A handful of US carriers including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are ramping themselves up for 5G. On Saturday, AT&T demoed its 5G network at the Warner Bros. studio in Los Angeles and hit peak speeds over 1Gbps. Earlier in May, Sprint turned on its 5G network in four cities, and its coverage was impressively consistent when we tested it first-hand in Dallas with the LG V50 ThinQ. And before that, we tested Verizon’s 5G network twice, after an initial, rocky start in April and speeds were lightning-fast on the second try with the Galaxy S10 5G. (For more details, we compare Verizon, AT&T and Sprint’s 5G here.)
While none of these networks are quite ready for a nationwide rollout, it’s understandable why the carriers want to get a jump on 5G. 5G is the latest generation of cellular tech that will connect users to a super-fast mobile network, and carriers are fighting to get there first. In April, Sprint and AT&T reached a settlement after Sprint sued AT&T for displaying “5G E” connectivity on some of its phones, including iPhones. This is despite the fact that its network technology remained unchanged from 4G. (Although our recent tests in Los Angeles were on the network’s 5G network.)
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More 5G deployment will take place throughout this year and next. Carriers in the US and around the globe are laying the necessary infrastructure to roll out a faster and more expansive wireless network. In Britain, for example, UK carrier EE became the first 5G carrier in the country. Vodafone then said it will launch its network in July and Three said it will switch on its 5G in August. Britain’s government is also allowing Huawei access to set up the country’s 5G infrastructure.
Many industries will benefit from faster connectivity — self-driving cars, drones and the internet of things, to name a few — but most people will likely experience the benefits of a robust 5G network only through a 5G-enabled phone. After all, the grand promises carriers and chip-makers are making with 5G coverage don’t mean much if you can’t access the network with your own device.
Since the beginning of this year, many phone-makers unveiled their upcoming 5G phones. To help you keep tabs on all the 5G phones and when we can expect more, here’s what the major phone-makers are planning.
Apple’s in no rush to launch a 5G iPhone and it’s likely you won’t see one until at least 2020. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Apple usually isn’t the first in on mobile trends, preferring instead to perfect an emerging technology before committing to it. For example, it was behind its competitors in making phones with 3G and 4G LTE connectivity when those networks just launched.
Second, Apple stopped working with the leading 5G modem provider, Qualcomm, because of a dispute over Qualcomm’s licensing fees. The two companies settled their litigation in April, and then agreed to a multiyear 5G chip deal. This lead to Apple’s previous partner of 5G modems, Intel, to ultimately exit the 5G phone modem business altogether. Apple is again working with Qualcomm for 5G modems, but it got started too late to launch a 5G phone this year.
Despite all these legal issues, that doesn’t mean Apple is totally ignoring 5G. As mentioned before, some iPhone models on AT&T are displaying the misleading “5G E” symbol on its network.
Apple did not respond for a request to comment.
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Verizon has begun selling the Galaxy S10 5G. Priced at $1,300 and originally unveiled during Unpacked, it has a 6.7-inch display, four rear cameras and the ability to wirelessly charge other devices. The device is also available on Sprint on June 21, and will head to AT&T and T-Mobile afterward.
Interested buyers will have to be on Verizon’s Above or Beyond unlimited plans to access 5G on phones. But the company said it will waive its $10 5G add-on fee for a “limited time” for those users who buy a 5G phone, including those purchasing the S10 5G. Sprint’s Premium Unlimited plan to access 5G costs $80 to $90 a month.
The Galaxy S10 5G won’t be the only 5G phone from Samsung. Its foldable Galaxy Fold will have a 5G variant too, however that phone’s launch has been delayed due to reported screen issues that the company said it recently solved. And AT&T announced it will carry additional Samsung 5G phones by the second half of 2019 (no word yet on the specific devices though).
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Google hasn’t revealed its plans for 5G, and the company declined to reply to a request to comment. What we do know is that Verizon is continuing its plans to roll out its 5G network in early 2019, similar to other carriers.
