Android 11 apps will show which kind of 5G you’re connected to

(Image credit: Google)


According to the latest Android 11 Developer Preview, applications on supported devices will now be able to display the type of 5G that is currently being used to access them, and enabling users to see feedback about the quality of their 5G connections.

With this latest version of its Android operating system, Google is clearly on a mission to clear up any confusion about the different types of 5G, whilst improving the overall experience for users on the Android platform. Whether that will be the case is anyone’s guess, though.

The move comes in the wake of a number of networks making misleading claims about the type of 5G it offers, or whether it even offers 5G at all. (For example, this week a panel of the National Advertising Review Board in the US recommended that AT&T discontinued its “5G Evolution” and “5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G” advertising, as the service it was promoting wasn’t even 5G; against this backdrop it’s easy to see where confusion can arise.)

The new section of the developer guidelines from Google introduces new parameters called ‘5G visual indicators’, which will enable users to easily assess whether their connection is using lower or higher 5G spectrum.

All 5G is not the same

Whilst low-level 700MHz might be useful in spreading 5G to rural locations, it's not ideal for providing the reliable connectivity required in a busy urban location. And whilst high range bands provide huge amounts of capacity across a limited geographical area, mmWave is key for 5G rollout is in dense city zones, where there's need for high capacity. However, mmWave is not without its challenges. The signals don't go that far for one thing (through walls, structures, and even dense vegetation, for example).

The various 5G icon display options for different carriers are provided by this new API, says Google. And the supported technologies include the following:

  • LTE
  • LTE with carrier aggregation (LTE+)
  • Advanced pro LTE (5Ge)
  • NR (5G)
  • NR on millimeter-wave cellular bands (5G+)

Hypothetically, the new 5G visual indicators will enable app developers to show when someone is connected to mmWave 5G, over another flavour, and highlight that going into a building may downgrade their current experience (which will become especially relevant for tasks such as cloud-based gaming).

According to Google’s documentation, 5G visual indicators will be available on Android 11 (API level 'R') and higher, and apps with specific permissions can request telephony display information updates through a PhoneStateListener. (This will also include radio access technology information for marketing and branding purposes, according to the developer guidelines.)

Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.