Report: 5G Could Be Battery Killer

John Lister's picture

5G data use drains batteries quicker than 4G connections, according to new research. However, improved performance in newer processors could make up the difference.

The figures come from Ookla, the company behind Speedtest, which measures broadband connections. Its worth nothing that the sample group in the study may not be representative of the overall 5G population, as those who use the Speedtest service are typically interested in the speed of their connections.

Ookla spotted the difference when analyzing data originally collected to compare the performance of different Android processors. That means the effects of connection type on iPhones isn't included.

5G Data Results in Significant Battery Drain

To produce the figures, Ookla looked for phones that reported a 100% battery level at some point between 6 am and noon. They then looked for the lowest battery level on the phone reported between noon and 6pm. This means any differences in drain could be more pronounced over an entire day.

With all eight processors, the 5G drain was bigger than with a phone using a 4G connection. According to the statistics, the difference ranged from six percentage points to 11 percentage points. (Source:

Those are absolute figures, with the effect more dramatic when viewed as a comparison. For example, one processor dropped 40 percent on average on 5G compared with 29 percent on 4G. That means the battery drained more than a third more quickly.

Streaming Video Could Be The Difference

The study does have some significant limitations that make it hard to tell how much of the increased battery use is directly related to the technology itself. The results don't take account of variables such as differing use patterns. For example, people on a 5G connection may be more likely to watch a lot of streaming video, which will eat up battery. (Source:

It's also possible that people on 5G are more likely to have a truly unlimited data package and thus use their phones for Internet-reliant activities for longer. The study did bring some good news. It looked at the latest and previous versions of four different common processors. In each case it found battery drain was reduced with the latest version. With one processor, the Snapdragon 8, the latest model had less battery drain on 5G than the previous model had on 4G.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you noticed battery drain being greater on a 5G connection? Do you think it's down to the technology or the way people use phones? How big a role does battery drain play when you choose devices and data plans?

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Dennis Faas's picture

5G has significantly more bandwidth than 4G (up to 100x), which means that more data needs to be processed by the CPU. This is a no-brainer.

On a slower / older CPU, it's going to take longer to process 5G data, especially if the user is streaming video. That's because not only does the data need to be processed quicker (due to larger amounts of it coming in), but also because the video needs to be decoded by the CPU so it can be viewed on the screen. This results in battery drain.

Some newer CPUs on phones will have a smaller lithography (example: 8nm vs 5nm), which means that the space between data lanes on the CPU is shorter. Data that travels on shorter distances results in faster computation.

Also, because newer generation CPUs are typically faster than previous generations, it means data is going to be processed faster. Some newer (and next-gen) CPUs are going to have optimized ways to deal with 5G data and may also include a secondary CPU to offload the computation, for example, resulting in reduced battery drain.

Gurugabe's picture

As someone who lives in an area that does not have 5G and frequently travels to places that do, I see the significant battery drain while doing the same tasks.