How to Switch Cellular Data Speed on iPhone from LTE, 3G, or 2G

Oct 31, 2014 - 19 Comments

Choose an iPhone cellular data speed in iOS

iPhone users now have the ability to choose their desired maximum cellular data speed from available options. This data speed toggle was added to the iPhone with iOS 8.1 and is not yet available on all carriers, but for those that do support the data choice feature it’s quite easy to use.

As mentioned before, users must be on iOS 8.1 (or newer if you’re really special), and not all iPhones are going to have this option available within the Settings app, it’s ultimately dependent on the cellular carrier to allow users to switch their data speed. Users may want to connect your iPhone to a computer with iTunes 12 (or newer) before trying this to see if there is a carrier settings update available through iTunes which could enable it. If all else fails, you could always contact your cell plan provider directly and ask about the feature too.

  1. Open the Settings app on the iPhone and go to “Cellular” (sometimes labeled “Mobile” for other carriers)
  2. Tap on “Voice & Data”
  3. Choose your desired cellular data speed from the following options:
    • LTE – the fastest cellular data service available, but can reduce battery performance
    • 3G / 4G – moderate speed cellular data transmission
    • 2G / Edge – very slow cellular data, largely unusable for anything beyond transferring small amounts of text and data
  4. Tap back onto “Cellular” and exit out of Settings to set the change

Switch cellular data speed on an iPhone

Remember, whatever you choose is the maximum speed, not necessarily a guarantee that your iPhone will always use that chosen cellular connection speed. Thus, even if you choose LTE, you still may cycle down to 3G or 2G if the connected cell tower only supports those speeds. On the other hand, choosing something like 3G will cycle down to 2G, but will never cycle up to LTE.

For most users, they’ll want to stay with LTE as the default choice, since it tends to provide the best experience for speed and usability for iPhone. Switching down to a lower cellular service can offer a way to increase battery life though, though by no means should the addition of this feature in iOS 8.1 impact battery life in any way.

It’s not entirely clear what carriers support the feature and what carriers don’t, but it’s pretty easy to find out if your iPhone is one of them. For those that don’t allow a cellular speed option, tapping on “Voice & Data” will reveal a simpler list of options: Off, Voice & Data (the default), or Data Only. This includes AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA, though it’s uncertain of Verizon or Sprint support either, and it may actually be dependent on individual data plans. Many global carriers do have the option, however.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

19 Comments

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  1. adam says:

    Has anyone found the cellular data speed switch on AT&T? I don’t have it on my iPhone and there does not appear to be a carrier update in iTunes.

    I like LTE but sometimes I get stuck in a zone where it cycles between 4G and LTE constantly, clearly eating up battery, so I could see the switch would be useful sometimes.

    • Paul says:

      I have seen the data toggle setting on many international cellular providers, but have not seen the option on AT&T either, it may not be available on any US carriers for that matter.

    • InTheory says:

      AT&T doesn’t seem to support this. A shame since switching to 2G could really increase battery life in a pinch.

  2. Avenged110 says:

    Ftr, LTE is usually more power efficient (unless the deployment is especially thin on GSM in the US) than HSPA+. Therefore, EDGE is usually the battery saver since HSPA+ gets terrible standby. Something to note, EDGE is great for standby in extended pocket storage since often being in a pocket attenuates the phone to some degree (at least on iPhone 5) causing it to drop to HSPA+ and suck power while idling. A good time for EDGE is if someone wants to receive notifications and MMS but avoid any other heavy data use. I’m not sure if fast-dormancy can come into play here for idle times, but that’s another discussion.

  3. Mr E J says:

    Not on Verizon either. Could have really used it today.

  4. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Is this international only? The U.S. cellular meh doesn’t offer the setting?

  5. david says:

    I saw the option on my brothers iPhone 6 with Verizon service.

    It’s not available on my iPhone 5S with AT&T.

  6. ! says:

    Not on my iPhone 5c with Sprint.

    Wish it had it, as I really need it.

  7. gsaladi says:

    Not on 5s with verizon.

  8. Ashwin Mani says:

    This setting was present on my iphone 5 on 8.1 but on my iphone 6 plus there is no option to toggle 2G and 3G

  9. Norm says:

    Checked with Verizon and it will not allow me to switch with a 4S as it is a hardware 3g

  10. Ben says:

    Not on T-Mobile as well.

  11. Beyor says:

    Switching between LTE / 3G / 2G is not available in European T-Mobile either.

  12. Sophie says:

    I have t mobile the iPhone 6 and it always says E I have at least 1gb of data but I can’t figure out how to turn it on or how to turn 3G on please help ASAP

    • Paul M says:

      Sophie – E means “Edge” or really low cellular data signal. It means you are in a location with bad signal.

      By default, your iphone should go the fastest speed available (3G, 4G). The only thing you CAN control is LTE, you can turn it on or off. If you turn it off, and you’re in a good signal area, your phone will go from saying “LTE” to “4G”.

      Go to settings->Cellular->Enable LTE->

      You’ll have the option of:
      Off
      Voice and Data
      Data Only

      Mine said Voice and Data by default (I guess it helps with voice signal too).

  13. plop plop says:

    Basicly, I downgrade my operator firmware from 18.0 to 16.0
    I use 2 jailbroken iphones (i4 and my i6) and ifile from cydia.
    Backup my original 18.0 and transfert over bluetooth the 16.0 in the i4 to my i6. restart and done.
    But I think you can downgrade with an ipcc file with itunes. I didn’t find my operator ipcc, that’s why I used this trick.

  14. Ismail says:

    How to remove carreir updates plaese tell me

  15. 2gForAll says:

    iPhone 6, 8.1.2, Vodafone 18.0):
    1. JAILBREAK
    2. navigate with iFile zu: /private/var/mobile/Library/Carrier Bundles/Overlay/.plist -> your Recent Carrier
    3. Change key ‘Enable4GByDefault’ to false.
    4. Save, permissions auf 644
    User: Read, Write
    Group: Read
    World: Read
    5. Airplane mode on and off.
    6. 2G/3G/4G switch ‘may’ be available in Settings > Mobile.

  16. ashutosh rai says:

    I have iPhone 5 s but it show e symbol and I have also Micromax mobile that show 3g in my iPhone enable lte then few time show 3g and then come to edge and my Micromax phone show always 3g have any solution please reply I have much trouble

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