5G Phones

5G phone

5G technology is coming and it is set to offer greater speed, capacity and coverage, as well as brand new applications and services. To take advantage of these benefits, we’ll need new 5G-enabled phones.

While current phones are still 4G, we’re very soon going to see 5G technology as part of compact handsets that are far more powerful than the ones we have today.

Here’s a look at what 5G phones could be like and when you can potentially get your hands on one.

What 5G-ready phones are currently available?

Right now there aren’t any, but that could change very, very soon. In fact, one has already been announced, namely the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, but the 5G version of it won’t be landing until the first quarter of 2019.

This is a phone that when it does land could be very exciting, as not only might it be the first to support 5G, but it also comes with 10GB of RAM and a truly all-screen design, with its front-facing camera covered by a slider mechanism. It has not been confirmed for the UK, but it landing in Europe, so the UK is in with a shot.

There’s also a sort-of 5G phone in the form of the Motorola Moto Z3. This is already available but only in the US, and it doesn’t support 5G out of the box – instead you need to connect a 5G Moto Mod, which itself won’t be landing until 2019 and will only work on Verizon in the US when it does.

Which manufacturers have confirmed they will be launching 5G phones?

Manufacturer

Model

Release date

Xiaomi

Mi Mix 3

Early 2019

OnePlus

To be confirmed

Early to mid-2019

LG

To be confirmed

Early to mid-2019

Huawei

To be confirmed

Mid-2019

ZTE

To be confirmed

Mid to late-2019

Samsung

To be confirmed

2019

Vivo

To be confirmed

2019

As you can see in the chart above, a lot of manufacturers have already confirmed that they have 5G phones in the works and all of the above ones are likely to launch in 2019 (though dates are currently vague and subject to change).

We’ve covered Xiaomi above – its first 5G handset has already been announced, it’s just not out yet.

Then there’s OnePlus. The company has recently said that it plans to be the first to launch a 5G handset. However, given when OnePlus typically launches phones the earliest we’d likely see a 5G one would be in May to June 2019, which is when the OnePlus 7 is likely to land. That’s not too far away but gives it some stiff competition to be the first.

LG is also in the race, as US carrier, Sprint has announced it is working with LG to release its first 5G smartphone in the US in the first half of 2019.

Huawei initially revealed that its first 5G phone would land in the second half of 2019, making the Huawei Mate 30 or Huawei Mate 30 Pro a likely option. However, the company has since said to expect a 5G handset around the middle of the year. Excitingly, the phone is also set to have a foldable screen.

ZTE meanwhile had initially planned to launch a 5G phone in late 2018, before delaying it to early 2019 and now to the second half of 2019. So don’t be surprised if it’s hit by further delays.

Samsung has, like some other companies, said that it wants to be the first to launch a 5G phone, so we might not be waiting long, but it hasn’t actually given a timeframe, so for now all we can be confident of is that it’s coming sometime in 2019. The company has however revealed that its first 5G phone won’t be the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Finally there’s Vivo. The company has confirmed that it’s working on a 5G handset using its Vivo Nex device as the basis, and that it’s on track for a launch sometime in 2019. It’s worth noting though that Vivo handsets aren’t often widely available in the UK, so you might have to import it.

Which 5G phones have been leaked or rumoured?

As well as the confirmed phones above, we’ve also seen leaks or rumours about other, most notably handsets from Apple and Sony.

Sony hasn’t specifically confirmed a 5G phone, but it has come very close, talking a lot in blog posts and presentations about 5G technology (in one case mentioning both 5G and phones in the same presentation slide). So we might see a 5G phone from the company in 2019, with the Sony Xperia XZ4 being the obvious candidate.

There have been rumours that Apple is trying to source a 5G modem for its 2019 iPhones, so we may see the first 5G phone from Apple in late 2019 (when the next iPhones are likely to launch). Then again, Apple is typically slow to embrace new technology, particularly when the infrastructure for it isn’t widely available, so we suspect we might not see a 5G iPhone before 2020.

Why would I want one?

5G AR

Beyond speed there are all sorts of reasons to want a 5G phone, as the tech is sure to enable all sorts of new and improved use cases, with the following being among the highlights:

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Current 4G limits what can be done with applications such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) due to restrictions in bandwidth, latency and uniformity (the consistency of mobile connection). ABI Research anticipates that 5G will bring about “a 10X improvement in throughput, a 10X decrease in latency, a 100X improvement in traffic capacity, and a 100X improvement in network efficiency” over 4G, and could therefore unlock the full potential of VR and AR technology.

