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 new Snapdragon 855 mobile processor has enabled device makers to move forward with 5G phones. In addition to improvements in performance and power efficiency, the Snapdragon 855 includes an X50 5G modem. (Qualcomm has since announced a new modem, the X55, that supports 5G, 4G and other networks, but it won't appear in devices until later in 2019.)
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.
5G Phone Cheat Sheet
- Samsung's $1,299 Galaxy S10 5G is available to buy now on Verizon's 5G network. The 6.7-inch phone is now available through Sprint, in markets where 5G is available, as of June 21. On June 28, T-Mobile started selling the S10 5G in six cities. Check out our full review of the Galaxy S10 5G.
- LG's $1,152 V50 ThinQ 5G is now on sale through Sprint, in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City, Missouri. Check out our full review of the V50 ThinQ 5G.
- We tested the S10 5G on T-Mobile's 5G network in New York City and on Verizon's 5G network in Chicago. Check out our impressions of both to see if the S10 5G is worth buying.
- Motorola's 5G Moto Mod, which is a 5G accessory for the 5G-less Moto Z3 and Moto Z4, is available to buy and works on Verizon's 5G network. We tested the $349 5G Moto Mod on Verizon in Chicago, so check out our impressions of both Verizon's network and Motorola's accessory.
Motorola Moto Z3 or Moto Z4 and 5G Moto Mod (Available now)
What we know: Motorola already has two phones that can connect to Verizon's just-launched 5G network. You just need a special add-on to make it work.
Both the Moto Z3, released last year as a Verizon exclusive, and the newly available 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, wherever that's available. For now, Verizon's mobile 5G offering is now live in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis and will roll out to 30 other cities in 2019.
You can now order the 5G Moto Mod from Verizon. As of this writing, Verizon is charging $50 the 5G Moto Mod, a significant savings from the regular price of $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. But we expect that Motorola will have more to say about its 5G plans later in the year.
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. And now we've seen the phone in action: The Galaxy S10 5G debuted on Verizon's network in mid-May, and arrived on AT&T's network on June 17; Sprint started offering the phone on June 21; and T-Mobile will start selling the device June 28. 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; pre-order the phone from Sprint and after a $250 discount (reflected in bill credits), you'll lease the S10 5G for $40.28. 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.
Expect more 5G phones from Samsung in 2019. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has already indicated that his company will offer a 5G version of the Galaxy Note when the Galaxy Note 10 ships later this year. AT&T has also said that it's teaming up with the phone maker to release a second 5G phone in the latter half of the year, saying that this model will be able to access the sub-6GHz spectrum in addition to mmWave for broader 5G coverage.
What else we've heard: The S10 isn't the only phone in Samsung's immediate pipeline that's offering 5G connectivity. The Galaxy Fold will come in both 4G and 5G versions when it finally launches after being delayed due to hardware quality. Presumably, the 5G version will cost more than the Fold's $1,980 starting price, but Samsung hasn't said. Later this year, Samsung will likely update its Galaxy Note lineup with a new version for 2019, and it's expected that at least one model of the Galaxy Note 10 will feature 5G connectivity, similar to how Samsung rolled out a 5G version of its Galaxy S10.
LG V50 ThinQ (Available Now)
What we know: Like Samsung, LG lined up a carrier to exclusively offer the manufacturer's first 5G phone. In LG's case, that's Sprint, which said last August that it would team up with LG to release a 5G handset during the first half of 2019.
That phone turned out to be the LG V50 ThinQ, a successor the V40 ThinQ released last fall. 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 $1,152 if you buy the phone outright. Lease it through a Sprint Flex plan, and you'll pay $24 a month for 18 months — note that the $24 price is a discounted rate that includes a $24 monthly credit applied after the first couple bills. 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 is limited to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City — the first four cities where Sprint's 5G network is online.
Sprint may be getting the phone first, but it won't be the carrier offering the V50. After debuting on the Now Network this spring, the V50 will then make its way to Verizon, which has confirmed that it's offering the phone later in the summer.
