5G Phones Will Drain Your Battery Faster Than You Think

5G phones might just be the answer to all your slow internet problems! The newest internet technology of 5G networking will give you the highest internet speed and enable you to download movies along with other heavy files within seconds. However, it has a major drawback which might cause you to drain your phone battery’s life sooner than you think.

What is 5G Networking?

5G internet technology is the fastest internet service available to date. It is made out as ‘fifth generation’ and has been introduced from the setup of the 4G service. It is known to be at least 20 times faster than the 4G service, and has been developed mainly because the 4G service was not sufficient enough for the high usage of internet in big cities.

4G streams at the speed of about 150MB per second while the 5G service can go as fast as 20GB per second, the reason being the length of the wavelengths used by the two services. The 4G signal transmission has signals of a longer wavelength which bounce off numerous towers, therefore, wasting energy. The service also has a frequency of 700 MHz – 2500 MHz, whereas, the 5G service has a frequency of 28 GHz and has a shorter wavelength ultimately leading to better connections with the lesser energy wastage.

Importance of 5G Phones

The 5G service is responsible for enabling and working with much higher technologies such as robots and AI-equipped vehicles. In a world where technology is progressing fast, a slow and interrupted internet connection can lead to significant mishaps and loss of revenue. Something as handy and important as a fast internet service is bound to have some sort of drawback which, in this case, is the drastic battery drainage of the phones supporting 5G.

5G Phones
Credits: GowthamMadeswaran

Will 5G Phones Have Lower Battery Life?

For now, there are two opposing opinions regarding the effect of 5G on the battery of smartphones supporting the service. According to the CEO of Verizon, the latent frequency of these smartphones will be low, from about 100 ms to less than 1 ms. He believes that when this is combined with the Internet of Things, the phone’s battery life will exponentially increase.

On the other hand, Mike Elgan seems to think that the switches that are responsible for detecting the 5G signals and are currently running in the background of the phone are bound to drain the battery to the minimum. Through testing the 5G service, it can be said that Mike Elgan’s assumption is substantiated through a more technical reasoning.

Is There Evidence?

Testers at CNET tested batteries of two phones with and without the use of 5G. This first test involved the use of MOTO Z3, which caused the battery to die down after 4 hours of 5G usage. On the other hand, Galaxy S10’s battery dropped to half in 4 hours with the constant use of the 5G service, despite the battery life of the phone being 18 hours. The service is still in its initial stages and has yet to make considerable progress in terms of excessive usage of a cellphone’s battery. Moreover, the rate at which new phones with significant technological progressions are being introduced to the market, it is safe to assume that phone developers will soon resolve the issue themselves.

5G Phones
Image Credits: Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Here is a list of phones that are said to use 5G technology.

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S20
  • OnePlus 8
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
  • Motorola Edge Plus
  • Huawei Mate X.
  • LG V60 THINQ.
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.
  • Motorola Z3.
  • ZTE Axon 10 Pro.
  • Sony 5G Prototype.
  • One Plus 7 or OnePlus 7T.
  • Samsung Galaxy A71 5G

What’s The Reason?

The 5G internet service on phones works with a repetitive signal switch between the 4G and the 5G networking on the phone. The service works on the basis of the same encoding of signals as 4G which is known as OFMD. The difference lies in the way the signal is perceived; 5G gets better speed, thanks to its efficient encoding mechanisms, but the phone that supports 5G also works with 4G when the signal is unsteady. This back-and-forth switching of networks causes the phone battery to drain.

Moreover, Samsung mentions that not only does a 5G phone have a bouncing signal from 4G and 5G, but it also keeps a connection with the 3G and LTE services to better handle incoming calls, messages, and media messages. “Your phone will need to maintain a connection to the 3G or LTE network in addition to the 5G network so that phone calls, text messages, and data will be delivered consistently.”, as mentioned by the company on a customer service page. Samsung has further pointed out that, ‘Because your phone is connected to multiple networks simultaneously, the battery will drain faster than one would typically expect, and the phone may get warmer than when solely on 3G or LTE’.

