5G is becoming a standard on US networks with T-Mobile acquiring Sprint and significantly expanding its 5G network. We even expect that Apple may roll out a 5G iPhone in October. Given that Apple lags Android makers with cellular technology, this support means you should expect it on mid-range and flagship Android smartphones.
Before listing the available phones, it is important to understand that there are different ways 5G networks are built. In the US, we have low-band, mid-band, and high-band wavelength spectrum with some carriers supporting multiple bands. We won’t even talk about AT&T’s fake 5G Evolution. It is just beefed up LTE that works on phones without any actual 5G modems inside.
The high-band spectrum is composed of short waves that cover small areas with poor ability to penetrate buildings or pass through objects. However, it is the fastest network technology and one that is talked about the most by Qualcomm since it uses Qualcomm mmWave modems to function.
These high-band networks are designed for cities or dense urban areas since they have greater bandwidth and limited range. Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband is a high-band spectrum network. AT&T will also be supporting mmWave and high-band spectrum, but only has very limited support for consumers at this time.
Mid-band spectrum networks balance speed and range, but much of this bandwidth is already being used, so it has limited growth opportunities. Sprint used the mid-band spectrum and now that Sprint is a part of T-Mobile, customers will be able to take advantage of this spectrum, as well.
T-Mobile is the primary advocate for the low-band spectrum and flipped the switch on its nationwide 5G service, with more than 200 million people covered by this spectrum. The low-band network has a frequency of 600MHz and is designed for extended coverage with penetration through buildings and obstacles. It is not as fast as mmWave 5G, but current tests show you can expect faster speeds than LTE and much further range. During this time of coronavirus, the low-band spectrum may be more useful as people work inside.
When I tested the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra on my commuter train ride, I experienced the fastest and strongest network connection I have yet to see on a smartphone. Samsung is known for its fantastic cellular reception, and 5G just makes it that much sweeter.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the most innovative and arguably the best smartphone available. The design has been perfected by Samsung, and there is very little missing in this new smartphone. It is expensive at $2,000, but it is built with the best specifications, delivers superb performance, and provides you with a 5G phone and small tablet in a single device.
With 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 256GB internal storage, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, and stunning display technology, the Z Fold 2 is tough to beat.
OnePlus has two phones available in the US with 5G support — with the OnePlus 8 being one of the most affordable 5G phones available. Both phones offer displays with high refresh rates and Snapdragon 865 Plus processors, so they are extremely responsive and a joy to use.
These two OnePlus devices are available unlocked and from carriers with cool colors and high-end construction. It’s tough to beat a OnePlus phone with a fairly stock Android experience, regular updates, and solid performing cameras. Like Samsung, OnePlus also has fantastic RF reception, so you will see excellent support on wireless carriers in the US.
Samsung released three models of the S20 in early 2020 with 5G integration. Keep in mind the S20 model does not have mmWave 5G support, so check the device compatibility with your preferred carrier.
The S20 Plus is arguably the best phone for the masses, with specifications that challenge the best in a comfortable form factor. Camera performance is outstanding and in typical Samsung fashion cellular reception is excellent.
The LG Velvet bumped the OnePlus 8 from the position as the most affordable 5G phone, and it is available from various US carriers. It has a mid-level processor, but in my experiences, that hasn’t done much to reduce the performance at all.
In addition to 5G support, the LG Velvet offers a Dual Screen cover experience with excellent stylus support that challenges the Note line. It has a legacy 3.5mm headphone jack and plenty of other specifications that make it a great choice. In addition, it is a gorgeous phone with capable cameras.
The LG V60 ThinQ 5G continues to be one of my go-to phones with outstanding build quality, solid camera performance, and a dual-screen option that takes productivity to the next level. It’s been available for several months and is an affordable 5G phone.
Stylus support, a 3.5mm headphone jack with Quad DAC audio experience, and long battery life are key features of the LG V60.
5G is becoming a standard, and with the iPhone likely launching with support for these networks, we can expect nearly all phones released in 2021 to come with 5G support.