When AT&T announced that it would introduce a new “5G E” icon on select 4G smartphones to indicate that they were connected to the company’s transitional LTE Advanced network, the carrier said the feature was rolling out to Android phones — iPhones weren’t included. That’s changing today, as some AT&T iPhones running Apple’s just-released second beta of iOS 12.2 have started to display the same 5G E icon (via MacRumors), one of several small but noteworthy changes to the new operating system.
The 5G E badge proved controversial almost immediately after AT&T announced it, as both journalists and rivals described it as a misleading way to trick users into believing their phones were getting “5G” service. AT&T dismissed the complaints, which grew to include full-page newspaper ads calling for truth in advertising, by suggesting it was proud to have annoyed competitors and spurred industry discussions of the higher-speed cellular technology.
Industry rollouts of 5G have been blurred somewhat by a late-4G adoption of certain 5G bandwidth-expanding technologies, including multi-antenna and multi-data stream features, which will work on both recent 4G phones and future 5G phones. Instead of calling the features LTE Advanced or Gigabit LTE, like rivals do, AT&T is referring to the features as “5G Evolution,” and now flagging them on recent Android phones and iPhones when the devices are connected to compatible towers.
The presence of a higher-speed badge isn’t itself objectionable. Apart from randomly experiencing faster data speeds, there’s no other simple way for a user to know that a phone — AT&T or otherwise — is connected to the newer, faster network, or for that matter that there’s no nearby tower for an LTE Advanced-capable phone to use. On the other hand, using the term “5G” to signal a late-stage 4G technology is misleading, and may well have consequences for AT&T down the line.
Thankfully, iOS 12.2 isn’t introducing only that particular tweak. It’s also adding new features such as four new AR-animated emoji, known as Animoji, including an owl, a shark, a warthog, and a giraffe, as well as a variety of aesthetic and functional improvements ranging from improved AirPlay iconography to expanded Apple TV remote controls.
iOS 12.2 beta 2 launched today alongside the second betas of macOS 10.14.4, tvOS 12.2, and watchOS 5.2. All are available for developers to download now via Apple’s software update features or developers page, with public betas likely to follow within the next 24 hours.