We tested the smartphone battery life on 3G, 4G, and 5G — and one drains it much faster

Real-world smartphone tests on 3G, 4G, and 5G revealed that the battery drains much faster on 5G than the other connectivity options.

Many people believe switching from 4G/LTE to 3G will use less battery life and save them data.

This belief encouraged many South African smartphone users to force their devices to use 3G instead of using the significantly better 4G networks.

To establish whether there is any merit in this belief, MyBroadband tested the battery life and data use while streaming content on 3G and 4G networks.

For this test, Mybroadband used a Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone to stream the same Netflix series.

We connected the phone to a Bluetooth headset for audio and fixed the screen brightness to a set level.

The device was charged to 100%, the test was conducted, and the battery drain was measured afterwards.

The first episode of Squid Game was streamed using 3G, 4G, and 5G. The second episode was then streamed to ensure data caching did not influence the results.

We also streamed 1 hour of music and measured the battery life before and after.

The results revealed that there was virtually no difference between 3G and 4G battery consumption for the same tasks.

On 3G, the battery drain for the tasks was 21%, while it was 19% on 4G. This is within the margin of error with only single-digit accuracy on the battery percentage measurement.

The battery drain on 5G was, however, significantly higher at 26%.

These tests showed that it is definitely not worth switching from 4G to 3G if you want to save battery life.

If you have a 5G phone and want to conserve battery life, it may be worth it to disable 5G until you can get to a charger.

The table below provides an overview of the 3G, 4G, and 5G battery usage during the test.

Battery Drain – 3G vs 4G vs 5G
Task 3G 4G 5G
1 Hour Apple Music streaming 4% 4% 4%
Netflix Squid Game Episode 1 10% 8% 11%
Netflix Squid Game Episode 2 7% 7% 11%
Total 21% 19% 26%

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We tested the smartphone battery life on 3G, 4G, and 5G — and one drains it much faster