Not getting 5G on your new iPhone 12? Here’s why

5G is here. It’s been here for a while, but you might just be getting around to upgrading. 2020 was a banner year for phone upgraders, with Samsung’s G20/G21 and Apple’s iPhone 12 leading the pack. These super-premium phones are designed to take advantage of 5G. But what if your new phone doesn’t give you that elusive 5G symbol? Let’s take a look at the most common reasons.

5G versus 5Ge

For several years, AT&T phones have used the “5GE” for their LTE-Advanced service. While purists have complained about this move, I’ve said that they can call their service Meryl Streep if they want, as long as I keep getting 100Mbps downloads.

5GE and 5G are two different technologies, though, and if you want the real superfast speeds you’ll want 5G. But what if your phone stubbornly refuses to give you those sweet, sweet 5G speeds?

First question: is 5G service even available in your area?

While AT&T has great coverage, they don’t promise that every neighborhood has 5G yet. Yours may not. There’s no street-level map available. While that’s frustrating, the truth may simply be that 5G isn’t in your neighborhood. If you really want to be sure you’re getting 5G, you’ll often need to go to a bigger city or the suburbs surrounding it.

If you’re not far from a city, hop in a car with a friend and have them watch your phone as you go from place to place. You may find that the phone has no problem getting 5G service when it’s available.

Second question: is 5G turned off?

When 5G came out, a lot of articles suggested turning it off because it’s a bit of a battery hog. The new iPhones say they have the best battery life ever, but Apple’s tests seem to have been done with LTE, not with 5G. An iPhone 12 with 5G has roughly the same battery life as a new iPhone X with LTE, but you can get about 20% better battery life if you turn off 5G.

So, make sure that 5G is on. On your iPhone, go to the Settings, App, then go to Cellular, Cellular Data Options, Voice and Data. You should see something like this:

The correct choice is “5G Auto” for almost everyone. It will give you the best performance as well as the best battery life.

If your phone doesn’t have the option for 5G, though, there could be two other culprits at work here.

Is your phone using the latest SIM?

Getting a new phone in the middle of a pandemic can be a little tricky. Depending on where you got your phone, it may not have come ready to activate. iPhones have internal “eSIM” technology that should make it possible for you to activate them. Sometimes this isn’t possible though, and the next best move is to take the SIM from your old phone and put it in the new one.

Generally speaking, this will disable 5G. You’ll need a new, 5G-capable SIM to get 5G. The SIM cards all look the same but under the hood, some support the latest features and some don’t.

If you moved a SIM from an old phone in order to activate your new phone, call Signal Connect at 866-726-4182 or call your carrier to get a new SIM sent to you. It’s easy to install yourself and activation only takes a few minutes.

Are you on a 5G plan?

Here’s the secret: only those folks on current unlimited plans will get 5G. That’s not a terrible thing. After all if you are on an old metered plan you could potentially use up your whole data allotment in about two minutes on 5G.

If you’re on an unlimited plan but still not getting 5G, there’s a chance that you need to upgrade. Why not give the experts at Signal Connect a call? They’re AT&T Preferred Dealers and have access to all the same systems that any other AT&T dealer has. They can help make sure you’re all set up to use the latest and greatest technologies.

Call Signal Connect at 866-726-4182 or fill out the form below if it’s after East Coast business hours. Before you know it you’ll be downloading faster than you can imagine!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.