Why it matters: 5G networks are starting to take shape but today's smartphones lack the necessary hardware to be compatible with them. If you're planning to purchase a new handset in the coming months, it may be worth waiting a bit longer to see what the first wave of 5G-ready phones have to offer.
Sprint is working with LG Electronics on a 5G-capable smartphone that’ll launch in the US sometime in the first half of 2019.
Sprint said device specifications and a more specific launch window will be provided at a later date. Additional devices designed for Sprint’s 5G network will also be shared closer to launch.
In an interview with PCMag, John Tudhope, Sprint's director of product marketing, confirmed the LG/Sprint 5G phone is no longer in the prototype phase, but that it's already into testing, calling it a 100% integrated smartphone. This comment refers to Moto's Z3 approach which will use a mod to become 5G capable. Tudhope gave hints of a premium feeling smartphone, not much thicker than today's flagships that will primarily connect to Sprint's 5G network on the 2.5GHz frequency band. Although he wouldn't give up the specs, given the timing PCMag suspects this first 5G capable phone won't use Qualcomm's upcoming integrated 4G/5G Snapdragon 855 chipset, instead relying on the current top-end Snapdragon 845 SoC with an add-on X50 5G modem.
As is often the case with emerging technology, 5G mobile networks will initially be reserved for major metropolitan areas with dense populations. Sprint recently said its 5G network will first launch in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Kansas City, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. before rolling out to other markets.
Sprint highlighted the fact that Massive MIMO technology will be a key part of its 5G strategy, adding that such cell sites are capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems as well as significantly increased data speeds. No mention was made of other 5G technologies such as millimeter waves.
Motorola earlier this month unveiled its new Moto Z3 with support for Verizon’s upcoming 5G network via the 5G Moto Mod add-on accessory. Samsung recently said its Galaxy S10 – likely to drop early next year – won’t be the first handset from the electronics maker to offer 5G compatibility. A separate device will carry that distinction.