5G is undoubtedly the biggest thing in the mobiles’ world at the moment. From lavish launches to brand new smartphones and exciting new tariffs, there’s been all sorts of 5G-related news going on.
However, chatter about superfast connections and the ‘internet of things’ is all well and good. But is 5G actually going to make a difference to your daily smartphoning? Is it really that much better than 4G?
We grabbed a 5G phone and took it out on a test drive in the centre of London to find out.
See 5G in action
How fast is 5G compared to 4G?
For our first test, we start off with the bare facts - how much faster is 5G than 4G? In the interest of fairness, we pitted EE’s 5G against their own 4G. We downloaded a speed test app and this is what we saw:
As you can see, the 4G tops out at 7.1 Mbps, but the 5G goes all the way up to 450 Mbps - almost half a gigabyte. This is a phenomenal increase and makes everything from web browsing to social sharing to video streaming instantaneous. With speeds like this you’ll never have to wait for pages to load, for pictures to send or for videos to buffer.
How smooth is video playback?
For our next test we looked at a big data activity, watching a 4K Ultra HD video on YouTube. You know the feeling when you’re trying to show your friend a funny clip, it takes ages to buffer and by the time it does everyone’s lost interest? We've all been there. But 5G promises to make buffer face a thing of the past.
On a 4G phone in a congested part of town, this would definitely see some buffering. However, on EE’s 5G you can see the picture loads up instantly and smoothly, even as you jump ahead throughout the clip.
How quickly can I download an app?
Next up is another daily smartphone activity - downloading an app. Whether it’s a fun new game to pass time on your commute or a taxi-app to get you home without any fuss, we want apps and we want them NOW! Faffing around and waiting for them to load can be a pain, so let’s see what 5G can do.
We chose the brand new Harry Potter: Wizards Unite augmented reality game for this test (which EE has secured exclusive in-game content for). And it was like pitting a muggle against a fully qualified wizard.. On 5G, we downloaded, installed, signed up and defeated a dementor well before the 4G phone had even finished getting the game from the app store.
For this test, we used a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G with an EE 5G SIM. EE has really gone all out on this launch. Instead of simply choosing a top end smartphone and launching its 5G on that device, the network collaborated with OnePlus deep, down in the tech labs to make sure the 7 Pro 5G is fine tuned to work perfectly on their network.
The UK’s first 5G phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is definitely an impressive phone. It’s got a beautifully big 90hz Quad HD display that really shows off the latest content so it’s ideal for streaming, viewing, scrolling and sharing - everything that 5G makes better.
EE launched the UK’s first 5G service a little earlier this year. It’s currently available in six UK cities including London, Manchester and Edinburgh. EE says its customers can expect a big increase on their connection speeds - by up to 150 Mbps.
Wait, what exactly is a Mbps? Megabits per second is how internet data is measured. Everything you do on the internet - from scrolling through Facebook pics to watching videos on YouTube - takes up a certain amount of Mbps. So the more Mbps you have, the faster and smoother everything you do online is.
Few things to remember - 5G isn’t available everywhere and it works better in some hotspots, so you might not get such fast connections everywhere. You will also need a 5G-specific phone, like the OnePlus we used in these tests, so if you’re thinking of making the leap up from 4G bear that in mind.
But all an all, we were thoroughly impressed by what 5G had to offer.