  • Augmented reality

Augmented reality adds a virtual layer over the real world.

Already we are seeing the emergence of AR apps and games for smartphones – for example, being able to see how clothes or a new haircut will likely look on you before you take the plunge, or using Google’s Translate app to translate content such as signs or menus. This is likely to be just the beginning. According to AR/VR consultancy Digi-Capital, mobile AR could hit an installed base of 900 million by the end of 2018, and 3.5 billion by 2022. ARtillry, an AR research and analysis firm, expects to see 4.25 billion AR devices available by 2022.

Soon, we could be using AR on our smartphones to check the stock of an item in a shop as we pass, evaluating the wait time and availability in a restaurant, or even finding friends in a crowd. In the future, car windscreens could display an AR overlay showing navigation directions.

  • Virtual reality

Virtual Reality is about creating immersive computer-simulated worlds. Future 5G phones will likely be built with VR in mind.

Already a number of companies have built VR headsets which you can attach your phone to, and this is set to become far more mainstream.

With the power of 5G you’d be able to stream VR content and play online VR games wherever you are.

One example use case for VR with 5G is live-streaming a sporting event over social media, using VR to make the feed truly immersive – 5G promises the speeds necessary to make this a seamless experience and should be able to handle thousands of people streaming at the same time in close proximity.

3D video calls

5G also promises to enable 3D video calls, where the caller’s perspective can change based on their position and angle. It could make the experience much closer to feeling like you’re in the same room as the person you’re talking to. Oppo tested 3D video calling with 5G earlier in 2018.

Holographic video

5G holograph

Holographic content is also a promising area, with phones projecting images out of the screen. There are already a few phones with built-in projectors, so this could almost be seen as the next step after that.

Holographic files are likely to be enormous in size, so to do them justice a 5G connection will be required. Vodafone has already carried out a holographic 5G call, so holograms could well be an early use for 5G.

Power

5G might offer the speed to drive all these applications, but smartphones will still need huge amounts of power on the hardware side.

Handsets are getting more powerful all the time, but by 2020 don’t be surprised if your phone is as powerful as your current desktop computer.

Already phones with 8GB of RAM are available, so we could easily be at 16GB by then, coupled with enormously powerful processors.

Cloud computing

While smartphones are likely to start feeling more like super computers the cloud is also likely to become a much bigger part of our lives.

Given the size of holographic, VR and 8K content, much of it will likely be streamed over 5G rather than downloaded. However, with the speed of 5G, cloud use on our phones could go beyond just content storage and also be used to power apps and games, with the data essentially being run and processed on remote servers, then simply streamed to our phones over 5G.

In theory, that could further level out performance between low and high-end handsets, since even cheap phones could offload computing tasks to remote devices, just as long as they can get a 5G connection.

New form factors

With all these changes to the functionality of phones, their forms are likely to change too.

To make the most of AR and VR, phones might have extra cameras and sensors built in.

Projectors could be a common feature too. Features such as VR need a high-resolution screen to work well – soon, phones could widely support 4K (3840 x 2160) or even 8K (7680 x 4320) screens.

If cloud computing becomes key to 5G phones then the internal components could become minimal, aiding in the creation of super slim and even flexible and foldable devices. In fact, Samsung is already known to be preparing a foldable phone, possibly for launch as soon as 2019, but 5G could make such devices more mainstream.

If, on the other hand, future phones are packed full of power with super high-resolution screens, they could become ever larger. It’s anyone’s guess right now, but smartphones are sure to change in a big way with the arrival of 5G.

How much are they likely to cost?

When it comes to cost, we can only speculate. But according to David McQueen from ABI Research, speaking to the BBC, costs could start at around $600-$700 ( roughly £460-£535). That’s actually lower than most current flagships, but he adds that 5G phones from the likes of Samsung and Apple will be priced “much higher.”

With phones getting more expensive almost every year (at least at the top end) and 5G being a new technology, we wouldn’t be surprised if early 5G handsets from big companies cost over £1,000. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 started at £899 and the iPhone XS at £999, so you’ll be paying at least that much for the next models in the range and probably more, whether or not they support 5G.

Smaller name handsets will likely be significantly cheaper though, in line with McQueen’s estimates.

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