Product Marketing Manager Drew Blackard at Samsung Unpacked (Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
The first 5G phones have just hit the US market. As techies we are pretty excited about the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the LG V50 and the Moto Z3 and Z4 with their 5G mods.
But as an average consumer, should you buy a 5G phone now?
If you're developing 5G applications or solutions, or want to use a 5G hotspot to run your business in the currently most constrained 5G areas, then you need one of these first generation phones to build the technology that will be your regular customers be used next year.
But everyone else ̵
Reporting is far too limited.
There is very little 5G out there right now. At the present time, Verizon has 5G in small parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. AT & T claims to have it in 19 cities, but there may be few cell sites in each city. Sprint has it in four cities. T-Mobile has not officially released any yet.
For most people, finding 5G at the moment will be like an extremely geeky game by Pokemon Go. Wait until network operators have better coverage.
It does not differ enough from LTE.
The early 5G performance does not include all the features of the 5G specification. Currently, it often resembles a good LTE network. That will change, but not yet.
The first phones do not support broad 5G coverage in the US. A wide 5G coverage in the US will depend on a technology called low-band FDD that the first phones do not support. That's what T-Mobile will use to create "nationwide 5G," and both AT & T and Verizon have committed to use it to significantly expand coverage as well. To support this, phones need Qualcomm's X55 modem, which will be available on phones later this fall.
The merger of Sprint and T-Mobile is possible.
Sprint's first 5G phone is well positioned to access the Sprint network. Sprint and T-Mobile continue to announce that they are merging, and T-Mobile will be heavily dependent on low-band FDD. The LG V50 does not support the entire merged network when the carriers are merged.
If the coverage is better, there will be better phones. The devices are improving faster than the network expansions. Verizon keeps talking about starting in 20-30 cities by the end of the year. AT & T talks about turning on 5G with long range next year. Other compatible phones will be available.
I'm not trying to cut corners here. 5G has tremendous potential and will significantly exceed anything 4G could do in the next 10 years. But that's about the next 10 years, with a wide acceptance that is likely to start in 2021.
I do not say anything here about the first 5G phones as 4G phones. The Moto Z4, for example, is an entertaining mid-size model with big screen, clean software and cool Moto Mod add-ons. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G has a very large screen and a similarly sized battery. But do not get it because of the 5G. At least not yet.