Apple’s Smart Data Mode is designed to save power
Apple’s new iPhone 12 lineup will be the first to feature 5G. However, it’ll only use the faster networking speeds some of the time, thanks to a new “Smart Data Mode,” which will toggle between 4G and 5G based on when apps are making big bandwidth demands.
So if you’re out checking your email or Twitter, your iPhone 12 will still use regular 4G — even if you’re in a 5G area — to avoid using the additional (and apparently power-hungry) radio. Switch over to a streaming movie or a video call, and your phone will jump to 5G and its faster speeds and lower latency.
It’s an interesting solution, although it’s still not entirely clear how big of a dent 5G makes in overall battery life, at least for the various 5G Android devices that have been released this year. On the other hand, Apple’s iPhones tend to feature considerably smaller batteries than most Android flagships, relying on Apple’s synergy between its in-house hardware and software to optimize battery life. Those smaller batteries could also be behind the motivation to make sure that the new iPhones are only using 5G when it’s actually needed.
Battery life is a big concern for Apple, so much so that the company reportedly skipped out on offering a faster 120Hz display on this year’s models — a feature that’s become increasingly standard for nearly all major Android flagships — out of a concern for battery life.