Do you really need a 5G phone right now?

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  • No, median 5G network speeds are comparable to 4G speeds right now, and coverage is worse; you can postpone the ‘5G phone’ upgrade to 2022.

With under $ 300 phones like the new ones Galaxy A32, which we have just reviewed, the question for new buyers whether they need a 5G phone or not, given the state of the Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T 5G network so far is becoming increasingly violent.

For those who feel left out and wonder if they need to upgrade their good ol ‘4G LTE phone to something more modern, the answer is quite simple: not really. Why? Let’s look at some numbers.

5G vs 4G phone prices

No, it is not anymore, and a look at ours best budget 5G phones roundup will tell you why. With Galaxy A32 5G will be $ 282 over at Samsung, through $ 799 iPhone 12, all the way to $ 1199 Galaxy S21 Ultra, 5G phone prices are no longer a factor to weigh your choice in 2021.

T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T 5G network coverage

Is this a trick question? T-Mobile has reportedly best 5G network among the three major US carriers, but that does not say much, as its range is predominantly dependent on the slow low-band “Extended Range 5G” spectrum, whose end-user benefits over 4G LTE are questionable at best. The much faster “Ultra Capacity 5G” middle and high band will be fully implemented to 200 million people by 2022, so there is no need to worry about a 5G phone upgrade on T-Mobile before then.

The so-called “Nationwide 5G” transport networks of AT&T and Big Red have a modest coverage outside the metropolitan areas, and this is especially true in the case of the largest airline with the best LTE footprint – Verizon. However, its 4G LTE network is unmatched when it comes to coverage and reliability, so your 4G phone will do the same in the foreseeable future here.

AT&T also shares its 5G coverage to “Nationwide 5G” for the low bands and “5G +” for the faster mid and highs. It wants to reach a C-band 5G coverage target of 100+ million Americans at some point in “early 2023”. Until then … you guessed it … the low and slow “nationwide” dominates its current 5G coverage, which reportedly blankets over 230 million people.

T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T 5G network speeds

Again no. The biggest 5G network advantage for the end user currently produces speeds that are either comparable or often worse than those offered by the robust 4G LTE networks from America’s three largest carriers.
While Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have all won “fastest network” tests this year by different methods and measuring different things, the fact that the median 5G download speeds in the US as a whole are nothing to write home about compared with 4G LTE speeds, while the “older” network still offers superior coverage and reliability.
At the last count T-Mobile’s average 5G speeds were 58 Mbps – while technically the fastest in the country, they are not impressive compared to the true median download speeds on a 4G LTE network and we must not forget that they also include a lot of land coverage. This 4G vs 5G speeds snapshot on Verizon’s budding n48 band spectrum tells you everything you need to know about the current state of 5G networking issues and what’s left to consider is 4G LTE network coverage.

Not really worth it extra drain of battery while trying to connect to a 5G network now, is it? Even in the period 2022-2023, those covered by the ‘Ultra Capacity 5G’ network will see an increase in average speeds to 400 Mbps, says T-Mobile, or about what Verizon is capable of pulling with its 4G CBRS roll out right now, so don’t worry if your phone doesn’t have a flashy 5G icon yet.

That does not mean that a glorious networking future is not just around the corner, a time when cars and refrigerators, phones and virtual reality platforms will all be connected in a large 5G mesh with unsurpassed capacity. The question, though, was whether you really need a 5G phone right now, and the answer is “no, but maybe in 2022.” Or 2023. What do you think?

Do you really need a 5G phone right now?

Yes

17.62%

None

82.38%

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