We've heard a lot about what 5G networks and their faster speeds and lower latency. And now 5G phones are hitting the market as the networks start to come online.
The arrival of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 mobile processor earlier this year has enabled device makers to move forward with 5G phones. In addition to improvements in performance and power efficiency, the Snapdragon 855 supports Qualcomm's first 5G modem, the X50. A newer modem, the X55, that can connect to 5G, 4G and other networks, first debuted in the Galaxy Note 10 5G and will hit more handsets next year, as we get a better idea of what 5G is and what it means for mobile users.
So far, though, 5G is definitely faster than 4G in our testing, but there aren't many phones that can take advantage of the new networks yet.
Here's all the 5G phones announced so far and when we expect them to appear — if they haven't arrived already.
Latest 5G phone news (Updated Nov. 2019)
- T-Mobile plans to turn on its nationwide 5G network on Dec. 6, with coverage reach 5,000 cities using the carrier's 600 Mhz spectrum. (That means farther-reaching coverage though not at the speeds we've seen from millimeter-wave 5G.) T-Mobile confirmed that it will offer both the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G (Available now)
What we know: Samsung's second 5G handset, the 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, is available now, but only through Verizon. There's a 256GB version of the phone for $1,299, a $300 markup on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. A 512GB version of the 5G phone will set you back $1,399.
Alternatively, you can purchase the device in monthly payments. The 256GB model can be yours for 24 installments of $54.16. The monthly bill on the 512GB model jumps to $58.33.
The Galaxy Note 10 will arrive on other major 5G networks, like Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. In fact, T-Mobile confirmed that it will be one the phones that works with the carrier's nationwide 5G network launching in December. That's because this version of the Note 10 is first 5G phone you can buy outfitted with Qualcomm's second-generation X55 5G modem, which boasts support for more of the wider-coverage yet lower-speed 5G infrastructure T-Mobile is employing. The Verizon variant of the phone is equipped with the older X50 chip for millimeter-wave compatibility.
We tested the Galaxy Note 10 5G on Verizon's network in Providence, Rhode Island in August, and found the handset's performance to be quite similar to that of the S10 5G. Speeds got as high as 1.06 Gbps — five times the best possible LTE speed we recorded with a standard Note 10.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5GView Deal
What else we've heard: When the Galaxy Note 10 5G does eventually launch on networks outside of Verizon's, it will be restricted to their lower-band 5G infrastructure. That means the device won't be able to take advantage of the fastest-possible 5G downloads and uploads through millimeter-wave, as it can on Verizon. On the flip side, you won't have to be outside, within line of sight of a 5G small cell to pull down faster speeds than you'd typically get on LTE.
At the moment, there's currently no phone on the market that is equipped with all the gear necessary to support every incarnation of 5G, from the low-band to millimeter-wave. Ideally, that will change next year when Qualcomm begins to rollout its X60 modem in tandem with the Snapdragon 865 processor. Until then, the Note 10 5G — much like the other devices on this list — aren't really 5G future-proof yet.
T-Mobile hasn't announced a price for its Note 10 Plus 5G, though we'd expect something similar to what Verizon charges.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (Available Now)
What we know: Samsung was the first phone maker to put its 5G cards on the table, previewing the Galaxy S10 5G when it released the rest of its Galaxy S10 phones. The Galaxy S10 5G then debuted on Verizon's network in mid-May, and arrived at AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in June. In the case of AT&T, though, only corporate users on the carrier's Business Unlimited Preferred plan can buy the 5G-ready S10.
At Verizon, you'll pay $1,300 for a 256GB version and $1,400 for the 512GB model. Sprint charges the same amount for the 256GB version, but you can also get the Galaxy S10 5G on an 18-month Sprint Flex lease at just $30 per month. AT&T is charging $1,000 for the S10 5G, but again, that phone is only available to corporate customers.
We spent some time in Chicago testing the Galaxy S10 5G's network performance and were impressed by the speeds we saw, though there are some caveats. Verizon's network only works outside and you need to be in sight of one of its 5G towers. While Verizon is working to expand 5G coverage, it's still in a limited area in the Windy City.
Samsung is doing more than just inserting a 5G modem into its first 5G phone. The device features a 6.7-inch display — bigger than the 6.4-inch panel on the Galaxy S10 Plus — and it's powered by a 4,500 mAh battery. (Curiously, the S10 5G lasted 10 hours and 56 minutes — a very good time, though not as long as the 12 hour, 35 minute result we saw with the S10 Plus.)
Samsung's S10 lineup features three rear cameras, and on the 5G version of the phone, that setup adds a 3D depth sensor. That 3D sensor is on the front of the phone, too. Samsung says the feature will support augmented reality apps that are sure to benefit from the lower latency of 5G.
Our Galaxy S10 5G verdict, now that we've tested the phone: You'll get extremely fast speeds where Verizon's network is available. But given how limited 5G coverage is at this point, it's hard to justify the $300 premium you'd pay over the Galaxy S10 Plus.
