Wireless carriers are starting to roll out their 5G networks and phone makers are starting to introduce 5G-ready phones (or modules that bring 5G to phones that wouldn’t otherwise support it).

But honestly, at this point I’m not sure why anyone would actually want a 5G phone.

They cost more than other phones. You’ll pay more for wireless service. And odds are you won’t really make use of the additional speed, reduced latency, or improved bandwidth that are the key new features that come with 5G.

So as Verizon begins taking pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and promises to bring 5G to 20 more cities this year, I find myself wondering — do people actually want 5G phones yet?

Right now 5G seems most exciting for Internet of Things applications — it’ll allow billions of new devices to connect to the internet and stay online all the time. It would be hard to imagine a world where self-driving cars really live up to their potential without some major changes to the wireless networks of the world.

Once the next-gen networks are ubiquitous, it’s likely that all smartphones will ship with 5G modems, as will many notebooks, tablets, and other devices that are currently available with optional support for 4G LTE networks.

But today 5G isn’t even available in most of the world yet, and carriers that are offering the service will default to 4G or slower networks when you leave a 5G coverage area.

And for the foreseeable future, 5G is a premium add-on. Verizon says customers can access its 5G network for $10 per month on top of what they’re already paying for unlimited 4G access. And the company is selling the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G for $1300 and up. That’s $400 more than the price for a standard Galaxy S10.

To be fair, the 5G model has a bigger screen, more storage, a fancier camera system, and faster fast charging than the non-5G version of Samsung Galaxy S10. But it seems indicative of a trend — 5G is very much a premium feature aimed at early adopters who are willing to pay for expensive gear.

Meanwhile, Verizon says its 4G network already offers peak download speeds up to 50 Mbps, with average speeds in the 5 – 12 Mbps range, and that seems to be borne out by independent testing. Sure, faster is better — but those speeds are more than good enough for streaming music, movies, and even multiplayer games on a phone or tablet in 2019.

So… are you ready to jump on the 5G bandwagon, or are you taking a wait-and-see approach?

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23 replies on “Are you buying a 5G phone this year?”

  1. It never hurt to play the waiting game. I have been hurt and my pocket feel the pain too many times in the past.

  2. The only thing I want 5G for is fixed wireless at home. I live in a rural area where DSL, Cable and Fiber are not available. So hoping 5G can bring some better connectivity for me. However, I was reading today that distance is a huge factor to 5G, and since my closest tower is 3 miles away. I am wondering what kind of signal I will be getting and if 5G will even make a difference to my current 4G connection. Also the backhaul is a big factor in this.

  3. No.
    I’ll use a 3G dumbphone for calls until 3G is killed off where I live. Then, I guess, I’ll build myself something based on ESP32 phone and whatever popular 4G or 5G board from Ali.

  4. I won’t be getting 5G until it becomes widespread and affordable enough to show up on mid-tier phones like the Moto G series. Before then, it’s an easy pass.

  5. Am I going to buy a 5G phone before 2025?

    Nope. Perhaps by then there will be a number of refurbished former-flagship 5G-capable phones available for under $300, at which point I might be tempted–not for 5G, but for other flagship features. I will still very likely be on same 4G $27/month pay-as-you-go plan I’ve been on for the last five years. My data consumption is going up, but the monthly data allowance has more than kept pace with that.

  6. I view 5G as being more for home/office Internet. There’s not much I do on my phone that needs more than what 4G offers.

    I’m more excited about the newly announced Snapdraggon 7xx chips that will be 7 or 8 nm (I don’t remember which). When those are out and reasonably priced I might jump, but I am happy with my current phone.

  7. I’m Canadian, and I have no idea what the 5G rollout plan looks like in this country to be honest, so probably not. But even if it was/is available in my city, the obscene rates we’re charged for mobile data in this country mean I wouldn’t even be able to take advantage of it. So no, I probably won’t bother with a 5G phone until that’s all that’s available.

  8. I am not surprised at all by the reactions on this site. Why would anyone want to pay more for a phone, more for a contract, and haemorrhaging battery life so that you hardly get access to something which you can’t really enjoy?
    Will you be reading e-mails faster? No:
    Will you be reading web pages faster? No.
    Will you be downloading Apps faster? Potentially, but what sort of fools download Apps on cellular?
    Basically, there is no point besides bragging rights, and this is a tech site.
    Tech readers could not care less about bragging rights.

    1. I too am not surprised… people that like small, efficient and quiet devices also don’t want to waste money or resources. Who would have thought?

