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Does Your Next Phone Really Need 5G? How to Decide

Does Your Next Phone Really Need 5G? How to Decide

5G was as soon as synonymous with premium costs, but it surely’s turn into the norm in most new telephones — even people who price lower than $300 in some instances. 

However you could be questioning whether or not 5G is a crucial in a brand new a cellphone. Possibly you are getting an awesome deal on a refurbished system from a few years in the past that does not assist 5G. Maybe you are eyeballing the iPhone 11, one of many most cost-effective telephones Apple presently sells at $500 however that may’t join to 5G. 

For US consumers, the reply largely is dependent upon what provider you may have, how a lot you are keen to spend and the way lengthy you are planning to maintain onto your subsequent cellphone. Since 5G is offered in nearly each new cellphone at no further price, there are few causes not to purchase a 5G-enabled cellphone. 

Mix that with the truth that carriers are constructing out their midband networks — which provide quicker speeds than low-band 5G choices in addition to broader protection than the quickest millimeter-wave networks — and the argument for getting a 5G cellphone is even stronger.

Learn extra: Not All 5G Is the Identical: We Clarify the Completely different Names and Flavors

On the similar time, it is vital to keep in mind that 5G speeds and protection will range relying in your provider. And 4G telephones will proceed to operate for years to come. 

“They don’t seem to be turning off these 4G networks anytime quickly,” stated Avi Greengart, president and lead analyst for analysis and advisory agency Techsponential. “Your cellphone will probably be useless earlier than you want to fear about it.”

Understanding 5G

Determining whether or not you want 5G in your subsequent cellphone begins with understanding the present state of 5G. All three main community suppliers within the US provide 5G, and there are three principal flavors to pay attention to. 

There’s low-band 5G, which is offered broadly however offers comparable speeds as 4G LTE, and millimeter-wave 5G, the tremendous quick model that solely operates at a brief vary. You possible will not discover the distinction between 4G and 5G while you’re on a low-band community. However millimeter-wave networks are so scarce you most likely will not end up close to one frequently until you frequent busy venues like stadiums, arenas or airports. Even then, the protection is commonly solely in choose places. 

The blissful medium between each of those networks is midband 5G, which offers quicker speeds than 4G however also can cowl a lot bigger distances than millimeter wave. AT&T, Verizon and T-Cellular are all at completely different phases of their midband deployment, with T-Cellular presently taking the lead. The provider stated in February that its Extremely Capability community, which is generally composed of midband spectrum acquired from Dash, reached 210 million folks by the top of 2021. T-Cellular expects to attain 300 million folks with its midband community, Extremely Capability 5G, by the top of 2023.

Verizon, alternatively, is aiming to cowl 175 million folks with its Extremely Wideband community, which makes use of millimeter wave and its midband spectrum, in 2022. AT&T plans to cowl 200 million folks with its personal midband community by the top of the yr.

Learn extra: Apple Wants One other Reasonably priced 5G iPhone

T-Cellular, Verizon and AT&T 5G

Quicker 5G Community Attain Timeframe
T-Cellular 210 million folks 2021
Verizon 175 million folks 2022
AT&T 200 million folks 2022

All these applied sciences can work collectively to present higher protection, pace and efficiency than 4G LTE. 

“So we’re not simply speaking about cities, however quite a lot of the nation the place folks reside is roofed by T-Cellular 5G,” stated Greengart. “And so you are going to need to purchase a 5G cellphone each for protection causes and for pace.” 

How a lot are you keen to spend?


The iPhone 11 from 2019 is one in every of Apple’s most cost-effective iPhones, but it surely does not assist 5G. 

Angela Lang/CNET

The most important consider figuring out whether or not you should purchase a 5G cellphone is how a lot you are keen to spend. If in case you have lower than $200 to spend on a brand new system, it could be troublesome to discover a worthwhile 5G cellphone. 

In case your price range permits for spending greater than $400, there are a number of compelling 5G choices just like the $429 iPhone SE and $450 Galaxy A53 5G. The $450 Google Pixel 6A, which just lately launched on July 28, additionally helps 5G. That is a major departure in contrast to when the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G launched roughly three years in the past for a sky excessive value of $1,300.

Cheaper telephones could not assist all flavors of 5G, specifically the quickest millimeter-wave networks, however that should not be a dealbreaker for most individuals procuring right this moment. With its advantages in pace and vary, the three main networks have prioritized midband 5G deployments over the previous yr. So long as your new cellphone helps midband 5G, you ought to be ready to join to quicker speeds in additional locations. 

It is vital to think about what issues most to you in a cellphone and the way lengthy you are planning to maintain onto a tool. In the event you’d relatively have a bigger display screen, a extra modern design, twin cameras and are planning to improve your cellphone once more in two years, the 4G-enabled $500 iPhone 11 could be a better option than the $429 5G-capable iPhone SE. 

However should you’re searching for a cellphone that may get you thru the following three years or so, it is most likely finest to search for a 5G system. Most Android telephones within the $400-$500 vary have 5G and trendy options like multi-lens cameras and enormous screens.

The scenario is completely different for Apple followers. The one 5G-enabled choice beneath $600 is the 2022 iPhone SE, which has Apple’s newest smartphone chip however lacks different staples like a giant display screen and a number of cameras. That may change this fall when the rumored iPhone 14 launches and Apple drops the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini’s value accordingly.

Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst for Technalysis Analysis, says 5G will possible really feel extra important in early 2024. By then, carriers may have had extra time to construct out their midband networks. 

“You’re going to get quicker speeds,” stated O’Donnell. “Hopefully by then we’ll see some further companies and apps that reap the benefits of 5G.”

The underside line

Stack of phones

Sarah Tew/CNET

To determine whether or not you want 5G in your subsequent cellphone, think about how a lot you are keen to spend, how lengthy you propose to maintain onto your cellphone earlier than upgrading and what sort of protection your provider offers. 

Investing in a brand new 5G cellphone is usually the most effective transfer should you can afford it because it ensures that your system will really feel quick and related for years to come. But when your price range is restricted, or the 5G telephones out there to you proper now do not suit your wants, you will not be lacking out on an excessive amount of by choosing 4G as a substitute.

“As a purely purposeful cellphone, you may’t go mistaken with an excellent LTE cellphone,” stated O’Donnell. 


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