However, it's not the only 5G phones Samsung offers. The Galaxy Note 10 5G debuted in August, and features Qualcomm's newer X55 modem, which supports the sub-6GHz spectrum in addition to mmWave for broader 5G coverage on certain carriers, like AT&T.
What else we've heard: The Galaxy Fold, which recently launched after being delayed due to hardware quality, was supposed to get a 5G version, but we assume whatever plans Samsung has to add 5G connectivity to its foldable devices will happen with the Galaxy Fold 2.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G (Available Now)
What we know: Like Samsung, LG lined up a carrier to exclusively offer the manufacturer's first 5G phone at launch. In LG's case, that carrier ended up being Sprint, which launched the V50 ThinQ 5G back in June.
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G is a successor the V40 ThinQ released last year. There's a lot of similarities between that phone and the V50, right down to the three cameras on the back of the phone and the form factor. But besides the Snapdragon 855 chipset and 5G connectivity, the V50 also promises more onboard storage and a bigger battery (4,000 mAh versus 3,400 mAh for the V40).
Sprint is now selling the LG V50, which costs $999 if you buy the phone outright. Lease it through a Sprint Flex plan, and there's currently a promotion running where you'll pay just $19 a month for 18 months, down from the usual $41. Sprint requires you to have an Unlimited Premium plan, which at $80 a month is Sprint's most expensive unlimited option. For now, the phone will only get 5G service from Sprint in nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
Sprint may have gotten the phone first, but it's not the only carrier offering the V50. After debuting on the Now Network, the V50 made its way to Verizon, which began selling the phone later in the summer.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G (Available Now)
What we know: The OnePlus 7 Pro debuted in May, and it's a really good phone. But then a few months later, OnePlus introduced a 5G model, exclusively through Sprint, for the relatively low price of $840 (which is quite inexpensive for a 5G phone).
When Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 855 in December, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau appeared at the launch event to announce that his company would build a 5G-capable phone using the new processor. In the U.K., operator EE committed to offering OnePlus' 5G phone, as did Finland's Elisa. Lau originally told USA Today that it's wouldn't sell that version in the U.S., though he must have had a change of heart, because the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G later emerged on Sprint.
We tested the phone when Sprint launched its 5G service in Los Angeles late in August. We tended to see speeds ranging from 300 Mbps to 700 Mbps — pretty fast, though not anywhere near as quick as the peak 1.4 Gbps speeds we've witnessed on Verizon's 5G network. That's because Verizon's millimeter-wave infrastructure can deliver much quicker speeds than Sprint's mid-band coverage, though Sprint's technology is far better at carrying long distances and penetrating physical obstructions (meaning you can actually get a 5G signal indoors).
What else we've heard: Could the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G make it to more carriers besides just Sprint? Given the phone maker's close partnership with T-Mobile in the U.S., it's possible (though the Uncarrier is already planning to offer another OnePlus device). We've also heard rumors that OnePlus will debut on Verizon in 2020, so Big Red could have another willing dancing partner for its 5G service too.
OnePlus tends to release new devices about every six months. The latest is the OnePlus 7T, which lacks 5G but brings many of the Pro's best features down to a lower price. We could envision a scenario where the next 5G device from the company arrives midway through next year, likely in tandem with Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon 865 chip — but OnePlus' future 5G plans are unknown at the moment.
OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren (Available late 2019)
Like the 7T, the McLaren edition runs on a Snapdragon 855+ processor, features a display with a 90-Hz refresh rate and sports three rear cameras. But it's got a 5G modem and some design touches that evoke the McLaren racing colors. (Think black and gray design with papaya orange accents.)
The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren will be fast, though possibly not as fast as other 5G devices. That's because it will connect with T-Mobile 600MHz bands, which are good at penetrating physical obstacles and going for a long distance, but not as adept at delivering the 1 Gbps speeds that 5G promises.
What else we've heard: Pricing and availability is still up in the air — T-Mobile says the 5G version of the 7T arrives before the end of the year. You can bet it will probably launch around Dec. 6, when T-Mobile expands its 5G service nationwide. Expect this version to cost more than the $599 OnePlus 7T.
Motorola Moto Z4, Z3 or Z2 Force with 5G Moto Mod (Available now)
What we know: Motorola has three phones that can connect to Verizon's 5G network. You just need a special add-on to make it work.
Both the Moto Z2 Force and Moto Z3, released in 2017 and 2018 as Verizon exclusives, and the newer Moto Z4 can support a Moto Mod that adds 5G connectivity. Like other Moto Mods, this add-on snaps to the back of the phone. It will be able to connect to Verizon's 5G network, which the carrier says will be available in 30 cities before the end of 2019. Right now, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Houston, San Diego and Kansas City are among those cities partially covered.
You can order the 5G Moto Mod from Verizon for $349. You'll also need to add on 5G service to your regular Verizon unlimited plan. That will cost $10 per month on top of your regular month rate; Verizon says the first three months of 5G service will be free.
