The 5G we were promised won’t be coming in 2019

With 4G coverage still not at 100% and the 2019 influx of 5G capable handsets about to land in our pockets, what can we really expect in 2019 from 5G?
The fifth generation of connectivity, *ahem* 5G, will be ready for the average Joe next year. Software and hardware are in the works, and carriers are getting ready to flip the switch of their 5G networks in the first half of 2019.
What we know:

Qualcomm has released details of its next-gen Snapdragon mobile CPU with X50 5G modem and antenna
Samsung and Verizon announced plans to launch a 5G smartphone on Verizon’s 5G network in the first half of 2019 using Qualcomm’s 5G-capable chip
Apple will reportedly wait until 2020 to release a 5G smartphone, preferring to wait until all the kinks have been worked out and 5G is more widely available
LG plans to beat Samsung to the punch with the first true 5G phone. The device will be out in the first half of 2019 as a Sprint exclusive

What we DON’T know:

How quickly the 5G rollout will actually happen over the year outside of major cities
If most major cities will even be enabled from day one
If remote and rural areas will even see 5G

Those who lived through the 3G to 4G upgrade will remember there were some serious issues when 4G first rolled out. Carriers took years to offer decent coverage and the first few generations of 4G devices were plagued with issues. As a person who lives in rural France, it was October 2016 when I saw 4G flash up on my notification bar for the first time. It was glorious, my life went from 2.4Mbps to 45Mbps in 24hrs, however, this leaves me thinking “how long will it be before I can even start to think about 5G?” My next smartphone is more than likely to be 5G enabled but I have a strong feeling that I’ll be left stranded in a 4G wasteland waiting for the world around me to catch up. What’s more, I certainly won’t be alone in waiting.
 
So, should we be hyped?  
The hype is actually real. 5G boasts the ability to take advantage of truly unlimited data at up to 2GBps, but its expected average speed should be around 300MBps. If you ask most smartphone users, those speeds would be a dream, but mobile connectivity is only the beginning. From smart-home security to self-driving cars, all the Internet-connected devices in your life will be able to talk to each other at lightning-fast speeds with reduced latency.
5G could finally make AR & VR headsets more viable for mainstream users. Augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets haven’t breached the mainstream, but tech companies are hedging bets that these devices will eventually replace our smartphones. With 5G connectivity, that is a real possibility.
But don’t go getting too excited just yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done, including compatibility trials to make sure the radios play nicely with hardware and infrastructure build-out so that 5G coverage isn’t concentrated solely in high-density cities.
With Qualcomm leading the charge, we’ve seen a lot of positive progress on the 5G front in 2018. Despite 2019 looking like a big year for network launches and new handsets promising to usher us into the 5G era, it looks like it won’t be until 2020 or even 2021 before network providers have enough towers upgraded with new equipment to deliver 5G speeds to a significant portion of the population.

Where will see it first? In the US, the charge will be led by Verizon and AT&T, but T-Mobile and Sprint will be pushing their 5G deployments as well. The largest metropolitan areas with the fastest internet backbones will see the 5G icon pop up first, but it’ll be years before 5G coverage trickles out to the suburbs and rural areas will likely never see it. In France, I’ll likely have to make a trip to Paris to experience anything, and that’s only if they hit the rollout targets. C’est la vie.
The reason for this is the limitation of the mmWave technology being used for 5G. While mmWave can offer much faster speeds than LTE, it doesn’t travel far and has a hard time penetrating walls. To deliver G coverage, service providers will need to build out a much more dense network of 5G towers to offer good coverage — something that would be too expensive to do in rural areas. Where G coverage isn’t feasible, service providers will continue to improve their 4G networks, eventually offering Gigabit LTE. Or in other words, the 4G speeds we were promised back in 2011.

As for hardware, smartphones with 5G connectivity will be more expensive and will likely suffer from poor battery life. OnePlus has stated that its first-gen 5G devices will carry a $200-$300 premium over their LTE counterparts due to the new Qualcomm X50 modem, and multiple QTM052 antenna modules needed to connect to a 5G network. The extra modem and antennas will increase a phone’s power consumption, likely reducing battery life to what we saw on the first generation of 4G smartphones like the HTC Thunderbolt.
There’s little doubt that we’ll see the first G networks come online in 2019 with the first round of 5G devices. Just don’t get your hopes up. You’ll likely not be living the 5G dream for years to come.

OnePlus will launch its first 5G phone in Europe next year, may cost up to $300 more than 4G version

In a series of interviews yesterday, The Verge was told by OnePlus CEO Pete Lau that his company was simultaneously working on both an upcoming 5G and 4G phone, though the former was expected to cost “$200 to $300 more” than its 4G counterpart. According to UK carrier EE, OnePlus’ 5G phone is set to come to the carrier next year.

