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When Will 5G Phones Be Available?
5G phones are now affordable, but should you get one now or wait?
Cellular connectivity is on the verge of getting a major overhaul with the imminent launch of 5G networks and 5G smartphones.
5G connectivity is much, much faster than 4G LTE, which means we’re going to be seeing far faster connection speeds on our devices. 5G technology is coming to both mobile and home networks, and roll-outs started happening in 2019 and are continuing in 2020.
After years of being just around the corner wondering when will 5G iPhone be available
5G has started to actually arrive, with networks expanding from tested areas and into full roll-outs. And that means 5G-ready phones have arrived as well.
While the 5G rollout is still in its infancy in many nations, phone makers have stepped up the pace of releasing handsets capable of connecting with the emerging wireless network. These days, most flagship phones — including the Samsung Galaxy S20, OnePlus 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Note 20 — come with 5G connectivity. And there are now affordable 5G phones as well, notably in the form of the OnePlus Nord.
One of the biggest 5G releases of the year is still to come. Apple is expected to unveil its iPhone 12 lineup in the fall, and all four models rumored to be in the works will likely offer 5G connectivity.
Still, not every big release these days offers 5G connectivity — the Google Pixel 4a doesn’t, nor does the iPhone SE 2020 — and coverage in nations like the U.K. is patchy.
5G phones making waves
Conventional wisdom would dictate to get the best phone you can afford if you want a handset that will last you a while. There are now stats that indicate people are keeping holding onto their phones for up to three years.
With 5G rollouts increasing in pace, there’s a good chance you could be in an area that has some form of 5G connectivity in the next couple of years. So if you plan to buy a phone in the next six months, it’s worth considering having a 5G capable handset.
Even if you don’t plan to hold onto your phone for that long you might wonder if it’s better to have the option of 5G than not? Well, sort of. The problem is that 5G networks can effectively be divided into two specific areas; sub-6GHz and millimeter wave (mmWave). The former can cover wide areas and is the most prolific segment of spectrum used to power 5G networks, while the latter offers faster download speeds but is limited in range as it needs a lot of base stations and antennas to create a network that’s not blocked by buildings or other obstacles.
There’s a lot of theoretical speeds touted for 5G across the board. But real-world testing has shown that we can’t get the theoretical top speed of 10Gbps, though various data and tests show that 5G is significantly faster than 4G.
Where it’s available, mmWave offers the fastest 5G connection. In our testing we found speeds topped 1Gbps, which is a far-cry away from the top theoretical speeds, but still blisteringly quick compared to 4G in real-world use.
However, not all 5G phones have the antennas needed to support mmWave; a lot of devices only work with sub-6 networks. Some phones support both networks, but these tend to be expensive flagship devices; the OnePlus Nord, for example, doesn’t support mmWave. And while the iPhone 12 will have 5G, only the ‘Pro’ models are expected to support both sub-6 and mmWave.
And even if you were to get a phone with the best 5G connectivity on offer, you’ll probably struggle to find a mmWave network since that kind of coverage is sparse: you won’t find a mmWave network in the UK, for example. In the US, only Verizon has built its initial 5G network using mmWave; T-Mobile and AT&T have some mmWave towers, but those are limited compared to their nationwide networks.
“For most people in urban and suburban areas, 5G’s biggest impact will be on mid-band (‘sub-6GHz’) networks that offer a significant improvement in speeds along with excellent coverage outdoors and good coverage indoors,” Greengart explained. “mmWave 5G performance can be spectacular, but it is expensive to deploy because the signals don’t travel far, making it the best suitable for specific spots in crowded urban areas and venues like sports stadiums.
There were questions about whether Apple would be able to secure 5G chips for its 2020 devices given its dispute with Qualcomm, but that litigation has been cleared up and the road to a 5G iPhone in 2020 is clear.
Apple wasn’t prepared to launch 5G iPhone in 2019 and can’t afford to wait until 2021 as competitors have already launched 5G smartphones, which makes 2020 Apple’s 5G year.
