When will we see 5G phones?

AT&T, as well as its competitors, have set some really steep goals. They want to have consumer 5G service throughout several cities this year. It’s going to be hard for the cell companies to put up enough new towers to really get 5G up and running, but it brings up an even more interesting question:

What about the phones?

Those new iPhones are great, but they won’t do 5G. Before the Android faithful start to snicker, neither will any Galaxy phone. You won’t see any 5G phones from LG or any other name brand manufacturer either. Without a phone, the network’s pretty useless, right?

A 5G phone will require new radio chips, new antennas, new licenses and probably a ton more battery power since true 5G using the new frequencies is going to be very power intensive.

Practically no one has stepped up with a phone yet. No one except…

This hansome little piece of kit is the Mi Mix 3 from a company called Xiaomi. You’ve probably never heard of them. I don’t blame you. They’re not a household name anywhere in the western world. However, according to BGR, this phone is going to be first to market with a true US-compatible 5G phone.

It looks to be a fairly normal Android phone with a pop-up camera that avoids both the big bezels and intrusive notches common in today’s phones. The rest of the specs won’t really matter, if it really can deliver on 1000Mbps speed from a cellular network.

Yeah but can you get it?

The phone itself isn’t on sale yet and probably will be available first through carriers whose 5G networks support it. In other words, if you’re in a city where AT&T is planning to have 5G, they’ll point you to this phone or some other phone that isn’t available yet if you really want or need 5G service. That’s how this sort of thing works.

When will 5G come to the phone I want?

That’s the real question isn’t it. When will we see a 5G iPhone or Galaxy? When can we actually have that blazing speed and have the look and feel of the quality phone we want.

Obviously, since Apple and Samsung have shown their 2018 phones, we aren’t likely to see anything in the next six months. If I had to guess, we’ll see Samsung’s 5G phone first. Apple has never been first with new cellular technologies… in fact the first iPhone didn’t even have 3G when it came out. While Blackberry, the iPhone’s major competitor back then had 3G speeds that were all people wanted in 2007, iPhone made do with 2G “EDGE” networking. That’s one of the reasons that the iPhone’s biggest impact came when the iPhone 4 and its 4G service came out.

So if I were a betting man, I’d suspect the Galaxy 10 will have it in mid-to-late 2019. The iPhone XI or whatever they plan on call it might or might not have 5G. More likely we’ll have to wait for the iPhone XII (or whatever) in 2020.

And in the meantime…

You’ll see phones labeled “5G Evolution.” Today’s iPhones and Galaxys will support “5G Evolution” which uses established LTE technology to roughly double today’s internet speeds. That’s going to be more than enough for most people. I don’t want to put down “5G Evolution” because I think it’s going to be awesome. It just won’t be “true” 5G.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.