Does 5G use more battery than LTE?

Best answer: No. In the early stages of 5G, there may be increased battery usage due to switching between signals as you move in and out of 5G service areas. As coverage increases battery life will improve and should become better than LTE with chip improvements.

  • A powerful phone for Verizon 5G with a 4,500 mAh battery: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G ($1,300 at Verizon)
  • A 4,000 mAh phone for Sprint's 5G network from LG: LG V50 ThinQ 5G ($1,152 at Sprint)

No WiMAX repeats

A carrier offers several ways to connect to its network from 5G all the way back to 3G. Constantly switching between them is the thing that really kills battery since running both the 4G and 5G modems simultaneously is less efficient. For that reason, the current crop of 5G capable phones will connect to LTE first and then bump up to 5G if it's available. As an early adopter of Sprint's WiMAX 4G service, I remember the battery nightmares but 5G shouldn't have nearly as many problems as early 4G had.

The technology itself should not reveal much of a difference in battery usage given a consistent signal. It's also worth considering that as chip makers come out with updated modems, we should continue to see improvements. Real world testing is still hard to rely on at this time since the 5G is still in the early stages of deployment on all carriers. Even so, Qualcomm is still improving battery life on its new products thanks to more efficient layouts.

Even better in the future

For the time being, switching between a 5G and 4G signal may use more of your battery than exclusively connecting to 4G. However, once 5G build outs are more complete, 5G should be more efficient. Even though 5G technology is quite new, Qualcomm is already releasing its second generation X55 5G modem with competitors also jumping in. As the modems and chip packages continue to grow more efficient and smaller, user's experiences with 5G should only improve.

Compared to the transition to 4G that many people remember, there shouldn't be much in the way of a noticeable degradation to battery performance in 5G capable phones. In many ways, the modern chip packages on these phones -along with newer large batteries- could lead to increased battery life once 5G service reaches more people with less gaps in between towers.

Samuel Contreras

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.