How to download iOS and iPadOS software updates over speedy 5G cellular connections

Follow these steps to learn how to download iOS updates over speedy 5G cellular connections on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 instead of the much slower 4G, LTE and Wi-Fi networks.

With much faster downloads and uploads than 4G, LTE or Wi-Fi, 5G enables new experiences on iPhone 12, iPhone 13 and 5G-equipped iPads, like lower latency and faster response in multiplayer games, better augmented-reality experiences and so forth.

An iPhone screenshot showing the iOS 14.6 prompt in the Software Update screen within Settings, with a warning saying current 5G data settings restrict iOS software updates to Wi-Fi
You must change your settings to download iOS updates over 5G

As of iOS 14.5, you can also download multi-gigabyte iOS and iPadOS updates over 5G cellular connections but you’ll need to adjust the 5G data mode first. So let’s take a quick look at the steps required to download software updates for your iPhone and iPad, no matter their size, over fast 5G connections. Read: How to optimize 5G on iPhone for speed or battery life

How to download iOS updates over 5G cellular

By default, Apple restricts iOS software downloads to Wi-Fi networks. By adjusting your cellular mode to allow more data on 5G, however, you can download iOS updates over 5G.

  1. Open Settings on your 5G-equipped iPhone, like iPhone 12 or iPhone 13.
  2. Choose Cellular from the root list.
  3. Touch Cellular Data Options.
  4. Now hit Data Mode.
  5. Lastly, select Allow More Data on 5G.

With this setting turned on, your iPhone may use your speedy 5G cellular connection if you have a poor or slow Wi-Fi connection for things like “software updates, automatic iCloud backups and higher-quality media,” according to the feature’s description.

An iOS screenshot showing 5G cellular settings on iPhone with the "Allow More Data on 5G" switch turned on
Use this setting to download iOS updates over 5G

Should you allow more data on 5G?

There’s also an important downside to this setting.

By configuring the device to download stuff over 5G (which is disallowed by default), your run time is guaranteed to take a hit and battery life will suffer. Thankfully, you can switch to either “Standard” or “Low Data Mode” to restrict iOS software updates to Wi-Fi. And if your plan includes a data cap, do avoid downloading these software updates over 5G.

Features enabled with “Allow More Data on 5G” turned on

The default settings for 5G on iPhone are optimized for battery life and data usage “based on your data plan,” Apple notes in a support document. The company also mentions features that are available over 5G when the “Allow More Data on 5G” option is turned on:

  • Higher-quality FaceTime
  • Apple TV videos in high definition
  • Apple Music songs in high definition
  • iOS and iPadOS software updates over mobile
  • Automatic iCloud backups
  • Enhanced experiences in third-party apps

“Allow More Data on 5G” is the default setting with some unlimited-data plans “depending on your network provider,” Apple writes without further clarification.

Apple’s 5G resources for users and developers

A dedicated webpage on the Apple Developer website provides additional resources, tools and source code examples that programmers can consult in optimizing their apps for 5G connectivity. A support document on the Apple website lists all the carriers around there world that provide 5G support that’s optimized for compatible iPhones and iPads.