5 reasons why you shouldn’t buy a 5G phone in the UK

We’ve been treated to an exciting flurry of 5G announcements over recent days and weeks, but don’t get sucked into the hype. Here’s why you shouldn’t buy a 5G phone yet.
1. There isn’t a lot of choice
So far, precious few 5G phones have actually been announced, and several of those that have don’t yet have a specific release date. These are the 5G phones that are definitely coming to the UK:

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Huawei Mate 20 X 5G − Pre-orders in late May, shipping in June − From £999
Huawei Mate X − Q3 2019 − Pricing TBC
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G − Pre-orders on May 22, shipping from June 7 − Pricing TBC
Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G − Release date TBC − Pricing TBC
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G − Coming soon − Pricing TBC
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G − Pre-orders on May 23 − From €599
LG V50 − Coming soon − Pricing TBC

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This list, of course, will continue to expand. Right now though, the pool is very shallow indeed.
Read more: What is 5G?
2. 5G phones are pricey
Phone makers and mobile networks have been very keen to shout about their 5G ambitions, but as the list above shows, they’ve been less forthcoming about pricing. That’s because 5G phones and contracts will invariably come at a premium − at least in the early days of 5G.
We already know that the 5G version of the Huawei Mate 20 X costs £200 more than the non-5G version of the phone, and that the 5G version of the Mi Mix 3 is €100 pricier than the standard Mi Mix 3.
“The forecast from Pete [Lau] is between $200 and $300 higher for the 5G device – not necessarily a problem for our users because it’s what they’re after,” Eric Gass, OnePlus’ director of global brand partnerships, told Trusted Reviews last year when we asked about 5G phone pricing.
3. 5G phones are either really big…
If higher prices and limited choice aren’t enough to put you off purchasing a 5G phone right now, the design and performance sacrifices that phone manufacturers are having to make right now might. Especially if you’re not a fan of huge smartphones.
The majority of early 5G phones will be big and hefty. That’s because right now, 5G phones have to rely on a standalone modem rather than having it built into the main chipset. The modem requires extra space, and the majority of smartphone manufacturers have decided to make their 5G handsets bigger, in order to squeeze it in.
No doubt, chip makers like Qualcomm are well on their way to offering up chipsets with integrated 5G modems but right now, you’ll have to settle for hefty handsets like the 7.2-inch Mate 20 X 5G, 6.7-inch S10 5G, 6.39-inch Mi Mix 3 5G and 6.4-inch LG V50.
Here’s what Max Parker wrote in our hands-on Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review: “After finally finding one on the show floor during MWC I can say that this extra heft is noticeable, with the larger proportions also making the handset harder to hold.”
4. …or have small batteries
And those that haven’t gone down the supersizing route are having to sacrifice battery life. When it unveiled the 5G version of the OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus admitted that it had run into difficulties when it was developing the handset.
OnePlus had to start from scratch after testing the initial version of the phone for durability, and had to create new designs for its 5G antennae and NFC antenna in order to ensure the final product wouldn’t be too chunky. The phone’s cooling area is 50% bigger than the cooling area on the non-5G OnePlus 7 Pro, and this is likely to come at the expense of battery life.
OnePlus recently hinted that you shouldn’t expect amazing stamina from 5G phones in general. “It would be easy to create a workable 5G solution that would be thick and ugly but that wouldn’t be what’s ultimately desired,” OnePlus co-founder Pete Lau said ahead of the OnePlus 7’s unveiling.
“[Consumers] want the battery to last longer. To address this particular need, we could increase the battery size and make the device thicker but from our perspective this isn’t a best plan of action. Our customers want a device that is thin and light, but they also want it to last all day. That’s the ideal device. But 5G brings the challenge of a phone that’s harder to keep at the same size.”
Similarly, in the case of the Mate 20 X 5G, Huawei has had to reduce the size of the battery in order to free up room for the Balong 5000 5G modem.
5. 5G networks are still way off
The final, and perhaps most important, reason not to buy a 5G phone yet is this: 5G networks still haven’t gone live in the UK. What’s more, those that do over the coming weeks and months will be extremely limited − more like hotspots.
EE, for instance, plans to activate 5G networks in 16 UK cities before the end of 2019, but they won’t cover the entirety of these cities. Instead, the mobile network says it has adopted a “demand-led” strategy, focusing on very specific areas “where the need is greatest”.
Vodafone, meanwhile, will send its 5G network live on July 3, and it will initially be available in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London. O2 appears to be doing something similar, but with an initial focus on businesses.
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