Updated May 22, 12:37 p.m. ET: Sprint has announced pricing and availability for the HTC 5G Hub, which goes on sale on May 31 in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City — the first four cities where Sprint's 5G network will come online. The hub will cost $12.50 a month to lease, and 100GB of data will cost you $60 a month. Here's our first look at the HTC 5G Hub from February 25.
BARCELONA — With all the 5G phones previewed at Mobile World Congress this year, you'd think HTC would jump into the race with a next-gen handset of its own. Instead, the company has something very different up its sleeve.
HTC and Sprint haven’t been shy about their plans to partner on a 5G hotspot, though they’ve been very secretive about the details — and for good reason. As it turns out, the HTC 5G Hub, revealed today (Feb. 25) at Mobile World Congress 2019, isn't your ordinary hotspot, nor is it a phone.
In fact, the 5G Hub is probably most similar to a Google Home with set-top box capabilities. It can broadcast Wi-Fi to up to 20 devices, but it also runs Android 9 Pie and can connect to an external display with a USB Type-C to HDMI cable. It has its own 5-inch 720p screen and speakers, so you can enjoy content directly on it. And the 5G Hub is powered by a Snapdragon 855 chipset and 4GB of RAM, so it can handle practically any application and even demanding games, provided you bring your own Bluetooth controller.
You can either look at HTC’s concoction as the most overkill hotspot ever, or like a 5G phone without the "phone" part — and one that definitely won't fit in your pocket. In fact, HTC even envisions some owners using the 5G Hub as a replacement for conventional wired residential internet, though without knowing the pricing scheme for Sprint's 5G service, that could end up being a very expensive proposition. (And that’s before you even factor in the cost of the Hub itself, which is still up in the air at the time of writing.)
Still, when other companies are launching 5G phones, the proposition of a supercharged hotspot might seem a little underwhelming. Nigel Newby-House, associate vice president for product planning and go to market at HTC, doesn't think so.
"People don’t see the use case where 5G makes a lot of sense on a phone," Newby-House told Tom's Guide in an interview. "5G makes sense when you can have multiple devices connected to something. The primary purpose of a 5G network is greater bandwidth, lower latency, more devices on the network.”
There's no question HTC's Hub will allow more devices to enjoy 5G speeds. In addition to support for 20 other devices to piggyback off those gigabit speeds, there's an Ethernet port in the Hub for PCs or game consoles. The Hub is also powered by a large 7,660-mAh battery to ensure long-term use, and supports microSD cards and external hard drives for expanded storage.
HTC hasn't announced pricing for the 5G Hub yet, though Sprint may shed light on that later this week. The device is expected to launch in the spring, when Sprint will light up its 5G service in nine cities around the U.S.