What does that have to do with Google exactly? For the past few years, and for better or for worst, Google has tapped Verizon as its exclusive carrier partner for its Pixel phones, including its last flagship, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. (However, Google also sells the phone unlocked or on its Wi-Fi-first network, Google Fi. Its most recent mid-range phone, the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL, are also now available from other carriers.)
This could mean that its next flagship, which Google confirmed will be the Pixel 4 (and Pixel 4 XL), could be a 5G phone. If it sticks with its usual phone launch schedule, the Pixel 4 would debut around October 2019 — well after the first half of the year.
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G is available now to Sprint users for $1,152 and the carrier’s network is now live in four cities: Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and Atlanta. As mentioned earlier, we tested Sprint’s 5G network in Dallas with the V50 and coverage was more consistent but slower than Verizon’s. Sprint will also flip the switch for a handful of other cities afterward, like Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. later in 2019. (FYI, Sprint is also expected to merge with T-Mobile soon, a move that carrier speed analyst Ookla said “could result in an unmatched network in the face of 5G.”)
The V50 is Sprint’s first 5G phone but it’s also available on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network on June 20, as well as T-Mobile and AT&T later in the year. The phone features a 6.4-inch OLED display, three rear cameras that include a wide-angle and telephoto lens, the Snapdragon 855 chipset and two front-facing cameras. It can also attach to a Dual Screen accessory that increases the phone’s display size, though that won’t be available in the US.
Lenovo’s first 5G device was 2018’s Motorola Moto Z3. Its successor, the Moto Z4, launched this month without much fanfare. Like the Z3, the Z4 connects to 5G with a Moto Mod modular accessory, which attaches to the back of the phone using magnetic pins. The phone is $499 and the Mod costs extra, but for a limited time you can get both for $440, making the Z4 the cheapest 5G phone yet.
When we first tested Verizon’s 5G network with the Z3 and Mod in April, Dolcourt noticed “theoretical download speeds kissing 600Mbps.” But other times, “The download would start strong, the phone would flicker to show the 4G logo, and speeds would plummet.”
As for a Motorola phone that wouldn’t need an accessory to connect to 5G, the company is working on making such a device, but you’ll have to wait much longer. Doug Michau, Motorola Mobility’s director of technical sales and operations, said that phone would come much later than early 2019. More specifically, Michau said it would launch in “definitely less than three years, but no time frame yet.”
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Chinese phone maker has two 5G phones waiting in the wings. One is the Mate X, which combines 5G speeds and a foldable display. The device has a 6.6-inch display when folded closed, and and 8-inch OLED screen when you flip it open. It also features a 4,500-mAh battery and three rear cameras. The Mate X is scheduled to launch in the middle of the year and will cost a whopping 2,300 euros (about $2,600).
Its second phone is the Mate 20 X 5G. Available in the UK in June for £999 (or about $1,279 in the US and AU$1,856 in Australia), the device has a huge 7.2-inch display, a 4,200mAh battery and a triple rear-camera setup. EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 will carry the Mate 20 X 5G.
Don’t expect these phones to come to the US, though. Calling it a security threat to the Department of Defense, the US government banned the sale of Huawei phones on US military bases. In May, an executive order put limits on foreign involvement in the US’ carrier networks, which Huawei said will leave the US behind in 5G. Retail giant Best Buy also stopped selling Huawei products in March 2018 and Huawei’s CFO was arrested in Canada at the request of the US in an act her father said was politically motivated. Italy also wants to ban the company from supplying 5G equipment.
That doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Huawei and its 5G ambitions, though. “Our products and solutions are used by major carriers, Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of millions of consumers in more than 170 countries around the world,” a Huawei spokesman said last March. “We have earned the trust of our partners across the global value chain.”
OnePlus’ latest phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro has a 5G variant that currently sells on the UK carrier EE’s 5G network. Though the company didn’t release official pricing, the regular OnePlus 7 Pro starts at $669, and £649 (or AU$962 in Australia). EE’s 5G deployment will also span 16 cities in 2019, starting with London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.
