After rolling out the new label on some Android phones, it looks like the iPhone is next in line. Here’s Juli Clover at MacRumors:
Devices in certain areas are displaying a “5G E” icon instead of LTE, but as the “E” suggests, this is not real 5G. No iPhone that exists right now is capable of connecting to a 5G network, nor is AT&T’s network 5G at this time.
The “E” stands for Evolution, a new brand name AT&T is using for some parts of its LTE network. According to AT&T, 5G Evolution reaches a peak theoretical wireless speed of 400Mb/s, which does not match 5G data transfer speeds and is in fact the same as traditional LTE speeds.
AT&T claims that this a step on the road to 5G, but to be clear, it’s just a sticker on top of the same LTE we’ve all been using for a while.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Here’s a bit from a 2012 article on Macworld, written by Lex Friedman:
The 4G label in iOS 5.1 instead reflects AT&T’s perspective, namely that the carrier’s HSPA+ network (also known as Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) qualifies as 4G technology. Carriers tend to refer to both HSPA+ and LTE—the cellular network technology built into the new iPad—as 4G, though the inner workings of the technologies are vastly different.
Thus, because the iPhone 4S on AT&T’s 3G network can achieve what both Apple and the carrier describe as 4G-style speeds, the status bar now shows the 4G label whenever you’re connected to AT&T’s HSPA+ network. Again, though, your iPhone 4S isn’t any faster than it was last week; this label change falls somewhere between semantics and marketing.
Don’t miss Austin Evans’ recent video on this: