The 5G roll-out has well and truly begun, and 5G-enabled smartphones are set to be big on the market over the next few years. In 2020, 5G mobile phone models are expected to account for 12% of mobile phone shipments worldwide, new research from Gartner predicts.
That number is set to grow to 43% by 2022 as prices become more affordable and 5G coverage zones expand. 5G has the power to drastically boost the speed, coverage, and responsiveness of wireless networks. It runs 10 to 100 times faster than the typical 4G LTE networks we use today.
With 5G, your smartphone will connect to the network quicker and take as little as a millisecond to start a download or upload. Network operators worldwide started the process of activating 5G networks in 2019.
5G: the next step in internet connectivity
By 2021, the number of 5G connections is expected to be in the range of between 20 million and 100 million. Some estimates put this number as high as 200 million. Beginning with 1G in the 1980s, the use of the internet has grown dramatically over the past thirty years.
There are now over 4.48 billion active internet users worldwide — which totals nearly 60% of the global population. The rise of mobile internet has allowed people to easily stay connected to the web on the go — 92% of the world’s internet users now connect via their mobile devices.
Additionally, research from GlobalWebIndex shows mobile phones currently account for roughly half of all the time collectively spent online. In 2019, people spent an average of 132 minutes every day using mobile internet (up from 122 minutes a day in 2018). Think of 5G as the next step in this digital evolution — it promises massive changes that will improve the experience for internet users everywhere.
Preparing for the 5G rollout
Although 5G is set to revolutionize internet usage, it’s currently somewhat of a confusing landscape. There’s no shortage of reports online filled with different and even conflicting interpretations of what 5G is and does.
However, business information provider, IHS Markit, recently released a white paper, “The Promise and Potential of 5G,” aiming to shed light on the issue. “The marketplace implicitly understands 5G represents an unprecedented growth opportunity, with the initial smartphone rollout set to generate record shipment volumes,” said Francis Sideco, vice president, technology at IHS Markit.
“However, fewer people understand the iterative nature of major technology rollouts such as the one we are going through now with 5G — a process involving multiple major updates that will add new capabilities in the coming years. With each of these updates having the potential to significantly disrupt the market’s competitive dynamics, it’s critical for companies to clearly understand the implications of each rollout or risk falling behind the competition.”
2019 already saw 37 million sales of first-generation 5G smartphones. Worldwide shipments are expected to rise to 120 million devices in 2020, per IHS Markit. By 2023, that number will reach over 525 million.
By these numbers, the rollout of 5G will be the fastest ever for a new wireless generation — it’s resulted in six times more unit shipments than past record-holder, LTE. “Despite strong growth, the level of success among individual competitors in the smartphone and infrastructure market will hinge on their ability to shift their business strategies in parallel with the evolution of 5G,” Sideco advises. Spending on 5G mobile infrastructure for 2021 is estimated to be roughly $2.3 billion, Allied Market Research reveals — a global market estimated to reach $58 billion by 2025, up from $371 million in 2017.
Making 5G smartphones affordable
As it stands, 5G smartphones are some of the most expensive models you can buy. Fortunately for interested consumers, 5G chipsets and components are set to bring prices down this year. The MediaTek Dimesity 1000 5G, Exynos 980, and Snapdragon 765 SoCs provide integrated 5G capabilities and will be used in smartphones roughly priced between $500-$600. However, these chipsets are not all equal in design.
The Samsung and MediaTek chipsets support sub-6GHz networks. The Snapdragon, on the other hand, supports mmWave frequency bands, which use a higher-frequency spectrum (24GHz and over) to drastically boost internet speed. Sub-6GHz networks result in different radio capabilities and slower yet still impressive data speeds. Qualcomm is currently working on finding ways to make 5G mmWave smartphones a more affordable option.
However, consumers should, for the moment, expect mid-range models to come with sub-6GHz rather than mmWave capabilities. Motorola, Nokia, Oppo, and Xiaomi are some of the major companies intending to launch affordable, mid-range 5G smartphones with premium features.
The smartphones of the future
5G smartphones offer users plenty of unprecedented benefits. Most significantly, they’ll be able to stream apps rather than having them run from the smartphone as is the case now. That means smartphones won’t need upgrading often because they eventually stop being able to run apps efficiently.
Essentially, with 5G smartphones, apps will no longer be ” bound by the processing power on your phone,” Qualcomm President, Cristiano Amon, explains. Instead, apps will be streamed straight from the cloud over super-fast 5G networks. Think of 5G smartphones as “slabs of the glass screen with batteries attached, ready to stream our apps.”
The 5G smartphones of the future will no longer need to have powerful chips and won’t become obsolete as quickly. Similarly, cloud computers streaming the apps will be continually updated and will also never become obsolete.
Still, we have a while to go before 5G smartphones advance to that point. Those considering purchasing a 5G smartphone can benefit from waiting for the newest models released on the market this year.
The latest chipsets will be both more affordable and battery efficient. Additionally, 5G coverage is spotty now, but will slowly get better in the coming months as carriers continue to build out their networks. Buying a 5G smartphone right now may not be worthwhile, but instead can be a wise choice when you’re ready to make an upgrade in the near future.