Verizon iPhone 12 users advised to turn off 5G in some cases

iPhone 12 users in New York City have reported that, counter-intuitively, speeds when their phone indicates they’re using 5G are often slower than 4G LTE. The reason for this is because in order to provide more “5G” coverage, Verizon uses a method called dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) which reuses parts of 4G channels for 5G. That allows 5G devices to connect in more places, but the performance is typically no better – and often it’s worse – than 4G LTE alone.

Verizon spokespeople have confirmed that using DSS provides no real advantages over LTE: “For most customers, performance on our 5G nationwide network will be similar to 4G. [DSS] is new technology and we’re continuing to modify it as we go. We expect performance improvement through 2021 and beyond,”

Since the iPhone 12 prioritizes 5G over 4G, if it detects a 5G signal – even if it’s really just DSS – it will automatically use that network, even though in the real world users would often be better off sticking with LTE.

If you’re in an area where 5G doesn’t seem to be any faster than LTE, you can test by turning 5G off/on and comparing speedtests. If LTE is better, you can leave 5G off until the network improves.

How to turn 5G on/off on iPhone 12:

  • Go to settings
  • Tap Cellular, then Cellular Data Options, then Voice & Data
  • 5G Auto is the default. Choose 5G On to use it anytime it’s available, or LTE to turn off 5G.