AT&T is continuing to move forward with its bullshit strategy to rebrand slightly enhanced 4G service as “5G E,” 9to5Mac reported on Monday, with some of its customers who have downloaded the latest iOS 12.2 beta reporting that the 5G E icon has replaced the LTE service icon on iPhones.
To be clear, “5G E” is not really 5G, 4G’s much faster successor which has not yet been widely deployed across the country. As Gizmodo previously reported, it’s a form of 4G LTE enhanced with features like with 4X4 MIMO (which increases the number of antennas involved in data transfer) and 256 QAM (a technique that increases the bandwidth of a single channel or signal). These techniques may increase data transfer speed somewhat, but nowhere close to the expected speed of future 5G networks.
In other words, the 5G E icon is a branding move apparently designed to trick customers into believing that AT&T has beaten its competitors to the next era of wireless technology.
9to5Mac wrote that while 5G E icons have already been showing up on some Android phones for some time, they now appear to be showing up on Apple’s latest line of iPhones (and are probably showing up on 2018 iPad Pros sharing the same LTE chips as well):
As spotted by 9to5Mac readers Jay and @Siddavarapu, the change from AT&T started showing up today after updating to the latest iOS 12.2 beta that includes four new Animoji. The carrier-based change has received some heat as the carrier isn’t actually offering true 5G service, nor does any iPhone have a 5G modem.
It looks like users of the latest iPhones (XR, XS, and XS Max) are seeing the change when running the iOS 12.2 beta 2 software. Meanwhile, we would expect the 5G E icon to be seen on the 2018 iPad Pro models as well since they share the same 4×4 MIMO LTE chips as the new iPhones.
The Verge noted that Apple has been involved in this tactic in the past, when AT&T branded an enhanced form of 3G (HSPA+) as 4G, and Apple eventually caved in 2012 and added the icon after Android manufacturers did so. Current models of iPhones do not have 5G-capable chips, and Apple is widely expected to hold off on releasing a version with it until 2020, when 5G networks are available to more customers.
“Today, some iPhone and iPad users could start seeing our 5G Evolution indicator on their devices,” AT&T told MacRumors in a statement. “The indicator simply helps customers know when they are in an area where the 5G Evolution experience may be available.”
One of the reasons AT&T is able to do this is partly because 5G is defined somewhat nebulously, with the “G” in 5G used to denote the evolution to fifth generation wireless networks. The true definition for 5G used by more carriers is based of the 5G NR standard, which specifies the use of a more advanced framework that includes mmWave radios and support for expanded frequencies to deliver speeds in excess of a gigabit per second.
AT&T’s decision to mislead its customers has not gone without significant criticism, not just from the tech press but its competitors. Earlier this month, T-Mobile trolled AT&T by tweeting a video of someone putting a tiny sticker saying “9G” onto a phone.