The ‘E’ Stands for “Extremely Lame”

“5G E” is some real baloney.

After updating my iPhone to iOS 12.2, I noticed a change in the status bar:

An iPhone status bar claiming 5Ge
The iPhone’s network indicator has been updated.

Where before my phone would indicate it was on a 4G LTE network, I’m now apparently getting two whole bars of sweet, sweet “5G E”. Of course, my phone’s hardware didn’t change, nor did AT&T’s network in Boston. Instead, AT&T simply renamed their 4G LTE Advanced network to “5G E”, in an attempt to one-up their competitors without doing any actual work. The new iOS update sadly reflects this reality distortion.

Anyone who used early iPhones (or other smartphones) will likely recall the crumminess that was the EDGE network.1 That was indicated by an “E” in the status bar, an E which caused no small amount of frustrated swearing due to slow loading of information. Given this negative history, it might have been wise for AT&T to at least go with a different letter for their little con job here. Then again, tests have shown AT&T’s “5G E” is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile’s 4G, so maybe the allusion to EDGE is helpful.

As part of a mildly amusing April Fools’ adjacent joke, T-Mobile introduced the “Phone Booth E”.2 In the video, T-Mobile CEO John Legare takes a well-deserved shot at AT&T, stating “You know it’s real, because we tacked an “E” on the end of the name. Wow!”. Well-played, T-Mobile.

Previously in misleading iPhone status information: Have You Gotten Taller?


  1. Today I learned that “EDGE” is an acronym for “Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, which is a real goddamned stretch. ↩︎

  2. The video is archived here. ↩︎