The First Real 5G Phone Is About To Arrive

Are customers ready?

In a few short weeks, the nascent 5G networks around the country are about to get millions of new users as Samsung launches the Galaxy S20, its newest flagship phone. Millions of people will buy the S20, which will almost certainly be one of the most popular phones sold in the United States this year.

It’s also going to be the first real test for 5G networks in the US, one that could help establish the networking standard as the true next-generation technology that companies have spent years hyping it up to be — or it’ll shine a spotlight on the half-baked mess of competing standards, technologies, and strategies that currently makes up the 5G market in the US.

Last year’s Galaxy S10 5G was a phone without a network. When it was announced in February 2019, no US carrier had launched a 5G network or even offered a date when they would be launching. It was more of a marketing device than a serious product, a big sign that Samsung could point to prove that it was on the cutting edge with one of the first 5G devices.

2020 is a very different story. All four major US carriers now offer at least some form of 5G networking (albeit with major differences in coverage, network technology, and speeds). Unlike last year, when Qualcomm offered an optional 5G modem for its flagship Snapdragon 855 processor, the 865 makes it mandatory.

There are big questions for Samsung, too, like how carrier support will work. Will S20s be sold unlocked, allowing customers to bounce freely between 5G networks like they can with LTE? Will there be compatibility issues due to the different technologies of 5G used by different companies? (Verizon, for example, only offers mmWave 5G to customers right now, while AT&T limits its users to its low-band 850MHz spectrum for now.) Will the batteries on the new phones be able to stand up to the increased power draw from the standalone 5G modems that the Snapdragon 865 needs to connect to networks?

And maybe most importantly of all: when these millions of customers finally have 5G speeds, will they notice or care? Will the years of hype leading up to this moment be justified even a little bit? So far, 5G phones have cost significantly more than 4G phones, but if that extra cost doesn’t bring big benefits, consumers will end up rightfully unhappy — and may hold off on upgrading until prices come down.

None of these are new questions for the state of 5G in the US. But along with Apple, Samsung practically rules the premium phone space in the United States, and the S20 phones are arguably the first truly mainstream devices that will have to deal with them.

How hardware companies and carriers handle the launch is going to have a big impact on how lots of customers look at 5G for months to come. The S20 is the first real test — but if it goes badly, customers are going to be pretty reluctant to give it a second one.

Source:  The Verge

The above is a condensed version of the story appearing on the Verge today.