When battery life rules, turn off 5G
The data is clear. My phone’s battery charge life looks better with 5G turned off.
Engineers often don’t feel the need to own the latest technology. Be it phones, cars, computers, or just about anything else, we pride ourselves on finding ways to keep the old ones running longer than most consumers. Some might call us cheap, but I consider it a matter of pride to learn how to get the most from technology. Case in point: my personal laptop was purchased in 2014, running Windows 7. I upgraded it to Windows 10, then replaced the spinning hard drive with an SSD and boosted the RAM from 8 GB to 16 GB.
Recently, I finally decided to replace my iPhone SE first edition (2016) with a new phone. The decision to replace the iPhone SE came down to its battery, which served me well for four years but was showing its age. Replacing the battery again on such and old phone didn’t seem worth it. Besides, people were comment on my small screen (the 2016 iPhone SE is the size of an iPhone 5).
The data shows that running an iPhone 13 with 5G drains the battery at a faster rate than when running LTE. Click image to enlarge.
I went for an iPhone 13 rather than pay for an iPhone 14 or wait a month for the iPhone 15. Why? Because I’ll keep my iPhone 13 long after most people have upgraded their iPhone 14s. Another reason for not waiting for the iPhone 15 is the belief that it will lose the lighting socket for USB-C. Why replace all those perfectly good lightning cables and two car chargers that use hard-wired lightning cables when the other phones in my family are still relatively new and need lightning cables? Why support the USB-C ecosystem, buying new cables and chargers, if I don’t have to?
The iPhone 13 is my first 5G phone. It’s not the first in my family, but because it’s mine, I can now run experiments. I’ve been hearing how running 5G consumes far more energy than using LTE. Being an engineer, I needed data.
Running 5G “full on” means selecting the 5G On setting (as opposed to 5G auto) and turning on 5G Standalone in the settings. In both tests (5G versus LTE), I turned on the same apps: Google Maps and a streaming audio app. The iPhone drove a set of over-the-head headphones with the volume at the same level. Both tests started with a 100% charge level.
I ran the 5G test first, checking the battery level every 30 minutes. I repeated the test the next day with 5G off, running the phone on LTE. Both tests ran for eight hours with a check on the battery charge every 30 minutes. From the graph, it’s clear that 5G uses more of the phone’s battery energy than LTE. The difference was 75% battery remaining when running LTE and 64% remaining when running 5G. When it comes to power consumption, LTE wins.
For future work, I’d take samples every 10 or 15 minutes for better resolution. I’d also like to run the phone for a full 24 hours to see if the battery discharged continued on its linear path. On the other hand, the thought of pulling an all-nighter to keep checking the battery charge isn’t all that appealing.
LTE works quite well for me, thank you very much. It lets me listen to audio streams and watch live sports. That’s all I need. My wireless carrier has some low-band 5G, whose more extended range might help in locations where LTE might not reach. Furthermore, LTE still has better coverage than 5G in my area.
Have you run similar tests on your phone? What did you see? Tell us how you keep your electronics running long after most consumers have upgraded.