Skip to main content

T-Mobile saw Verizon telling people to turn off 5G and thought ‘why stop there’

T-Mobile saw Verizon telling people to turn off 5G and thought ‘why stop there’


The carrier might be all-in on 5G, but its support documents aren’t

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

An illustration of T-Mobile’s magenta “T” logo on a black field with color-matched graphical squares.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

T-Mobile has been busy hawking its 5G network, recently spending many additional billions to expand it, which makes it kinda awkward that it’s also been caught telling users to turn off 5G to save battery life (via Sascha Segan). Didn’t Verizon just make this same gaffe mere days ago? It sure did. But instead of learning from the example, T-Mobile appears to have pulled a hold-my-beer: where Verizon told users to switch to LTE, many of T-Mobile’s support documents tell users to go all the way back to 2G.

In case you’re not aware, switching to 2G (which T-Mobile handily tells you how to do) will make your phone next to useless as a data device: the maximum theoretical speed you could get from a 2G connection would be around 1Mbps (though many top out at closer to 256Kbps). Even 1Mbps is 25 times slower than what the FTC considers to be acceptable broadband speeds, and 300 times slower than the average 5G mid-band speeds T-Mobile has bragged about.

(Never mind that T-Mobile is also in the midst of phasing out 2G signals for good, though the 2G shutdown has reportedly been postponed to 2022.)

From the support page for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.
From the support page for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.
Screenshot: The Verge

T-Mobile probably realized that this kind of advice was not a great look, but the company’s cover-up has also been amusingly slow. Earlier today, it removed the “Toggle from 5G/LTE to 2G” advice from the first example PC Magazine found (the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G), and the second one (the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G) had its support page updated shortly before we wrote these words. It also didn’t take long to find the advice to turn off 5G and/or 4G on the pages for the LG Wing, OnePlus Nord N10 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G, and the Pixel 4a 5G (which weirdly only mentions turning off 4G, not 5G). That’s likely an incomplete list, but you get the picture: the nudge to pick T-Mobile’s slow 2G network showed up a bunch.

(Here’s a Google Cache version of the first T-Mobile support page from March 1st.)

I will say that T-Mobile is right in one way: turning my phone down to 2G would likely make it so slow that I’d just give up trying to use it, and my phone probably would last a lot longer. If you’re struggling with battery life on your phone, there are plenty of things you can try that don’t involve slamming the brakes quite that hard.