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AT&T’s misleading “5G E” icon will soon be on your iPhone

AT&T’s misleading “5G E” icon will soon be on your iPhone
[Photo: Bagus Hernawan/Unsplash]

After Apple released the latest beta of iOS 12.2 to developers last night, some users noticed something strange. It seemed as if their iPhones had suddenly gained 5G capabilities. Indeed, after installing the beta, users saw a new “5G E” icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.

But sorry to break it to you, as MacRumors points out, no, Apple did not just update your iPhone to 5G. The “5G E” icon is all AT&T’s doing and it’s simply a fairly shady branding and marketing exercise from the carrier. As Fast Company reported last month:

There’s a lot of money riding on whether wireless carriers and phone makers can make consumers understand the next generation of wireless service, 5G, and why they should want to buy into it. Many Americans are just now hearing of the new, faster service, which will deliver blazing speeds with very little latency. Meanwhile, the carriers are spending millions building the networks that will support the new service, and phone makers are working on the first wave of smartphones that will support it.

That’s why it’s amazing that one of the industry’s biggest players is intentionally trying to confuse the marketplace about what 5G is, and when it will be arriving in your neighborhood. As it’s done before, AT&T is getting ahead of a wireless transition, and will begin labeling some of its 4G phones as 5G models. The company says that it’s justified in doing so because it’ll use the brand name “5G Evolution,” meaning that the service is “evolving” toward real 5G.

Just imagine some other company doing that for some other product. Would it be fair to consumers and the industry if Samsung decided to sell a cheap 1080p TV at a high price by slapping an “8K Evolution” label on it? After all, 1080p was part of the “evolution” to 8K. Of course not.

It’s actually surprising that Apple is even allowing AT&T’s 5G E icon on its iPhones as it is sure to sow confusion among its own customers, leading many to think some iPhones support 5G and some do not. As for AT&T, the carrier told MacRumors, “Today, some iPhone and iPad users could start seeing our 5G Evolution indicator on their devices. The indicator simply helps customers know when they are in an area where the 5G Evolution experience may be available.”

As for whether AT&T’s 5G E icon will stick around on the iPhone, Apple’s iOS 12.2 beta is still evolving and features could change before it’s released to the public, so it’s always possible Apple could remove the misleading icon from the OS before it ships to end users.

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