One thing is sure, in early 2019 we will be witnessing the launch of world’s first 5G smartphones. The top cellular network providers in the US, UK, and China are in the process of laying out the necessary infrastructure needed for the 5G network.
Qualcomm has announced that their latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 855 will be supporting 5G technology. [Source]
This was exactly what smartphone companies were waiting for. They quickly embraced it with both hands and are now burning the midnight oil to be the first one to launch a 5G phone.
But, the question we are asking is – should you switch to a 5G enabled phone in 2019?
Is it really worth an upgrade now or is it just a marketing gimmick? Let’s take a deep dive to find out the answers here.
What exactly is 5G after all?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile communication and it succeeds the now industry standard 4G and 3G systems.
It promises to provide high speed, blazing fast data rate, reduced latency, higher system capacity and connectivity features for mobile devices, self-driving cars, and IoT devices.
5G uses a radio frequency spectrum in the range of 24 GHz to 90 GHz called millimeter waves and the existing 4G LTE frequency range.
The 4G LTE network, on the other hand, operates in the range of 450 MHz to 5.9 GHz. Theoretically, it is expected that 5G will be 10 to 100 times faster than 4G LTE and can even replace cable services and wired broadband.
5G uses five key technologies to function which are :
- Millimeter Waves
- Small Cell Networks
- Massive MIMO
- Beam Forming
- Full Duplex
This video from IEEE Spectrum explain all of these technologies in detail and we are not delving deeper into their working in this article.
Millimeter waves and the issues It bring
As 5G uses millimeter waves, a new broadcast spectrum of radio waves which has never been used before, it comes with its own set of problems.
The millimeter waves have a smaller wavelength, lesser penetration and can’t travel through obstructions like buildings, rain, and even your hand.
4G had a tower range of approximately 10 miles whereas 5G cell towers have coverage of just 1,000 feet.
Hence the cellular service providers have to install many small cell antennas on dedicated masts, electricity posts, traffic signals, and light poles for a seamless connectivity.
This is an infrastructure nightmare that takes a long time to implement and cost billions of dollars.
Based on the country you are in and the efficiency of cellular service providers in your country, this process will take a long time to complete. Possibly a few years
So you may be having a 5G phone in 2019 but the infrastructure to back it up won’t be ready in most of the countries.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and the problem it brings
Qualcomm’s latest flagship chipset the Snapdragon 855 supports 5G but with a catch. It doesn’t have the 5G mmWave modem on the SoC (System on Chip) itself. Instead, the modem is placed outside the SoC.
So a 5G phone in 2019 will be having a SoC which is Snapdragon 855, a 5G modem called Snapdragon X50 outside the SoC and multiple antenna modules called QTM05 5G.
All these hardware takes up plenty of space inside the phone and they also consume more battery as well.
When hardware parts inside a phone occupy more space, it will directly impact the battery capacity – as history shows. Expect reduced battery capacity on the 5G phones in 2019.
The data speed is also not 10 or 20 times faster than the existing speed of 4G LTE. It is expected that the first version of 5G phones will be just 2-2.5 times faster than 4G.
So the 5G phones in 2019 may well be coming with reduced battery capacity as well as reduced battery life. The speeds won’t be as blazing fast as advertised by some companies.
The companies can defend their action by saying that every new technology when it is launching for the first time is primitive and it will be having some hiccups.
But in an expensive device like a smartphone which we use regularly on a daily basis, this argument shouldn’t be valid.
Get ready for a price hike
Smartphone industry sources are reporting that to enable 5G on a smartphone, the manufacturers have to pay a premium amount to Qualcomm.
This will automatically increase the price of 5G enabled smartphones. As flagship phones are getting expensive every year, we will see a further hike in their price in 2019.
OnePlus CEO Pete Lau has confirmed that they are launching a 5G phone in early 2019 and it will be at least 200$ – 300$ pricier than their latest variant launching with 4G LTE.
So if you are planning to buy a 5G phone and become an early adopter when it is launching in 2019, you will probably end up paying a premium price for the phone.
5G is the future of wireless cellular connectivity and it offers high-speed connectivity for every device. It will make our life a lot easier and will definitely revolutionize the way we interact with smart devices.
But on the ground, the implementation of this technology for people to take advantage of is not yet ready.
The time and cost of building the infrastructure required are massive, complicated and expensive. So many countries won’t be having this infrastructure at least until 2020.
The mobile phone hardware manufacturers are also in the early stages of working with this technology. It will take some time for this technology to mature.
The 5G phones launching in 2019 will be far from perfect and may come with its own set of problems like higher price, weaker battery life, weird design form factor and much more.
Hence in 2019, switching to a 5G phone will not be an intelligent move.
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