5G Phones
Image Credits: Getty Images

How Can This Be Fixed?

Smartphones bounce 4G and 5G networks with the help of a series of switches that help to carry out the process. These switches are also responsible for handling the spectrum frequencies such as Bluetooth, WiFi, 4G, and LTE, etc. The switching itself is the reason behind the immense battery drainage as they are constantly running in the background of your smartphone. They not only drain the battery life but also hinder the processing power of the device.

Knowing the root of the problem, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Lilly in France have come up with a new concept of a radio-frequency switch, in the hopes of rectifying the problem. The switch is designed to give a 50% more efficient rate than the currently used solid-state switches. They discussed the invention in their article published in Nature Electronics on May 25th.

According to Samsung, as 5G becomes more common and ‘grows in capacity and capability’, smartphones will be able to operate it to run its app with lesser battery consumption. Aside from this, CNET suggests using the new Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 chips that are highly presumed to solve the issue. While regarding both the strategies to be truthful and somewhat practical, the developers of 5G say that their concept of turning the unnecessary switches off when not in use is the best technique to take forward.

Deji Akinwande, the lead researcher at the University of Texas, Austin says in his statement  “The switch we have developed can transmit an HDTV stream at a 100 GHz frequency, and that is an achievement in broadband switch technology,” The concept is as simple as merely turning off the unnecessary radio-frequency switches when they are not required as to prevent the back and forth bouncing of networks and subsequently the extreme battery drainage.

Similar work has been carried on in the past that involved working with radio frequency signals, especially 5G, but for the first time, a switch has been developed that works with the full radio frequency spectrum i.e from gigahertz to terahertz band that could lead to more prospects to developing a 6G service. That, however, is still a little far-fetched.

5G phones
Image Credits: University of Texas

Developing The Switch

The material used to develop the switch is a nanomaterial that goes by the name of hexagonal boron nitride. It is a newly used material by scientists and belongs to the family of graphene. The structure of the material closely resembles that of a honey-comb lattice sheet of carbon and is used in almost everything. Hexagonal boron nitride is only as thick as a single layer of atoms, according to research in semiconductors and semi materials. It is also known to be the thinnest insulator known to mankind and is only 0.33 nanometers thick. Human hair, on the other hand, is 100,000 nanometers thick.

In order to make the switch, however, scientists used just a single layer of boron and nitrogen atoms in a honeycomb pattern in which they introduced a layer of gold electrodes. Such precise technical work required large funding or sponsorship, part of which came from the US Army Research Office. They believed that better efficiency from these switches can help improve their defense machinery and other high tech gadgets such as the ones developed with artificial intelligence and self-driven vehicles.

Another reason why the army is indulged in the research and development of these switches is the convenience it could provide the troops in terms of communication. Better signal transmission and coordination lead to better response rates, which is crucial in times of distress during a war.

Division chief of the materials science program at the Army Research Office, Pani Varanasi, said in a statement, “Radio-frequency switches are pervasive in military communication, connectivity, and radar systems”. He also added, “These new switches could provide large performance advantage compared to existing components and can enable longer battery life for mobile communication, and advanced reconfigurable systems.”

Are 5G Phones Worth It?

As mentioned earlier, for the 5G service to run smoothly in smartphones, they must be equipped with a highly discreet chip such as the ones manufactured by Qualcomm chip which will considerably cost more. Smartphones are getting more and more advanced with each passing year with newer specifications and better camera lenses, therefore, harboring an even more expensive chip will substantially raise the amount of the smartphone. However, that’s another debate, about when the chip will actually be available and when the 5G service will provide a speedy and smooth connection.

For now, buying 5G phones would be nothing less than a dull move as the smartphones are not fully equipped to receive the signal without a constant back and forth bounce of these signals that drain the battery of the phones to the maximum. Vodafone has, however, taken a keen step forward in this direction and is charging its customers according to their internet speed requirement. If it’s for supporting heavy games and software, there is a higher price range than for the internet speed required simply for streaming and scrolling through social media.

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