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  • Susie S

Smartphone Battery Life Impact on 4G and 5G - What's the difference?

Updated: Nov 10, 2023



Battery Impact between 4G and 5G – Latest information and updates from the ViserMark Lab


Smartphones displaying 4G and 5G


At ViserMark and through our technical lab SmartViser, we regularly receive questions about the impact of 5G on device battery performance. Some of the questions we receive, which we will aim to answer below, are:


Should I switch to 5G to preserve more battery life?
What is the impact of using 5G on the Battery life?
What is the impact of the network on my device's battery life?
Do different 5G networks have different impacts?
Do device manufacturers optimise their software to improve battery life performance when using 5G
How does 5G impact the battery life of my smartphone?
What is the drain battery percentage by using 5G vs 4G?

This is a very hot topic among end-users, device manufacturers, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), and MVNOs. Since the beginning of the network evolution 2G->3G->4G->5G NR (NSA and SA)*, we see a continued trend of the increased impact these technologies have on the battery life and performance of a mobile or smartphone device.


 

*5G NR (New Radio) is a new radio access technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP for the 5G (fifth generation) mobile network. The non-standalone (NSA) mode of 5G NR refers to a 5G NR deployment option that depends on an existing 4G LTE network for control functions. The standalone (SA) mode of 5G NR refers to using 5G cells for signalling and information transfer. It includes the new 5G Packet Core architecture instead of relying on the 4G Evolved Packet Core to allow the deployment of 5G without the LTE network. At ViserMark lab, we have seen assessing the launch of the first 5G NSA (Non-Stand Alone) since it has become commercially available in several different countries and networks with a specific focus in France and the UK.

 
 

Since the launch of the first commercial 5G NSA networks, the following have been noted during our testing:

  • There is an impact on the battery life of about 10% more battery usage on 5G vs 4G

  • Web loading performance and throughput rates / Data were, on average, 20% better in 5SA than in 4G, as expected

  • Smartphone manufacturers have been looking for ways to optimise their software that utilises 5G services in the best way to minimise the impact on the battery.


The early 5G capable devices, once 5G NSA coverage is available, will camp on this all the time. Almost all device manufacturers have included unique optimisation in their software to only use 5G in use cases where 5G will make a difference. For example, if you are in an area with good 5G NSA coverage and browsing the web, 5G will be utilised as it significantly enhances the user experience. If, on the other hand, the device is in an area with radio conditions leading to 5G not bringing a significant advantage in performance to balance higher power drain, then the device may decide to stay in 4G. However, the 5G icon will remain displayed.


This optimisation is implemented in two main setups:


  1. The majority of manufacturers, especially Android devices. Software is optimised, and the end-user has no control over how the devices select to utilise 5G.

  2. The user has control over how the 5G option is managed. The example below shows how Apple devices operate this option.

Apple offers detailed instructions on 5G icons and Software optimisation.

For more details, see here.


Smartphone screen displaying 5G and 4G Voice and Data Quality

Screenshot from Apple 12 model in SW 15.4.1


Apple offers detailed instructions on 5G icons and Software optimisation.

For more details, see here.


Samsung also has special support for 5G and software optimisation.

More details can be found here.

 
 

Unlike Apple, Samsung and Google Pixel do not only offer the option to switch to 5G without any further control over how 5G is utilised.


Smartphone with preferred network type

smartphone screen with a list of mobile networks available




Conclusion


Based on the testing we have performed, there is an impact on the battery life of about 10% between 4G vs 5G on use cases that benefit from the 5G services. **


Data transfer speed exceeds 20% on average, meaning 5G is faster than 4G, so it's up to users to decide whether this is an acceptable trade-off. If the device offers the 5G battery optimisation option, ensure it is selected for better performance and battery life. As the first 5G SA networks appear in 2022, we will be checking the impact on the device and if there is a substantial difference between 5G NSA vs 5G SA.


 

**Results from mainly France and UK networks

 


 

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Coming Soon:

NEXT ARTICLE - Top-performing devices in 2022 on Battery Life



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