data."
  • Change from 5G auto to LTE.

Now you've forced the phone to operate on the older 4G LTE networks. You can also pick "5G On" to force it to run on 5G.

How to see your network speed

Tap go on SpeedTest.net

Next, we want to take a look at which network offers the fastest speed. Is it the 4G LTE network or the 5G network? Again, make sure Wi-Fi is off. Next:

  • Download SpeedTest from the App Store.
  • Accept the terms.
  • Now tap "Go."

The SpeedTest app will test your upload and download speeds and give you a result at the end. It can vary wildly depending on where you are. Take note of your results. It might be something like 80Mbps down and 40Mbps up, for example.

Now go back and test 5G

Now let's compare those 4G LTE speeds to 5G. To do this, we're going to repeat the first steps, this time switching the phone so that it's forced to use 5G.

  • Open "Settings."
  • Tap "Cellular"
  • Choose "Cellular Data Options."
  • Pick "Voice & Data."
  • Change to "5G On."

Now repeat the SpeedTest and see how the numbers compare with your first test. If they're faster, then you'll want to leave 5G on. But, if they're slower, you may want to continue using 4G LTE. That way you're getting the fastest speeds possible. And check in every month or so to see if your carrier has boosted your 5G network speeds.

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What is 5G?