It’s pretty clear by now that Apple is planning on bringing 5G to their iPhone 12 lineup which they should reveal about two months from now. And some rumors are even pointing to Apple giving you the ability to choose between 4G and a more expensive 5G version on the two non-Pro iPhone 12 models.
No matter if you’ll truly get that option or not, there’s still this question that you need to answer for yourself. Do I really need 5G? So what I’m going to do in this article is discuss the real-world benefits that I noticed using a 5G phone compared to my 4G iPhone, I’m also gonna talk about what other people think of 5G, and ultimately how much it should affect your buying decision.
First of all, you need to understand that not all 5G is the same, there’s sub-6 5G and mmWave 5G, but before I discuss the differences, I want to talk about the success of two popular smartphone brands that have recently switched to 5G.
Let’s start with Samsung and their Galaxy S20 line. Ever since they launched the S20 lineup, it’s been reported that sales of Samsung's S20 phones were way down compared to last year’s Galaxy S10, with shipments dropping by 32.6%. Of course, we should definitely blame the pandemic for the low sales, since the entire smartphone industry went down, but one thing’s for certain, the addition of 5G made the S20 line very expensive, at $1000 for their entry-level model.
So Android Authority ran a poll asking people why they didn’t upgrade to the S20 and about 71% of the people said that it was just too expensive, and then over 11% said that they don’t need 5G. And that basically means that the addition of 5G just wasn’t worth the extra price for all of those people.
And to further prove that point, it’s been reported that Samsung is exercising caution on Note 20 parts to try and keep the price down. There was even mention that this was specifically for the Galaxy Note 20 5G model, since 5G makes it much more expensive.
The OnePlus 8 Pro had a ton of hype thanks to exciting leaks and the success of the OnePlus 7 Pro, but there were a lot of people disappointed by the high price. About a week before the launch, 9to5google made a poll asking users how much they would pay for the OnePlus 8 Pro, and almost half of them said $700. The price turned out to be from 900 to 1000 dollars, which only around 10% were willing to pay according to the poll. And of course, the high price was mostly attributed to the addition of 5G.
So the point that I’m trying to make is that 5G is causing phones to get much more expensive than people expect, and there are now rumors pointing to the iPhone 12 being priced at least $50 more expensive than iPhone 11 prices, despite not having earpods or a charger in the box. So now the question is, if Apple does give you the choice of getting a 5G model, should you pay the extra price?
I’ve been using Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max for almost a full year now, which obviously uses 4G, so I’m going to give you guys my experience of this iPhone compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which is the most expensive mainstream 5G phone. I currently use T-Mobile here in Spokane, Washington, and 4G has basically worked perfectly fine for me for everything from web browsing to using apps. I’ve only noticed a couple of issues with connectivity. The main issue I’ve noticed so far is occasional hiccups when I’m trying to stream a Youtube video at 1080p. There’s also the fact that I start to lose service when going further away from the city, and sometimes even in certain areas of the city. And other than that, the only other issue is that reception isn’t that great when I’m inside of my church building or other large buildings like Target.
Now let’s talk about my experience with 5G. A couple of months back, I switched to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, so I could give it a proper review, and since I have T-Mobile, I didn’t have access to the real mmWave 5G in my city. And that’s the biggest issue with it, since right now, there are only a small amount of cities that actually have mmWave 5G towers, and to get great speeds, you actually have to be near those towers. That’s because it works using a very specific part of the radio frequency spectrum between 24GHz and 100Ghz, which have a very short wavelength. This basically allows more bandwidth or data to be transferred, but the issue is that it doesn’t travel very far, and it doesn’t penetrate walls very well at all. And this is also the type of the 5G which is the most controversial, with many people concerned about the health impacts of this short-wave radio frequency.
Sub-6 5G, on the other hand, has a lot more in common with 4G than it does with mmWave 5G. For example, T-Mobile was able to upgrade their cell towers to Sub-6 relatively quickly and easily, since it uses much longer wave-lengths. mmWave 5G requires a lot more work and a fiber optic internet connection, which is why it’s taking so long to implement it.
So even though the Galaxy S20 Ultra supports both Sub-6 and mmWave, I only have access to T-Mobile's Sub6 here in Spokane, so here was my experience with it: It was fantastic. There were a few spots where I typically had just one bar and data was pretty much unusable, and in those cases the S20 ultra with sub 6 5g would give me 2 or 3 bars and would work great. Browsing the web was super snappy and I could constantly play youtube videos at 1440P with no buffering or hiccups. Keep in mind my iPhone at times would have issues with 720P and I rarely tried 1080. On top of that, in areas with a good signal my data speeds were about double testing using the same sim card one right after another, and during congestion up to 6 times faster as you can see here. Let me just say going back to the iPhone with 4G was noticeable after the S20 Ultra.
Most people probably won’t get much use out of mmWave 5G for at least a couple of years, so if you’re thinking of buying the Pro model iPhone 12 for that reason, it doesn’t really make sense. Now sub-6 5G is definitely worth it, since it gives you better reception overall, and it allowed me to stream YouTube much more reliably.
In my opinion, I still think Apple needs to add 5G to all of their phones this year, and I don’t think it makes sense to have people choose between 4G and 5G on the lower-end models. Apple should just switch to 5G and be done with it, as long as the price of the phones doesn’t go up like on the Galaxy S20 series. And luckily, most rumors are pointing to the price staying more or less the same, and that could be due to Apple no longer shipping earpods and a charger in the box.
So even if we realistically don’t really need 5G this year, many iPhone users keep their phones for years, so it would be nice to have it be future-proof, and we could end up with another iPhone 6S situation where it’s so good that it becomes the standard for a lot of people. And for those of you that are worried about the safety of 5G, you can stick to a Sub-6 model if you’d like since it has more similarities to the current 4G standard.