5G is the latest and (supposedly) greatest wireless standard. With speeds that can sometimes rival home internet, you may be wondering if using 5G means you’ll burn through even more data. But is that actually true? Let’s find out.
The first smartphone with 5G—the Samsung Galaxy S20—was released in March 2020. Since then, we’ve seen a huge number of smartphones and other devices with 5G support. Faster internet speeds are great, but is it worth it if you use more data in the process?
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5G Doesn’t Use Data
Here’s the thing—your internet connection doesn’t actually have anything to do with how much data you use. 5G—or LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi, etc—don’t use data, they determine the speed of which the data travels.
Think of 5G or any other internet connection like the speed limit on a road. The speed limit determines how fast the cars can drive; not how many cars can be on the road. Five cars is five cars, no matter the speed limit.
The same can be said for 5G. If you’re downloading a file that’s 1GB, that’s how much data you’re using. It doesn’t matter if the file downloads in 30 seconds or five minutes. 1GB is 1GB. So if your internet usage habits are the same with 5G as they were with LTE, you won’t use any more data.
Faster Speeds Let You Do More
That last statement is the key to this question. Doing the same things on 5G as you did with LTE won’t use more data, but the faster speeds of 5G can allow you to do more things, and that is what can eat up data.
Let’s say you like to watch Netflix on your phone while you’re away from Wi-Fi. With LTE, you might stream in 720p to avoid buffering. The faster 5G speeds may allow you to watch in full 1080p without any stuttering. Streaming 1080p definitely will use more data than streaming 720p.
Faster speeds give you a little more freedom. You might stream music from Spotify at a higher quality. Browse more webpages while waiting for a train. Watch more videos in your Facebook feed. Being able to do more of this stuff is what adds up to using more data.
To answer the question directly, 5G does have the potential to make you use more data. However, it’s not really about 5G itself—it’s how 5G enables you to use your device. 5G isn’t forcing you to use more data, it’s simply a byproduct of being able to do more stuff in the same amount of time it took to do less with LTE.
The good news is that iPhones and Android devices have tools built-in to help you keep an eye on how much data you’re using. You can set up alerts when you reach certain limits or enable “low data mode” to slow down how much data you’re using.
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