5G phones are now available in North America. However, the question is should you get one? Or what’s more, do you even need one? We’re going to answer those questions for you here as well as address the strengths and weaknesses of the best 5G smartphones currently available.
The State of 5G in the U.S.
We can now officially say that 5G is nationwide. All the major American carriers have fully immersed themselves in 5G advertising, telling us it’s better than 4G in every way. They’re also saying that we should all go out right now and get ourselves a new 5G smartphone. Though there are plenty of reasons to be very excited about 5G even at this early stage, the truth is that 5G hasn’t reached full coverage just yet.
T-Mobile is working out the kinks of their merger with Sprint, but is moving ahead full-steam with their 5G rollout, mainly on the low-band 5G. Verizon’s 5G service is being rolled out aggressively as well, with new cities coming on line each week. And AT&T’s 5G is still in its early stages as well. In the coming years – maybe even as soon as two – this will all change and 5G will be a very big deal.
With 2021 now underway, new frequencies are already being auctioned off, all of which will play a very big role in 5G’s potential. These frequencies are called C-Band. Verizon and AT&T are expected to see the biggest 5G improvement as a result.
Remember There’s More Than One Kind Of 5G
There are 4, actually. Low-band, middle-band, high-band, and DSS. The easiest way to understand how the 3 bands differ is this: Low-band means slower 5G speeds but better coverage area. High-band (or mmWave, pronounced millimeter wave) means really fast 5G speeds but poor coverage area. Middle-band obviously lies somewhere between those two. DSS is a fourth form of 5G that allows 4G and 5G networks to share airwaves. The innovation here is that it allows 4G networks to transition comfortably to 5G. It does this by reducing 4G capacity over time as 5G continually gets better. Each of these 4 iterations of 5G has pros and cons.
What Kind Of 5G Are The Major Carriers Utilizing?
Verizon is exclusively high-band, or mmWave. They started rolling out DSS before the end of 2020. T-Mobile is using both low- and mid-band, even a little bit of high-band. But no DSS, just yet. AT&T is exclusively low-band at the moment, though they have mmWave frequencies on-hand for future rollout.
Keeping all of this straight can be a bit confusing. Needless to say, the United States is not at the forefront of 5G. Other countries have made a lot more headway. But the potential for the US to make a splash and climb the 5G ladder is certainly still there. It will be great to see what the future brings.
What Does This Mean For You And I?
Should we go out and buy a 5G phone right away? Well, it depends. If you’re wanting to be ready and have the latest technology, or it’s already available where you live, go for it. If you’re waiting for it to come to your area, it’s probably worth waiting on that phone upgrade too.
The Case For Waiting Until Now – 2021
All that being said, we won’t blame you if you decided to wait until this year or even 2022 to get a 5G device, though that advice varies heavily city to city. Also, when the C-Band is integrated into 5G networks in a year or more, phones will need to be authorized to use it. And currently, they’re not. By this logic, some iPhone devotees may choose to wait until the iPhone 13 comes out in late 2021 to jump on the 5G train. We wouldn’t blame you if you did.
If you love Apple and you always get their new phones as they’re released, then you’ll probably get the iPhone 12 regardless. But if you’re serious about 5G, many experts are recommending to wait for the iPhone 13 when more advances in 5G infrastructure have taken place.
There are other devices that have more advanced 5G capabilities than the iPhone. The Z Fold 2, the Note 20 Ultra, and the Samsung Galaxy S20+, to name three. But we’ll get into that next.
Best 5G Phones Ranked 2021
We have 10 5G-enabled phones to recommend. But instead of ranking them in list form, we’ve given each phone its own category. So according to your tech preferences, you’ll know precisely which one is best for you.
Bank For Your Buck
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
If you want to get the best 5G phone for the best price, this is it. There are other models that have more bells and whistles. But this one delivers on everything that truly counts and it won’t break the bank. It’s got a long battery life, great cameras, and a very fast processor. This is the way to go if you don’t want to spend $1,000+ on a new 5G phone.
