5G Vs. 4G:
How Much Time the New Technology Saves You

5G still isn't available everywhere, but it's on its way. Learn just how fast 5G speeds are going to be and how this compares to the 4G speeds we currently have.

Written by Chris Holmes
Published 5/29/2019

The results are in—and they’re dramatic. Downloading an HD movie via 5G will save you 41 minutes over 4G; that’s 85% faster. You’ll save 10 hours over 4G when downloading a 10,000 song library. Here are some of our findings:

  • You will save 41 minutes on an average HD (1080) movie download.
  • When downloading a 10,000 song library (at 320kps), you will save over 10 hours.
  • You will save 51 minutes when downloading a 1,500 photo library.
  • You will save 1:40 when downloading the average iOS game.
  • You will save 5:40 when downloading a 10,000 email mailbox.

3G vs. 4G vs. 5G Speeds

While 5G is still in its relative infancy, it is becoming a reality for a growing number of Americans. 5G networks have been rolled out in select cities by all four major cell phone carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint), with many more to come.

Unless you’ve actually experienced 5G, though, it can be hard to understand how it translates to everyday smartphone use. Just saying 5G is 10 times faster than 4G doesn’t necessarily help clarify things. That’s why we decided to explore how much time 5G will save you over 4G when it comes to downloading movies, music, emails, photos and games. Let’s consider what kind of speeds 3G and 4G offered when they were introduced.

Verizon debuted the first large-scale 3G network in the United States in 2002. This helped shepherd in the smartphone revolution, making it possible to stream data on mobile devices at—theoretically—42 Mbps speeds (the average is around 8 Mbps). U.S. carriers still use 3G—it’s the network your phone falls back to in the absence of a 4G signal.

4G succeeded 3G around 2010 with more reliably fast speeds—50 Mbps on average. This further accelerated the smartphone revolution, as it suddenly became possible to stream music and video without frequent stoppages and lags. We’ve been relying on 4G (and it’s faster variant 4G LTE) ever since.

This brings us to the present day, and the hotly anticipated roll out of 5G, which promises to leave 4G in the dust when it comes to downloading, streaming and browsing.

What is 5G and How Does It Work?

5G is the latest, fastest cell phone and broadband network generation (the “G” stands for generation). Like past networks, 5G relies on a matrix of cellular sites that send out radio waves. However, whereas 4G signals are transmitted via network nodes (i.e. cell towers) designed to cover large distances, 5G signals are sent out via clustered sites that provide for smaller—but far faster—signal areas. Also, 5G takes advantage of higher frequency bands, known as millimeter waves, that allow for super low latency.

What 5G Means for Smartphones And Why It’s Important

5G promises to bring about a renaissance in the way we interact with our smartphones. Lightning-fast speeds and reduced lag times makes its potential impact on digital communication, commerce, and media consumption (just to name a few areas) enormous. It’s no wonder it’s been branded “revolutionary.”

Methodology and Conclusions

While we’re still a couple years away from full-on prevalence, 5G is already a reality in a handful of cities—with many others coming online soon. What’s more, 5G-capable phones (like Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G) have hit the market that can actually take advantage of these networks. Which is to say we’re on the cusp of a whole new reality when it comes to smartphone usage.

How We Gathered Our Data—And How to Interpret It

To calculate the time saved using 5G over 4G and 3G, we took the average download speeds reported by lifewire.com and applied them to various media—specifically, movies, music albums, emails and photos. Download times are represented in hours, minutes and seconds for each network type. For example, it takes 7 minutes and 20 seconds on 5G, and using this technology will save you an average of 41 minutes and 32 seconds over 4G when downloading movies.


If there’s one thing these findings tell us, it’s that 5G will significantly change the way we consume digital media and files, dramatically reducing lag times over 4G. The ability to do more in far less time will effectively change the way we interact with our smartphones.

Let's Talk has its pulse on 5G, and what its continued rollout means for cell phone carriers, plans and devices. Our guides on Verizon and Sprint's 5G phones are just a couple of recent examples. We’ll continue to serve as a resource for 5G—and a myriad of other cell phone-related topics.