5G is fifth-generation cellular wireless and the successor to 4G. When most people talk about 5G connectivity, they’re talking about mmWave, or millimeter wave spectrum.
Millimeter-wave technology offers a lot of open bandwidth for blazing-fast data transfer speeds, but it is highly sensitive to interference from buildings, trees, and other obstacles, which has prevented it from being taken advantage of by cellular companies who have previously focused on low-band and mid-band spectrums for cellular networks
Accessing mmWave spectrum has only become possible over the course of the last few years due to technological advancements like Massive MIMO, adaptable beamforming, and miniaturization of complex antenna processing functions.
Not all 5G networks are going to use mmWave technology in all areas because it’s best suited to denser urban locations. In rural and suburban areas, 5G technology will be on mid-bands and low-bands, called sub-6GHz 5G. It’s still faster than 4G, but not as fast as mmWave.
5G is going to provide faster connection speeds on cellular and home internet devices. How much faster remains to be seen because 5G networks are not widespread yet and are just now starting to be built out by carriers in the United States.
As mentioned above, there are also different implementations of 5G that are going to impact how fast a 5G network is, but in a nutshell, it’s going to make data connections faster and more robust.
It will take time for 5G technology to roll out, and a lot of the fastest 5G speeds will be limited to major cities as carriers work to build out their networks and upgrade their equipment.
For the first few years after launch, 5G connectivity will be spotty with carriers relying on LTE as a backup. Early 5G devices will eat up a lot of battery, which is something that will get better with the second-generation 5G chips Apple is likely to use.
U.S. Carriers With 5G Networks
All four of the major carriers in the United States – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint – are working on 5G technology, and 5G networks have already started rolling out. Other carriers around the world are also developing 5G networks. All the U.S. carriers are promising maximum connectivity speeds 10 to 20 times faster than LTE.
Verizon – Verizon has launched its 5G LTE network in areas in Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New York, Omaha, Panama City, Phoenix, Providence, St. Paul, and Washington, DC., with plans to expand to additional cities in the future. Verizon is focusing heavily on mmWave spectrum.
AT&T – AT&T is confusingly labeling its 5G networks in multiple ways, calling its upgraded 4G LTE “5GE” and its mmWave coverage “5G+.” 5G+ is AT&T’s real, actual 5G mmWave network, and it is available in select areas in cities that include Los Angeles, Orlando, Atlanta, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Austin, and more.
T-Mobile – T-Mobile (which is also now Sprint) is taking a practical approach to 5G and is focusing on the 600MHz spectrum first, because that’s what most customers will connect to. As mentioned up above, this spectrum is faster than LTE but slower than mmWave and will provide better coverage. T-Mobile rolled out its 5G network in summer 2020.
Apple’s Chip Partner – Qualcomm
Apple was originally planning to use Intel chips in its 2020 5G iPhone, but Intel is out of the smartphone chip business and Apple has no choice but to use Qualcomm’s modem chips.
Qualcomm has already released one 5G chip, the X50, and is working on a second, the X55. Qualcomm’s X55 chip became available in 2019 and it’s likely the chip that Apple is going to use in its 2020 iPhone lineup.
The X55 offers 7Gb/s peak download speeds and 3Gb/s upload speeds, though these numbers are theoretical maximums and actual speeds will depend on the carrier network. This chip is Qualcomm’s first 5G chip that supports all major frequency bands, operation modes, and network deployments.
The X55 is also more power-efficient than Qualcomm’s X50 chip, which means it will draw less energy and will have less of an impact on battery life when connected to a 5G network.
2020 iPhone Rumors
Apple is rumored to be planning to introduce four iPhone in 2020, with three display sizes: 5.4 inches, 6.1 inches (two devices), and 6.7 inches. Rumors suggest all four will use OLED displays, and current information also indicates all the iPhone coming in 2020 will be equipped with 5G chips to take advantage of 5G networks.
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