Upgrade Your Smartphone, But Not Because of 5G

Although its speed is crazy, the next generation of cellular connectivity shouldn't be the main reason to upgrade your smartphone this season.

The speedy 5G network service we’ve been hearing about continues to expand in coverage by the month (see coverage maps below). According to telecommunications experts, 5G speeds—five times faster than 4G connections at peak performance—will eventually allow users to download a movie in just 5 seconds. Major U.S. carriers now have some form of consumer 5G service up and running. And smartphone makers continue to announce new devices.


Consumers should be aware, however, that despite all the 5G hypethe next generation of cellular connectivity—it shouldn't be the main reason to upgrade your smartphone this season.


Indeed, the new iPhone 12 may be the best phone upgrade in years with its substantial camera and display upgrade, elegant and easy to hold design, and a promising MagSafe ecosystem. Other smartphones (see product list below) below have upped their game as well.


But these phones won’t be as impressive as promised if 5G connectivity is patchy because the network requires new towers. "Covering an entire city with new towers isn’t economically or logistically feasible,” says Ignacio Contreras, director of 5G marketing for Qualcom (see 5G Report Updates).


Joanna Sterns, personal technology writer for the WSJ reports, "I'm going to the Verizon 5G pole, honey. Be back soon! This is my life when testing, because the fastest 5G doesn't come to you. You go to it. In Jersey City, when testing Verizon's Ultra Wide Band Network, I saw download speeds as high as 3,000 megabits per second--3 gigabits! That is nuts! Yet I could only do all that when standing right next to the tower. On my stoop, a block or so away, I can manage 800 Mbps. When I'm inside, I can only get 4G. This type of 5G can't travel long distances, and obstacles like trees and walls can slow it down." (See Stern's reports.)


Bottom line? Smartphone users that upgrade their phone this season will be ready.


5G Network Coverage Maps In Your Area


AT&T

Sprint & T-Mobile (Officially Merged)

Verizon


5G Network Plan Phone Options


AT&T currently sells all three of the Samsung Galaxy S20 phones, along with the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra, Note10+ 5G, Galaxy S20 FE, Galaxy A71 5G, Galaxy A51 5G, Galaxy Z Flip 5G, Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, LG V60 ThinQ 5G, LG Velvet 5G, and Motorola One 5G.


T-Mobile currently carries the trio of Samsung Galaxy S20 phones, along with the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra, S20 FE, A51, A71, Z Flip, Z Fold2, LG V60 and Velvet 5G, Motorolla Razr 5G, OnePlus 8, and the carrier's own REVVL 5G.


Verizon currently carries the trio of Samsung S20 phones, along with the Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra, Z Fold2, S20 FE, A51, A71, LG V60 and Velvet, Motorola Edge+ and Moto Z4, and OnePlus 8. The carrier also will sell the Google Pixel 5, on sale now.

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