5G? 5 Bars? What the Signal Icons on Your Phone Actually Mean

Some AT&T customers noticed a strange phenomenon earlier this year. The upper left corner of their smartphones began displaying “5GE,” ostensibly indicating their phones were using 5G technology. And while Samsung announced Wednesday that it will soon release a 5G-compatible phone, actual 5G networks in the US are still in their nascent stages.

AT&T is engaging in a marketing ploy—one it has used in the past. The 5GE symbol really means a phone is using advanced LTE technology, which is available on other carriers and is slower than the 10-gigabyte speeds 5G promises. When the company introduces actual 5G tech, it plans to call it 5G+ instead. Sprint is suing AT&T over the nomenclature, alleging it constitutes deceptive advertising.

Even beyond 5GE, there’s a lot of confusion about what the letters, bars, and other symbols on your phone actually mean. Experts say interpreting them may only become more complicated as 5G rolls out in the coming years. [...]  read more