You can, for the first time, go out and buy a 5G-enabled phone on all the major US carriers. Whether or not you should is an open question, but a surprising number of people took the plunge in 2019, according to Samsung. The company says it shipped more than 6.7 million 5G phones last year.
Samsung claims it currently holds the majority of 5G devices worldwide at 53.9 percent. That also suggests we’re looking at roughly 13 million total 5G smartphones sold in 2019. Samsung currently has five 5G devices on the market: the Galaxy S10 5G, Note10 5G, Note10+ 5G, Galaxy A90 5G, and Galaxy Fold 5G. Some other OEMs like LG and Huawei have a handful of 5G models, but they clearly haven’t sold as many as Samsung.
5G smartphones accounted for about 1 percent of global sales in 2019, but Samsung expects the market for 5G phones will expand considerably in the coming year. Neil Shah, VP of Research at Counterpoint Research believes 5G support will grow 1,687 percent in 2020, which is not exactly surprising as Qualcomm is basically strong-arming OEMs into implementing 5G.
In 2020, all the flagship smartphones that run on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 865 system-on-a-chip (SoC) will have 5G support. That’s not because the 865 has an integrated 5G modem — it doesn’t. Instead, Qualcomm has opted to support 5G via a separate modem interlinked with the SoC just like it did in 2019. However, OEMs will have to purchase that part along with the new Snapdragon chip. Qualcomm won’t allow non-5G devices to have the 865. The slightly less powerful 765 will also support 5G, although this chip has an integrated 5G modem.
Meanwhile, 5G networks are still evolving slowly in the US. A dearth of mid-band spectrum has left carriers to focus on millimeter-wave and low-band. Millimeter-wave as seen on Verizon and AT&T supports high speeds but lacks range. Low-band like T-Mobile’s new nationwide 5G has good range but speeds that are barely (if at all) faster than LTE.
As the largest Android device maker, Samsung will probably still lead the way in 2020. Apple could take a bite out of Samsung’s 5G dominance, but it has never been quick to adopt new network technologies. So, we might get another generation of 4G-only iPhones in 2020. Samsung hopes to get even more traction in 5G with the introduction of the first 5G tablet, a variant of the Galaxy Tab S6. This device will launch in the first quarter of 2020 in South Korea.
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- AT&T Launches 5G You’re Actually Allowed to Use
- Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 865 and 765 Chips With 5G Modems