Even if AT&T launches a 5G mobile network by the end of the year — AT&T said “in the next few weeks” over five weeks ago, and it’s sticking by “end of the year” as of today — you won’t just be able to run out and buy a 5G phone. The only confirmed device so far for AT&T’s network is the chunky Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, and AT&T tells us that the so-called “puck” will be its only 5G device available at launch.
Verizon will technically have a phone when it launches its 5G offering in early 2019, but only kind of. If you buy the existing, Verizon-exclusive Moto Z3 — let’s just say it’s not our top pick today — Verizon says its first 5G device will be a magnetic, modular 5G Moto Mod attachment you can snap onto that phone to add speedy 5G NR connectivity, too. Verizon says we’ll get to try the 5G Moto Mod in Maui as well.
If those aren’t your cup of tea, you’ll probably be waiting until Q2 2019 at the earliest. That’s when Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon expects the first real wave of smartphones to arrive. And that’s when Samsung says it’ll have a 5G phone on Verizon’s network, if not others too.
”We are working, so as early as the second quarter of 2019, you’ll have smartphones being launched across the United States, across Europe, across South Korea, Australia. Some early in the quarter, some later in the quarter… they’re all going to be Android flagship devices,” says Amon. “You go to CES [in January], you’ll start to see a lot of phone announcements; you go to MWC [in February], you’ll see a lot of actual phone launches.”
You’ll note that Qualcomm’s president says “Android,” not Apple — rumor is Apple won’t release a 5G iPhone until 2020. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering how the original iPhone didn’t yet have 3G, and the iPhone 4S didn’t add LTE, even though both were available in competing phones at the time.
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