The OnePlus 7 Pro features a 6.67-inch, 90Hz display, a pop-up selfie camera and three rear cameras. In the US the phone is available through T-Mobile, but unlocked models work on AT&T and Verizon.
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Though Nokia isn’t the phone giant that it was 15 years ago, it’s still taking steps toward a 5G future. It’s currently working with Qualcomm to make 5G devices and in July, the company announced a $3.5 billion partnership with T-Mobile, which includes taking advantage of T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum to back its 5G network.
But don’t expect 5G Nokia phones anytime soon; in February HMD CEO Florian Seiche (who makes Nokia phones) said those devices probably won’t arrive until 2020. Nokia also stands to benefit from 5G in other ways though. In addition to Qualcomm and Ericsson, the company has patent rights to 5G technology, and stands to make up to $3.50 for every 5G smartphone sold.
Taiwanese electronics company HTC also had something 5G-related to show off at MWC. Instead of a phone, though, it was a 5G hotspot. Available on Sprint for $600, the hub connects up to 20 people simultaneously. Equipped with a 5-inch display, audio speakers and Android Pie software, the device is also a media hub that users can make video calls with or use to check mail. The HTC 5G Hub hotspot ships out May 31.
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ZTE’s latest phone, the Axon 10 Pro 5G, will launch in June, but a 4G version of the phone is already available in Germany for 599 euro ($671, £520, AU$967). It’s equipped with a Snapdragon 855 processor and has a fingerprint scanner embedded in its screen. On the back are three cameras that have AI capabilities, including scene recognition. The rear setup includes a wide-angle camera, a standard lens and a third telephoto camera. For your selfie shots, the front of the phone has a 20-megapixel camera.
In February ZTE said it was aiming to have 5G phones off the ground in either late 2018 or early 2019, but followed that up with a “late 2019” prediction. Currently, ZTE is working with eight international carriers to roll out 5G testing. While the future of ZTE in the US is up in the air due to a recent (now lifted) ban on its phones because the company violated trade sanctions, the Axon 10 Pro will at least be available in the first half of this year in Europe and China.
Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi remixed its Mi Mix 3 with a new 5G model. Aptly named Mi Mix 3 5G, the phone costs 599 euros (about $679) and will launch on May 23. It’s unlikely that the phone will be available in the US. The company’s initial 5G network partners include many European carriers, including Orange, Sunrise, Telefonica, Three, TIM and Vodafone — the last of which will exclusively carry the Mi Mix 3 5G first.
The phone itself features 6.39-inch AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 845 processor and dual 12-megapixel rear cameras. Calling it “almost the perfect phone,” CNET editor Aloysius Low also mentioned that it’s neither water resistant nor do its front-facing cameras have secure 3D face unlocking.
After showing off a prototype at MWC, OnePlus’ sister company Oppo finally debuted its trio of Oppo Reno phones in Shanghai. One of the phones includes a 5G model and will be available on the UK carrier EE. The device features a 6.6-inch screen, a Snapdragon 855 chipset and a pop-up selfie camera.
Though it’s unlikely to come to the US, the 5G version is scheduled for release some time between April and June. In addition to EE, Oppo is working with four other carriers (Swisscom, Australia’s Telstra and Optus, as well as Singtel in Singapore) to launch the phone. It’s also partnering with China Mobile to sell the phone later this summer.
The story originally published on Oct. 23, 2018.
Update, April 5, 2019: Adds information about Verizon debuting 5G network in Chicago.
Update, April 26: Adds preorder information about Galaxy S10 5G and confirmation of OnePlus 7 Pro.
Update, May 18: Adds information about manufacturer availability and the Oppo Reno.
Update, May 31: Adds information about LG V50 ThinQ on Sprint.
Update, June 19: Adds information about LG V50 ThinQ on Verizon, Galaxy S10 5G on Sprint and Moto Z4.
Update, June 24: Adds information about AT&T’s 5G network.
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