The year 2019 of the Mobile World Congress will undoubtedly have been the year of 5G. However, acquiring a 5G smartphone in 2019 is still likely to be a daring gamble.
The 5G technology is clearly making the buzz in 2019. Mobile stakeholders have been talking about this for years, assuring us every year that “it’s coming soon.” This year, finally, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the opportunity to (metaphorically) touch the 5G with one’s finger. Whether on the side of OEMs, component manufacturers or phone manufacturers, everyone was talking about 5G at the Catalan show. We even saw the first 5G mobiles materialize like the Galaxy S10 5G, the Huawei Mate X or the LG V50 ThinQ.
Prices are still high
Despite the tide of 5G smartphones that we saw in Barcelona, only a few had a price and a release date. LG did not give the price of its V50 ThinQ, the same for Samsung with its S10 and many others. And the few motives we got the prize for must have cooled some people’s enthusiasm. Except for the Mate X whose, insane price of 2 300 € is more due to its foldable screen than its 5G compatibility, the other 5G mobile that made the news is the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 which will be sold for 650 €.
Qualcomm’s X55 modem
A price that is not so insane in itself, but which gives an idea of the extra cost charged by the 5G since the Mi Mix 3 “standard” is sold for 500 €. It is due to the components that are expensive and may remain so for a while. Even the fully integrated 5G chip that will arrive at the end of the year “will be reserved for premium mobiles” according to a Qualcomm manager.
These components will evolve and improve very quickly, as Qualcomm proved when it announced its X55 modem a few days before the MWC when all the phones on display were now outdated (but not obsolete) X50. In other words, the integration of 5G into our phones is still in its infancy, so it is wise to wait a while.
The battery problem
When transitioning from 3G to 4G, we remember that the first devices that adopted the new standard experienced minor autonomy problems. It is rare to have a smooth transition from one standard to another, and often it is the battery in our phones that pays the price.
Adopting 5G when networks are not mature (or non-existent), means exposing yourself to potential battery problems, even though this point is already too often the Achilles’ heel of our current smartphones.
Independently, these problems are not necessarily a sufficient reason to draw a line on 5G in 2019, but when combined they paint a bleak picture of 5G at the moment. See you next year to enjoy it?