On Aug. 7, Samsung unveiled three more phones that it’s adding to its already-crowded Galaxy lineup: the Note 10, Note 10 Plus and Note 10 Plus 5G. The announcement marked the first time the company has split its Note phone into two sizes, and it revealed Samsung’s second 5G phone, following the Galaxy S10 5G, which is available on US carrier Verizon.
But Verizon and other major US carriers aren’t the only ones readying themselves for 5G. Carriers around the world are ramping up to deliver the latest generation of cellular tech. Not only will these networks connect users to a superfast mobile network, but many other industries will benefit from the faster connectivity of 5G as well, like self-driving cars, drones and the internet of things, to name a few.
Though none of these networks are ready for a nationwide rollout currently, carriers everywhere are racing to lay the necessary infrastructure to roll out a faster and more expansive wireless network. As such, more and more 5G deployment will take place throughout this year and next. Right now, 5G is live in select cities for Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint users. And in Britain, UK carrier EE became the first 5G carrier in the country, with Vodafone following seven cities under its belt. Meanwhile, Three UK plans to switch on its 5G in August. Britain’s government is also allowing Huawei access to set up the country’s 5G infrastructure.
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 doesn’t mean much if you can’t access the network with your own device. 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. In fact, Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo predicts the company will unveil three 5G phones next year. 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 led to Apple’s previous partner of 5G modems, Intel, to ultimately exit the 5G phone modem business altogether and Apple later acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion. Apple is still working with Qualcomm, 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. In April, Sprint and AT&T reached a settlement after Sprint sued AT&T for displaying “5G E” connectivity on some of its phones, which included iPhones. This is despite the fact that its network technology remained unchanged from 4G. (However, our recent tests in Los Angeles were on the network’s 5G network.)
As previously mentioned, Samsung unveiled its second 5G phone, the Note 10 Plus 5G. It’s pretty much identical to the regular Note 10 Plus but connects to 5G networks. It will be available on the US carrier Verizon first for $1,300 and will be in stores on Aug. 23. However, it may not be worth investing in this phone just yet.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s first 5G phone, the Galaxy S10 5G, is out right now. It has a 6.7-inch display, four rear cameras and the ability to wirelessly charge other devices. The device is available on Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as AT&T but only for businesses.
Samsung’s foldable Galaxy Fold will have a 5G variant, too, but that phone’s launch has been delayed until September due to reported screen issues that the company said it recently solved.
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 worse, 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 midrange 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), which 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 to Sprint users for $1,152 and Verizon customers for $1,000. Sprint’s 5G network is 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 will also be sold by 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 in May 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, Jessica 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.”
Chinese phone-maker Huawei 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 an 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. The phone was supposed to launch in the UK in June for £999 (or about $1,279 in the US and AU$1,856 in Australia) but UK carriers EE and Vodafone have dropped plans to sell the device. The phone has a huge 7.2-inch display, a 4,200mAh battery, and a triple rear-camera setup.
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 UK carrier EE’s 5G network. The OnePlus 7 Pro earned CNET’s Editors’ Choice Award and features a 6.67-inch, 90Hz display, a pop-up selfie camera, and three rear cameras. (It also survived a few dunk tests for water resistance, despite not being IP rated.) EE’s 5G deployment will also span 16 cities in 2019, starting with London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester.
OnePlus is working on bringing a 5G phone to the US though. On Aug. 6 the company announced it was partnering with Sprint to release a 5G phone “soon.” In the meantime, the no-5G version of the OnePlus 7 Pro is available through T-Mobile, but unlocked models work on AT&T and Verizon. The regular OnePlus 7 Pro starts at $669 and £649 (converted, that’s about AU$962 in Australia).
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.
Instead of a phone, Taiwanese electronics company HTC has a 5G hotspot. Available now 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 the mail.
Scheduled to release in China and Europe, ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro 5G has a 4G version that is already available in Germany for 599 euros ($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. For now, 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.
Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi remixed its Mi Mix 3 with a 5G model. Aptly named Mi Mix 3 5G, the phone costs 599 euros (about $679). 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 a 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 2019, OnePlus’ sister company Oppo debuted its trio of Oppo Reno phones in April. One of the phones includes a 5G model, the Oppo Reno 5G, which is available on the UK carrier EE and Australia for AU$1,499. The device features a fantastic 6.6-inch screen, a Snapdragon 855 chipset and a pop-up selfie camera.
In addition to EE and Australia’s Telstra and Optus, Oppo is working with Swisscom, as well as Singtel in Singapore, to launch the phone. It’s also partnering with China Mobile to sell the phone later this summer.