5G Phones: When Can You Buy One?

December 21, 2018

5:51 am

5G phones are on the way. Whether you’re an avid first adopter, a diligent tech news buff, or just an average consumer, you’ve likely heard rumblings of 5G networks on the horizon. Tech companies and service providers alike have confirmed that the faster, more comprehensive network should be here in 2019, but what exactly does that mean for the future of mobile technology?

Understanding the latest innovations in the tech industry is hardly a simple task, and 5G is certainly one of the more complicated subjects. We’ve done our best to break down exactly who is getting 5G, when it will be live, which phones will be available, and what kind of speeds you can expect from the improved network.

Take a look at some of the basics of 5G and get ready for a whole new kind of mobile living.

In This Guide:

5G Speeds in Mbps

The biggest question for 5G networks is obviously how fast they’re going to be. The answer is “eye-wateringly fast”. On a good 5G connection, you’ll be able to download an entire HD movie in just 5 seconds.

While technology has certainly improved in recent years, 4G and 4G LTE networks have struggled to keep up with the growing data demands of an increasingly plugged-in population. 5G has the capacity to change all of this.

The emergence of 5G will bring upon some of the fastest network speeds you’ve ever experienced. HD movies, gigantic Spotify playlists, and virtual reality games will all be downloaded or streamed quickly and efficiently. Take a look at how the speeds compare to some of our older networks.

5G 4G 3G
Average Claimed
Speed (Mbps)
10 Gbps 300 Mbps 30 Mbps
Time to Download
One Song
.03 second .38 seconds 1.5 seconds
Time to Download
One HD Movie
5 seconds 8 minutes 20 minutes

When Are 5G Networks Coming?

There’s been a lot of anticipation about when 5G networks were going to become the standard. Fortunately, a lot of providers have started announcing their specific plans for the improved networks, giving consumers a better idea of when they can expect these faster speeds. Take a look at when these service providers will have 5G in the future:

  • Verizon launched its 5G Home internet package in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston, Dallas, and Indianapolis earlier in 2018. It plans to launch a 5G mobile service in early 2019.
  • AT&T launches a full rollout 5G service on 21 December, 2018, with the service technically already live in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco.
  • Sprint has announced it they will launch 5G service in the first half of 2019 for a number of cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.
  • T-Mobile just announced that, with help from Nokia, it has transmitted the world’s first 5G data transmission on 600 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile is planning to do a full national rollout when it’s ready, rather than focusing on select cities like competitors.

While all these providers scramble to get 5G up and running for their customers, it’s worth noting that cellular service isn’t the only factor when it comes to getting this faster, more efficient network up and running for everyone. You’re also going to need a compatible phone.

5G Phones Coming in 2019

As of right now, there are no 100% confirmed 5G phones for 2019. But, that is likely to change quickly, with brand announcements expected early in the year. Brands including Samsung, Apple, LG, and Huawei have invested a lot of money in the innovative technology, but it’s still anyone’s bet who could launch the world’s first 5G smartphone. Here are a few potential devices that might include the faster network:

  • Samsung S10 Plus: Samsung has confirmed that its upcoming flagship device, the Samsung S10, will not include 5G compatibility, but it hasn’t ruled out the possibility of producing a 5G variant for the S10 Plus.
  • Apple 2020 iPhone: Apple has no plans to try to launch its first 5G phone, or even a compatible updated model, in 2019. Maybe in a few months we’ll see a more concrete plan, but the tech giant is happy to sit back and wait for the dust to settle before throwing their name in the ring.
  • LG G7 ThinQ Successor: LG, on the other hand, is going for it. They want to launch the first 5G phone in early 2019, partnering with Sprint to pull it off, and the popular ThinQ series would be the most logical place to start.
  • Huawei Q1 2019 Phone: Huawei has invested a lot ($600 million) in its effort to get a 5G phone out in the world, which means they could be the first to market. Their popular Mate 30 series was the expected target, but the earlier estimate now means anything is possible.

For more information on the launch rumors surrounding 5G phones, dig a little deeper with us below. And get your wallets ready, because when these devices arrive, they aren’t going to be cheap.

Samsung 5G Phones

Despite initial rumors that the upcoming Samsung S10 was going to be a 5G phone, a report from The Bell found that Samsung is likely to tiptoe into the 5G generation, rather than jump in with both feet.

The report claims that the S10 is going to come in three iterations – the S10, the S10 Lite, and the S10 Plus. The latter, S10 Plus model, will potentially come with a 5G option. This would mean that there won’t be a standalone “5G-only” Samsung phone. That’s good news for Samsung fans next year – it means there will be a more affordable non-5G S10, after all.

Apple 5G iPhones

Apple has shown no interest in being first into the fray when it comes to launching a 5G device. Still, the biggest tech company in the world has plenty of loyal followers who will wait patiently for a 5G iPhone rather than crossing the aisle for an Android device.

Many experts have said that a 5G iPhone is unlikely in 2019, and that the 2020 model will be the most likely device to be compatible with the new networks.

LG 5G Phones

Unlike Apple, LG is going all-in on 5G networks. Its partnership with Sprint was built on the potential for a 5G push that could see both brands dropping the shackles of their “less-than-the-best” status.

If LG is adapting a phone from the current lineup, the ThinQ would seem the most logical choice. That said, an LG executive stated the device will be quite distinct from the rest of the lineup and will be “immediately recognizable” as a 5G smartphone.

Huawei 5G Phones

Huawei is also making a big push to get 5G phones on the market before everyone else, hoping the innovation will make everyone forget about any security concerns in regards to their unsettling relationship with the Chinese government.

Huawei is expected to announce their 5G device at Mobile World Congress 2019, so keep an eye out and check back for more information as it becomes available.

Should You Wait for a 5G Phone?

Upgrading to 5G networks isn’t like the getting the newest iPhone when it comes out. 5G rollout involves a lot of moving parts – there’s infrastructure, devices and call plans to be settled. All of this makes jumping on the bandwagon right when it launches a bit of a risky move.

So, should you wait to grab a 5G phone as soon as they come out?

If you’re the kind of person that needs to be at the forefront of technology, then you’ll obviously need to get a 5G phone the second they hit the market. Keep in mind, you’ll be paying top-dollar for the privilege. The handsets will have inflated launch prices, and the networks will have steep monthly plans – think back to how expensive 4G contracts were when they first debuted.

Our advice? Wait a little. It probably wouldn’t hurt to let service providers work out the kinks before you go and test out a brand new mobile network for them.

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Timmy Awards for Tech in Motion. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at conor@tech.co.