Should you buy a 5G phone in 2020?

While the 5G network hasn’t quite swept the nation yet, we’ve all heard about its incredible speed, massive capacity, and more uniform user experience. It’s safe to say that we’re all looking for an upgrade from 4G. However, does this mean it’s worth springing for a 5G phone and network coverage 2020?

Should you buy a 5G phone in 2020?
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Screen

Tired of your 4G mobile network’s spotty speed and limited capabilities? Need to buy a new phone in 2020 anyway? If you pay attention to the news, it seems like the 5G upgrade is right around the corner. By all accounts, 5G will offer users a faster, more stable mobile internet experience with unprecedented capabilities. But does this mean you should buy a 5G phone in 2020?

5G speeds are incredible, but coverage is limited

According to Android Central, Verizon and Sprint are the first carriers to offer consumer-ready mobile 5G networks. For now, however, the coverage is minimal. For instance, Verizon’s coverage map doesn’t display 5G coverage areas. Instead, the company provides a list of neighborhoods in cities that should have 5G coverage. In October 2019, those cities included areas in Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Panama City, New York City, Providence, Phonix, and Washington, D.C.  Likewise, Sprint offers coverage in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.

Should you Buy a 5G phone in 2020 - 5G Connectivity

5G Connectivity Scenario

If you’re wondering if you should buy a 5G phone in 2020, it’s important to consider its sparse coverage. For now, you’ll only see 5G coverage in large cities and limited areas within those cities. Therefore, if you live in a smaller American city or even the suburb of a larger city (like the vast majority of the U.S. population), you’re out of luck. And nobody knows for how long. It might make sense to hold on to your 4G network and phone a little longer.

5G should improve in 2020

But don’t lose hope yet. According to Android Authority, 5G network coverage should improve in 2020, and the speeds should get faster. However, the roll-out will be slow, and coverage will be spotty, even in the U.S. and U.K., where there are robust 5G plans. Standard coverage could still be years away. In 2019, Verizon made some big advancements. But because coverage can change depending on what block you’re on, it’s clear the network isn’t ready to become mainstream.

5G speeds are amazing

By all accounts, where 5G is available, early tests show incredible download speeds at over 1 Gbps. Although that speed will drop once more devices connect to the network, speed will still be incredibly fast with lower latency and better uniformity. For any user, 5G possibilities are tempting. However, if you can only take advantage of it with a specific carrier, using a particular phone in a small area, the wonders of 5G might be more frustrating than convenient at this point.

5G speeds are amazing - Samsung 5G Phone

Samsung 5G Phone / Credits: Cnet

5G phones are few and expensive

Say you need to buy a new phone this year and would like the possibility of connecting to 5G as it becomes more available over the next two years. As Android Central notes, you can’t just buy the 5G version of the phone you want. 5G capability is limited to specific models produced by certain carriers. For instance, Verizon only carries three 5G smartphones: the Galaxy S10 5G for a steep $1300, the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G with its novel S Pen, and the LG V50 5G for the bargain price of $1,000. So, if you want to take advantage of early 5G coverage, you’ll only have a few, expensive phones to choose from. And the ones that are available for now not as impressive as phones that connect to 4G LTE. At this point, you’d just be paying for the privilege of sometimes being able to use 5G.

Affordable 5G phones should arrive soon

On the other hand,  Android Authority notes that lower-priced 5G phones are on the horizon in 2020.  With more affordable 5G chipsets and components like the Snapdragon 765Exynos 980, and MediaTek Dimensity 1000 5G, we could soon see integrated handsets in the $500-$600 range. Phones at this price point are, obviously, more affordable and open 5G to more people.

However, Android Authority also cautions that it’s important to keep in mind that among these chipsets, only the Snapdragon 765 supports mmWave frequency bands. The Samsung and MediaTek chips only support sub-6GHz.  For this reason, mid-range 5G smartphones may have different radio capabilities and data speeds than the flagship 5G smartphones that have mmWave antennas. Qualcomm wants to simplify 5G mmWave handset development with modular components. However, since most 5G markets currently only offer sub-6GHz, affordable handsets will likely omit mmWave technology.

5G phones 2020 - Nokia 5G phone

Nokia 5G phone / Credits: Cnet

What should you do?

So, should you buy a 5G phone in 2020? The answer to this question, like so many others is, it depends. Especially on where you live. If you call a major U.S. city home and work or live in an area (or close to one) that already boasts 5G connectivity, and can afford the pricy 5G phone models, a 5G phone in 2020 might be a good decision for you. In that case, you should check out our blog post on the best 5G phones to buy in 2020. If, however, you call a smaller U.S. city or suburb home, it is probably best to wait on the 5G phone until the network becomes more standard.

Meet Lauren Wadowsky

Lauren has been writing and editing since 2008. She loves working with text and helping writers find their voice. When she's not typing away at her computer, she cooks and travels with her husband and two daughters.
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