We’re looking forward to the launch of 5G in the UK. It’s around 20 times faster than 4G, with the potential for even better speeds. With 5G, you’ll be able to stream video in 4K, and make 4K video calls. There are also benefits for mobile gaming because of 5G’s lower latency.
But we’re in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation here, in that you won’t be able to actually use 5G until both your network and your smartphone support the next-gen connectivity standard. So do you buy a 5G phone now and wait for the networks to catch up, or do you go for a network that promises 5G support and wait until it’s ready to buy the hardware?
Though many of the phones covered here are launching this summer, we still don’t know an exact date for when you’ll be able to use 5G in the UK, and widespread availability is not expected until well into 2020.
EE, for example, promises to launch 5G for users of the yet-to-be-announced OnePlus 5G phone and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in the second half of 2019 across 16 UK cities. This will be achieved in two phases: first in Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester; second in Newcastle, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.
If you’re an EE customer and you don’t opt for one of those two phones AND live or work in one of the 16 cities, you will not be using 5G in 2019. In the meantime, the phones listed below will max out at 4G (or 4.5G if you believe the marketing hype), so it is worth carefully considering whether you should upgrade now or wait a little longer.
At first 5G will be supported in only the most expensive, top-spec phones, but it will gradually filter down to the mid-range- and eventually budget markets, as we saw with 4G. 22 manufacturers have promised 5G phones in 2019, mostly using Qualcomm’s X50 modem. For more details on the technology, see our guide to What is 5G?
If you decide to wait, we’ve tested some great 4G smartphones at various price points. Check out the best flagship, mid-range and budget phones available now, as well as some great phones coming soon (some are even foldable, which for now is arguably more cool than supporting 5G).
But for those who want to make the leap to 5G nonetheless, here are the 5G phones that are confirmed to arrive this year:
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
Xiaomi announced its first 5G phone at MWC 2019, and says it will go on sale in May at €599 (UK pricing will be confirmed nearer the time). With the potential exception of the upcoming OnePlus 5G phone, which will likely cost a similar amount, right now that makes it the cheapest 5G phone to have been announced.
This is an upgraded version of the Mi Mix 3 that launched in October (January in the UK), with its Snapdragon 845 chip swapped out for the Snapdragon 855 and X50 modem. It will be available in Onyx Black and Sapphire Blue.
Mi Mix 3 is notable as being the best implementation of a slider phone we’ve seen yet. By hiding the twin (24Mp + 2Mp) selfie cameras behind the screen it is able to achieve an incredible 93.4% screen-to-body ratio.
Mi Mix 3 also includes all the latest hardware you’d expect in a 2019 flagship, with wireless charging now bumped up to a super-fast 20W. All you really sacrifice in return for the lower price is a Quad-HD+ display and waterproofing.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
The Galaxy S10 5G was announced alongside the standard, Plus and ‘e’ variants of Galaxy S10 at an Unpacked event on 20 February, though it won’t go on sale until the summer. Samsung has confirmed that in Europe it is working with EE, Orange, Sunrise, Swisscom, TIM, Telefonica and Vodafone as launch partners. Pricing has not been confirmed.
In essence the Galaxy S10 5G is simply a larger version of the Galaxy S10 with 5G support, but it also adds an extra 12Mp camera lens at the rear resulting in a quad-lens setup. The battery is also higher in capacity at 4,500mAh (vs 3,400mAh).
With a 6.7in Quad-HD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O panel, this is the largest Samsung phone to date. It measures 77.1×162.6×7.94mm and weighs a colossal 198g.
The S10 5G has the same core hardware as the rest of the range, with an Exynos 9820 or Snapdragon 855 processor, but a fixed 8GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G was something of a surprise when it was announced at MWC 2019: we weren’t expecting it to arrive until October.
LG has decided to hold off on its proper foldable phone for now, offering its V50 ThinQ as a sort of halfway house that serves up 5G and similar functionality to a foldable device with an optional second display.
Even without the second screen the V50 is something of a chunk, which is necessitated by the extra hardware required by 5G. It also packs a whopping 4,000mAh battery and is fitted with a 6.4in 19.5:9 Quad-HD+ display.
LG’s 5G support is provided by this year’s flagship processor of choice, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 with X50 modem. In comparison to the 2018 845 it promise a 45% boost in general processing power and 20% uplift in games. This is paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage as standard.
Audio is a particular standout for LG, and the V50 ThinQ 5G offers the best wired audio of any smartphone thanks to the high-quality DAC. Photography is also noteworthy, with a triple-lens (16Mp + 12Mp + 12Mp) setup at the rear, and dual-lens (8Mp + 5Mp) at the front.
Huawei Mate X
The Mate X is Huawei’s upcoming foldable phone, and it stole possibly more column inches than any other smartphone following its successful MWC 2019 launch. This phone truly has the wow factor, yet cries of “I want one” are immediately followed by “How much?” The Mate X will cost a staggering €2,299 when it arrives.
The Mate X does not have a confirmed release date, though both EE and Vodafone have confirmed that they will be stockists.
When laid out flat the Mate X has a magnificent 8in tablet-like display with a 2480×2200 resolution. It folds in the opposite direction to the Galaxy Fold, which has a second display on the other side. This means you have in effect a 6.6in, 2480×1148 (19.5:9) smartphone that has a second 6.4in, 2480×892 (25:9) screen on the rear.
You might be wondering where this leaves space for the four Leica cameras, and the ingenious solution is found in the bar grip to one side.
With so much screen battery life could be an issue, but Huawei specs a single 4,500mAh cell with support with stupidly fast 55W charging.
Originally thought to be an entirely separate product line to the OnePlus 7 we’re expecting to see announced in the summer, the upcoming OnePlus 5G phone is now thought to be a more expensive version of the OnePlus 7 with a few minor tweaks, as with the Galaxy S10 and S10 5G.
At MWC 2019 a OnePlus booth teased the upcoming device, but hid it behind a glass display. The screen appears to be a 21:9 panel, but little else could be gleaned.
OnePlus has confirmed its 5G phone will run the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with an X50 modem, and that it will arrive before the end of May. EE will be a stockist in the UK.
CEO Pete Lau has publically stated that he’s intending to keep the phone ‘affordable’, which reportedly means below the £800 ($1000) mark.