Cellular technology is about to make an evolutionary leap. 5G is almost here. But you’re gonna have to wait a little longer. Here’s why.
USA TODAY, Just the FAQs
Sorry, AT&T iPhone users. We hate to break it to you but just because you downloaded iOS 12.2 doesn’t mean that your iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, XS or XS Max just became a 5G phone.
That new “5G E” logo? It’s not 5G but rather AT&T’s marketing that has now expanded to Apple devices after popping up on Samsung and LG Android phones in recent months.
Prominently featured in TV and online ads, the rebranding is all part of a bid to make people think AT&T has a massive headstart on 5G over rivals Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Unlike real, faster 5G – which AT&T is actually rolling out across the country and will require new devices with the proper hardware inside – 5G E is no different from the 4G LTE service you were getting in the same location yesterday. It’s simply deliberately confusing marketing.
A recent report from mobile analytics firm Opensignal found that AT&T’s 5G E network was slower than Verizon and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE service.
AT&T disputes Opensignal’s findings, calling the methodology “flawed.”
“Reporting on the ‘real-world experience of 5G Evolution’ without verifying tests of capable devices were done while in a 5G Evolution coverage area misrepresents the actual 5G Evolution user experience,” the company said in a statement provided to USA TODAY.
AT&T justifies using the indicator as a way to show that compatible devices are “5G Evolution-capable and in a 5G Evolution area,” even though performance-wise the network is not actually 5G.
When it comes to the marketing madness the company is actually pretty proud of what it started. When asked about the new term at CES in January, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said that by using the term, he’s frustrating his competitors. “If I’ve now (occupied) beachfront real estate in my competitors’ heads, that makes me smile.”
“They’re frustrated, and they are going to do what they do.”
After AT&T first began rolling out the 5G E name on Android phones in January, T-Mobile and Verizon both shot back at AT&T for its deception on Twitter and in full-page ads, respectively.
In February, Sprint sued AT&T in New York over the marketing, claiming that AT&T is engaging in false advertising.
AT&T and T-Mobile both did this nonsense before during the transition from 3G to 4G LTE in order to make it appear as if they were keeping up with the nationwide 4G LTE network Verizon was building. Clearly, that marketing worked well enough for AT&T that it is willing to confuse consumers again.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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