If You Live In A High-Band 5G City
Samsung Galaxy S20+
This is the best 5G phone on the market right now. It’s built specifically for consumers who want to invest and prepare for a world with 5G. It’s extremely fast, has an incredible camera, and aesthetically it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s expensive. But if you want the best possible 5G phone available today and you don’t care about price, this is your choice. However, it may not be the best choice if you don’t live in a high-band 5G city. Note: this phone has no headphone jack.
For Music Lovers
LG V60 5G ThinQ
For audiophiles who want a 5G phone now, this is the one to choose. It has a handsome look and doesn’t cost much. When LG designed it, they prioritized sound. The sound quality that comes out of this phone is astounding. The battery life is impressive, as well. If you’re a big music, audiobook, and podcast listener, you’ll love this phone.
It’s also worth mentioning that LG recently announced that they’re considering leaving the smartphone market this year.
Motorola Moto Edge+
For those who venture out of the country on a regular basis, this 5G smartphone is the logical choice. It features the newest hardware, cool design, and global 5G capabilities. The 3.5mm headphone jack is also convenient. Take note that this phone isn’t waterproof. This is a Verizon-only device.
Price: $999.99 (Motorola)
Motorola Razr 5G
This is a throwback to the flip-phones of yesteryear. It’s obviously a serious improvement on the nostalgic designs of the past. It has a crisp 48MP camera, versatile exterior display, reliable sub-6GHz 5G connectivity, and a design that’s just cool. It’s important to note that this phone has no IP rating. But because flip phones aren’t anywhere near as common as they used to be, owning one of these will certainly catch people’s eye.
OnePlus 8 Pro
If you’re a screen fanatic, you will love this device. The display is gorgeous. As far as 5G phones go, it’s the best display screen on any available product. Other great features worth mentioning are its lightning-fast wireless charging capability and wonderful cameras. The operating system on this phone is surprisingly fast. This is a T-Mobile only device.
Price: $799.99 (Amazon)
Samsung Galaxy A71 5G
Even though this is the most inexpensive 5G phone we’re recommending, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse than all the rest. Its 5G connectivity is solid. It has an excellent camera, long battery life, and a really nice display. We recommend getting a durable case for this one; an Otter Box case or something else strong. For the price, it’s a really good 5G phone.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
This is the Cadillac of 5G phones. If you want a luxury, high-end experience, this is the way to go. It’s not cheap (and it’s very large), but its performance is top-notch, the camera is awesome with a powerful zoom, and the S Pen that Samsung users are used to is still the best stylus in the industry. If you’re an artist or notetaker, this is the best 5G phone on the market for you.
Price: $1,263.90 (Amazon)
Samsung Galaxy S20
If you don’t like big and bulky phones, as many tend to be these days, this one will appeal to you. Its design is the most manageable and comfortable of any on our list. Despite lacking high-band 5G capability, there are many features that make this phone appealing. One-handed use is no problem with his phone, it has a knockout 120Hz screen, and 8K video recording (a big plus for those who take a lot of videos). When compared to other 5G smartphones worth buying, the price isn’t crazy. It’s actually the most affordable of all the Galaxy S20 models.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
Foldable phones are making a comeback, and this model is the best one yet by far. You can use the phone whether it’s open or closed, it’s extremely durable, and performs at a high level all the way around. It’s expensive, but this is certainly one of the flashiest 5G phones on the market.
Price: $1,199.99 (Samsung)
Best 5G Phones On The Market (Updated Feb 2020) – Conclusion
Remember that there are phones soon to be released that no one has experienced yet. The new iPhone is one of those. Also the OnePlus8T, the LG Wing, the Google Pixel 5, and the Google Pixel 4a 5G, and a couple more. Soon after those come out, we may update this article to include some of them.
Thanks to PCMag.com for providing much of the information in this article.