  9. I’m not interested in using 5G. I try to stay off-contract with providers, and I don’t want to be an early adopter when it means buying a $1200 phone. Also, I’m pretty sure providers are going to charge through the ass for 5G.

    1. +1
      I buy flagship phones one year after release and use a NVMO. I have wifi coverage for 95% of my day… I can live without fast data for the other 5%.

      1. Both of you guys are awesome and savvy.

        Buying an ex-flagship that’s ~18 months old, then upgrading it roughly every 15 months seems to offer quite a decent value proposition. That means within ~5 years you would’ve had 4 ex-flagship phones, but still have one of the best experiences with one of the latest softwares out there. However, it would’ve come at a much lower price and the resale value would not have changed by much.

        Not to mention that being a “mid/late adopter” means you can usually avoid those early QC Issues, you will get access to all those cases/accessories from the get-go, and that the Custom Rom scene would be much more mature.

        This seems like a much much better way than spending a lot of cash for the latest iPhone and holding it for 4 years, even though iPhone’s have much better longevity/support/software/resale value overall. Going though this Apple-Way, you’d get less “phone” despite paying more money.

  10. Don’t forget battery life. IF you happen to be able to access some 5g service, don’t be surprised if for the first couple of years at least your battery takes a hit, or worse. Remember when 4g first started? I had to help tons of people turn off 4g in their field test menus just so they could get through the day with their phone just idling.

    Signals are going to have a lot more edge zones where your phone is acquiring and switching and constantly trying to reacquire sketchy signals, and while it’s a simple software/firmware fix (if signal=sketchy then stop f&^%$&*^ trying to acquire it) to not kill your battery doing that, they sure didn’t figure it out for 4g, and I’d bet they still haven’t bothered now. Unless you’re existing 24/7 in the middle of overlapping 5g coverage with no obstructions, be prepared.

    I’m avoiding the whole thing for as long as humanly possible. Given the cost increases of phones even before 5g, it’s just generally a good time to delay purchase if you can, and go moto g or oneplus or last year’s flagships if you can’t.

  11. Honestly, 5G is the last thing I care about when I consider buiyng a new phone.

  12. I’m really not looking forward to 5g. For phones, there’s no point and quite possibly never will be, because the wavelengths used in it can be blocked by your hand, so a lot of space inside the phone needs to be taken up by redundant antennas, or at least antenna traces.
    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/12/dont-buy-a-5g-smartphone-at-least-not-for-a-while/
    You’re right, 5g is for IoT, but I haven’t seen much discussion about what KIND of things it’s for. The stuff in your house just connects to your router. It has to, because your walls block much of the signal as well. That leaves two things consumers might want it for: Autonomous Cars, and drones, and there’s not much of a point in rolling it out now for either of these things because there aren’t many of them (and there might never be many autonomous cars depending on how economical regulations and licensing make them). One could conceivably use it to replace landlines for whole buildings and that might be worth it (laying cable in cities is quite the hassle), but otherwise it’s only for outdoor devices owned by corporate and government entities.
    In a world where Social Credit exists anywhere, it’s not pleasant thinking about what many of those devices could be.

    1. The UK already has very sensible draft regulations for autonomous cars, the only issue remaining is getting the cars to work.

  13. The short answer is no. Judging by the Youtube videos I’ve seen in my so-called “recommendations”…Lots of people in this country are actually terrified of 5G coming into service.

    1. I doubt that particular conspiracy theory will get enough traction to stop it. There was a similar outcry over wireless utility meters a few years back (they will fry your brains!), but it didn’t stop the roll out and nobody cares any more.

  14. 5G may be a huge failure. The carriers just see it as a way to charge more…in AT&T case, they will charge more for 5G than 4G LTE, then charge more again depending on which tier of speed you select. Yep, just like with home internet! Most 5G users will still be on 4G LTE the vast majority of the time even if you live in a city where 5G has officially rolled out. I have read about something simple like a glass door can kill 5G signals. Unless an area is thickly covered with 5G cells, good luck. Think they will adjust the billing rate based on which speed network you are using? Of course not! You will get billed at the higher 5G rate all the time. I am sure all of the carriers will be trying their best to get rid of those old 4G phones so all they have are 5G phones which require 5G contracts. Maybe in a few years things will improve (if you live in a big city).

    1. It won’t be a flop — the carriers will do all they can to prevent that — but it probably won’t be adopted anywhere near as fast as the carriers would like. Remember, we live in a nation where $1,000 phones are a thing, even though 99% of all users would barely notice the difference if they were suddenly required to use a phone half that price.

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