What else we've heard: Just before the V50 went on sale, Sprint launched its 5G network in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City. (Read about our experience testing Sprint's 5G network in Dallas.) Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York and Washington DC are expected to come online shortly, which will mean the V50 becomes available in those cities, too. We're also waiting to hear when other carriers will add the LG V50 to the their offerings.
OnePlus 7 Pro (Available Now… but not 5G)
What we know: The OnePlus 7 Pro debuted in May, and it's a really good phone. But it's not able to connect to 5G networks — at least not in the U.S. There will be a 5G version of the phone, but it's only going to be available in other countries.
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 has committed to offering OnePlus' 5G phone, as has Finland's Elisa. Lau told USA Today that it's not going to sell that version in the U.S., though it plans to eventually offer 5G phones here — most likely when various carriers' 5G networks are more built out.
We saw a prototype of the OnePlus 5G phone at Mobile World Congress in February, and it looks a lot like the OnePlus 7 Pro the company unveiled a few months later. The phone has a 21:9 aspect ratio, making it much longer than the 19:9 phones current in favor, and there's no notch, tear-drop or otherwise. To show off what 5G is capable off, OnePlus had the prototype running a streaming cloud game that looked pretty slick on that expansive display.
What else we've heard: The OnePlus 7 Pro is a bit of a departure for OnePlus, in that it costs $120 more than its predecessor (though at $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro is still cheaper than a lot of comparable flagships). It's unclear what a 5G model of the phone will cost, but it will likely be more.
As for OnePlus bringing a 5G model to this country, OnePlus tends to introduce new phones every six months. That means we'd see a 5G phone in October at the earliest. Still, we could be in a longer wait for a 5G-ready OnePlus phone in the U.S.
Huawei Mate X and Mate 20 X 5G (June 2019)
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 will cost €2,299, which converts to more than $2,600. It was supposed to go on sale in June, but Huawei is pushing back the launch until September to further test out the phone.
Huawei has another 5G phone up its sleeve — a version of the Huawei Mate 20 X unveiled last fall with a Balong 5000 5G modem included. This 5G version of the Mate 20 X also features 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a 7.2-inch screen. That phone will cost £999 in the U.K., and it's coming in June.
What else we've heard: We don't know if Huawei's 5G phone will reach the U.S., but given the U.S. government's ongoing hostility toward Huawei, such an arrival would be a surprise. And the recent move by the U.S. Department of Congress to block U.S. firms from offering software or hardware to Huawei has cast a cloud over the Chinese company's future.
At a recent event in the U.K., Huawei confirmed its Mate 20 X and Mate X launch plans were still on track, though that was before U.S. tech suppliers began backing away from Huawei. U.K. carrier EE says it won't offer the Mate 20 X immediately due to uncertainty about the phone's ability to receive regular Android updates.
ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G (June 2019)
What We Know: ZTE says that its flagship phone is going to add 5G connectivity, with the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G coming to China and Europe in the first half of the year. The LTE version of the Snapdragon 855-powered phone is already available, 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 said its phone will feature an “AI triple-camera, AI motion capture, AI scene recognition, AI portrait lighting adjustment, AI user behavior learning and AI everywhere.”
The 5G version of the Axon 10 Pro will also have a higher price tag than its 4G counterpart, which is currently selling for €599. When the 5G phone arrives in June, it will have an €899 price in Germany.
What Else We've Heard: ZTE doesn't always bring all of its phones to the U.S., though executives we talked to are hopeful about the 4G version of the Axon 10 Pro. The 5G edition seems unlikely to reach this country, though.
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 will come out with 5G phones in the early part of 2019 without those devices making it to the U.S.
Xiaomi plans to launch a 5G version of its Mi Mix 3 phone in several European countries in May, with the phone costing €599. Since no other Xioami phones have made it to the U.S. we wouldn't expect the Mi Mix 3 5G to buck the trend. Last September, Honor pledged to come out with a 5G phone in 2019, but considering that the Honor View 20 has yet to reach the U.S. and the Honor 20 Series phones seem likely to follow suit, we're not expecting any 5G phone to make it over here either.
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 sitting out the 5G rollout in 2019.
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. A reputable Apple analyst says the company will release two 5G iPhones, a 6.7-inch and 5.4-inch model, next year. 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.
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