Before rushing out to buy a 5G Mod though, consider our experience testing 5G in Chicago, where Verizon's network is very limited at this stage in its rollout. We saw fast speeds when we were able to connect to the carrier's 5G network, but we also had a hard time finding a signal. Since those initial tests in April, though, 5G performance has improved in Chicago (though that round of testing was with the Galaxy S10 5G — more on that below).
What else we've heard: The Moto Mod gives Motorola a way to offer a 5G-capable phone around the same time that other phone makers are rolling out 5G-ready devices. It's also a relatively inexpensive way to get 5G now, without spending roughly $1,000 on a standalone 5G phone. But we expect that Motorola will have more to say about its 5G plans before 2019 wraps up.
Huawei Mate X and Mate 30 5G
What we know: True to its word, Huawei has shown off a 5G phone. And this one also folds.
The Huawei Mate X, unveiled at MWC, folds out into an 8-inch tablet; otherwise, it's got a pair of panels on either side that you can use. And this phone is going to offer 5G connectivity via Huawei's Balong 5000 modem, which is combined with Huawei's existing Kirin 980 chipset. (Unlike the vast majority of flagship Android phone makers, who turn to Qualcomm for mobile processing components, Huawei builds its own silicon.)
Set aside a lot of dough for this phone. Huawei says the Mate X costs 16,999 yuan, which translates to around $2,400. After Huawei pushed back the launch from its original June date, the Mate X is shipping, but only in China. A version with the Kirin 990 chipset and its integrated 5G modem will ship next year.
What else we've heard: We'd be surprised if Huawei's 5G phone will reach the U.S., given the U.S. government's ongoing hostility toward the company. And the recent move by the U.S. Department of Congress to block American firms from offering software or hardware to Huawei has cast a cloud over the Chinese company's future.
Huawei is also selling 5G versions of its Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro in China. But those phones won't ship with any Google apps, and a U.S. launch isn't happening.
ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G
What We Know: ZTE's flagship Axon 10 has a 5G-capable variant, with the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G that arrived in China late this past summer. The LTE version of the Snapdragon 855-powered phone is already available worldwide (including in the U.S.), and it features a teardrop notch on its display and three rear cameras (a 48-megapixel main lens augmented by telephoto and wide angle shooters). The 5G version of the Axon 10 Pro is essentially the same phone, only with a 5G modem and a liquid cooling system.
Artificial intelligence figures to be a big part of the Axon 10 Pro 5G, too. ZTE touted an “AI triple-camera, AI motion capture, AI scene recognition, AI portrait lighting adjustment, AI user behavior learning and AI everywhere” in the run up to the phone's launch.
The 5G version of the Axon 10 Pro is unsurprisingly pricier than the standard 4G model, which costs $499 in the U.S. In China, it costs 4,999 yuan, or about $710.
Other phone makers
A lot of the other companies that have disclosed 5G plans are in the same class as Huawei: Chinese phone makers that have already released one or more 5G handsets, with some making their way to Europe and the U.K. as the U.S. market has been largely ignored.
Xiaomi is leading the charge with affordable 5G phones, thanks to its Mi Mix 3 5G and Mi 9 Pro. The latter is actually going for the equivalent of $520 in China — less than half the price of the $1,299 Galaxy S10 5G. Sadly, neither is U.S.-bound, though the Mi Mix 3 5G is available in the U.K.
Also available in the U.K. is Oppo's new Reno 5G, which is available through EE. Huawei sub-brand Honor is reportedly working on a 5G phone due out before the end of 2019, though we haven't heard much on that front.
What about Apple?
Apple never discloses its smartphone plans until it's good and ready, though that doesn't stop the iPhone rumor mill from setting expectations for future devices out of Cupertino. And right now, all signs point to Apple joining the 5G fight in 2020.
Late last year, Bloomberg reported that Apple wouldn't come out with a 5G iPhone until 2020, which would match the company's approach to the 4G rollout a decade ago. Apple's strategy this time around may have been influenced by a since-resolved dispute with Qualcomm that was preventing Apple from using the chip maker's modems and forcing it to find alternative suppliers.
With that court case now settled, Qualcomm and Apple are back in business together, and analysts expect the 5G iPhone to be on track for 2020. The latest series of iPhone that launched in September — the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max — are all LTE-only.
A reputable Apple analyst says the company will release two 5G iPhones next year: a 6.7-inch and 5.4-inch model. The analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities, also expects Apple to start working on its own 5G chip, which could be in 2022's iPhone. Some other reports suggest Apple will come out with a trio of 5G-ready iPhones in 2020.
CEO Tim Cook declined to confirm Apple's plans when announcing his company's quarterly earnings at the end of April.
“We try to select the right time that things come together and get those into products as soon as we can,” Cook told Wall Street analysts.
Credit: Tom's Guide