How to manage 5G cellular data consumption on your iPhone

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Apple allows you to control whether things like iOS software updates or TV shows and movies should take full advantage of 5G cellular data on the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Follow along with us as we show you how to control whether FaceTime, TV, Music and third-party apps should use more cellular data for enhanced experiences or reduce their cellular data consumption.

How iOS manages 5G on iPhone

The default settings for 5G cellular data on the iPhone 12 family are optimized for battery life and data usage based on your data plan, according to Apple’s support document. Currently, higher frequency 5G networks (mmWave) are supported only in the US when using an iPhone purchased in the United States. iPhones purchased outside of the US do not support 5G mmWave. All iPhone 12 models and later support standard 5G, also referred to as Sub-6GHz.

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How to allow more data on 5G

Follow these steps if you’d like to customize your options for when to use 5G cellular data and how much data to use in some apps.

  1. Open Settings on your 5G iPhone.
  2. Choose “Cellular” from the root list.
  3. Touch the entry “Cellular Data Options”.
  4. Select “Allow More Data on 5G”.

For the sake of completeness, here are all the 5G data options at your disposal:

  • Allow More Data on 5G: Let iOS and apps use more cellular data
  • Standard: This is the default mode
  • Low Data Mode: Reduce cellular data usage

If using Dual SIM, go to Settings → Cellular and choose the number whose options you want to change. On iPhones without 5G, you’ll only see a toggle switch for Low Data Mode. If you don’t see the entry “Cellular Data Options,” your plan does not support 5G (contact your carrier).

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Learn about 5G options

Here are more detailed descriptions for each of the available settings:

  • Allow More Data on 5G: If you enabled this option (it’s off by default), apps and certain system tasks will be permitted to use more 5G cellular data. Allowing more data on 5G will boost the quality of FaceTime calls, stream or download movies and TV shows in the TV app in high definition. Your Apple Music songs and videos will sound and look better, too, and the operating system will download iOS updates over cellular. Finally, this setting allows third-party apps to use more cellular data for enhanced experiences.
  • Standard: This setting will permit automatic software updates and background tasks on 5G cellular data. However, FaceTime calls and video-enabled apps like TV and Music will use standard quality settings,
  • Low Data Mode: This mode will pause automatic updates and background tasks to help reduce both Wi-Fi and cellular data usage. This mode disables 5G except during video streaming. In China, Low Power Mode also disables 5G altogether.

Be careful about allowing more 5G cellular data, especially if you’re on a metered plan.

Which 5G cellular data mode should I use?

Using more 5G data is the default setting with some unlimited data plans, depending on your carrier. Otherwise, iOS defaults to the “Standard” setting to conserve your cellular data.

Apple sums it up the best:

‘Allow More Data on 5G’ provides higher-quality video and FaceTime when connected to 5G cellular networks. ‘Standard’ allows automatic updates and background tasks on cellular, but limits video and FaceTime quality. ‘Low Data Mode’ helps reduce Wi-Fi and cellular data usage by pausing automatic updates and background tasks.

You can choose to always stream the highest-quality content in the Music and TV apps: in Settings → Music → Cellular Data turn on “High Quality Streaming” and in Settings → TV → Cellular choose “High Quality”. Both settings will result in increased cellular data usage.

How to change streaming and download quality in the TV app

Apple says that both these apps are designed to use less data if your plan’s data cap is unavailable. If you’re concerned about burning your monthly cellular data quota, you’re wholeheartedly recommended against enabling high-quality streaming.