The Verge’s compound interview (which is a pretty good read, you should just check it out for yourself) also reveals that Qualcomm’s president, Cristiano Amon, thinks OnePlus’ pricing is a bit higher than what consumers may expect from other OEMs when 5G devices land. Read MoreOnePlus will launch its first 5G phone in Europe next year, may cost up to $300 more than 4G version was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855: everything you need to know

Qualcomm has officially unveiled the new Snapdragon 855 which will likely be used in most 2019 flagship smartphones. While the chip’s name may sound uninspiring and mundane, the new SD855 which is built on the 7nm process, is much more than a basic upgrade from the current Snapdragon 845. In addition to offering the usual increases in performance and a reduction in power consumption, the Snapdragon 855 will also be the key component to usher in 5G connectivity in 2019.
“As operators launch 5G networks in early 2019, consumers will for the first time be able to take advantage of transformative 5G consumer experiences on mobile devices with Snapdragon 855,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager, mobile, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “We are proud to share our technology inventions and be among the first to bring mobile 5G to the world.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Qualcomm is also including enhancements to AI, XR, photo, video and audio processing in addition to dozens of other enhancements. To make things simple, we’ve broken the Snapdragon 855’s enhancements and new features into a few categories for you.
Enhanced performance
The most obvious improvement that the Snapdragon 855 will offer is a boost in performance from both the CPU and GPU. The new Kryo 485 CPU features a 64-bit architecture with a total of 8 cores which allow for a 45% performance improvement over the Snapdragon 845. Graphics performance has improved 20% with the Adreno 640 GPU which now supports Vulkan 1.1 graphics library, truel HDR color grading and enhanced algorithms which allow the chip to reduce dropped frames by >90%.
Qualcomm Kryo 485 CPU specs

One Prime core clock speed: Up to 2.84GHz
Three Performance cores clock speed: Up to 2.42GHz
Four Efficiency cores clock speed: Up to 1.80GHz
Architecture: 64-bit

Qualcomm Adreno 640 GPU specs

Adreno 640 GPU
Vulkan 1.1 API support
HDR gaming (10-bit color depth, rec 2020 color gamut)
Physically Based Rendering
API Support: OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 FP, Vulkan 1.1
Maximum On-Device Display Support: Up to 4K HDR
Maximum External Display Support: Up to two 4K HDR displays
Hardware-accelerated H.265 and VP9 decoder
HDR Playback Codec support for HDR10+, HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision
Volumetric VR video playback
8K 360 VR video playback

Camera improvements
Devices equipped with the Snapdragon 855 will be privy to imaging features thanks to the Spectra 380 ISP. The chip will enable additional computational photography capabilities, video recording using HDR10 and real-time object classification which would allow the chip to replace selected objects or backgrounds in the scene in real-time all with 4K HDR resolution using over 1 billion shades of color.
The Snapdragon 855 will also support HEIF file format encoding which reduces image files sizes by 50%. HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) is a new file format which will eventually replace JPEG since it manages to deliver 16-bit images while using half the storage space needed for 8-bit JPEG files. 
5G Connectivity
What really sets the Snapdragon 855 apart from previous generations is the new Snapdragon X50 5G modem which will allow new devices to connect to 5G networks and achieve download speeds that are 20x faster than current-gen technologies. Naturally, connection speeds will be determined primarily by the 5G networks which are currently being deployed by service providers across the globe. 
The chipset also includes improvements for WiFi connections with support for the new 802.11ay-based platform which allows for speeds up to 10 Gbps, reducing latency and increasing power efficiency up to 67%.
What to expect from the first 5G smartphones
Those who lived through the 3G to 4G transition may recall the tradeoffs that needed to be made when purchasing a first-gen 4G smartphone. The increase in download and upload speeds were accompanied by a dramatic decrease in battery life. This was gradually resolved with every subsequent generation of 4G devices, leading to the multi-day battery life we currently enjoy on some flagship-tier devices.
This time around, things should be dramatically different. Qualcomm has been working meticulously on the Snapdragon 855 so the transition from 4G to 5G is a lot smoother. The chipset is extremely power efficient and the new 5G standard that most service providers are deploying will not be as taxing on your smartphone’s battery as the first 4G networks were.
At the same time, the Snapdragon 855 will also be delivering a bump in performance (like always) and its chips will allow next year’s flagship devices to deliver an overall better gaming, photography and entertainment experience.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 will show up in the first consumer devices sometime during the first half of 2019, but we suspect we’ll see the first Snapdragon 855-powered smartphones at CES in a little over a month.