Want to Play on 5G? You'll Need a New Phone

Look for the first 5G handsets to hit the market in the first or second quarter of 2019, says this market analyst.

(Image credit: © Webb Chappell Photography 2018)

Roger Entner is the founder and lead analyst of Recon Analytics, which studies consumer behavior and market trends. He focuses on wireless technology.

How will 5G be different from 4G? The time it takes for your phone to pull up a website after you type it in will be quicker. Downloads will be faster, though most of our downloads these days can easily be done on 4G. More people will be able to stream video at the same time, meaning there will be fewer buffering incidents. It will also be more cost-effective to set up internet service in rural areas.

What are other advantages of 5G? Consumer electronics can become smaller, faster and more affordable and run longer. This is especially true for the "Internet of Things" (IoT), or connected devices. For example, you could hook up the caps of your parents' pill bottles to the internet so that you or their doctor can see whether they opened the bottles to take their pills.

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Few people buy connected dog collars with GPS and live video today because of the size and the cost, but IoT devices such as those will become more affordable and available. When it comes to cellular connectivity, I expect prices to continue to go down slowly, but we'll consume a lot more data at the same price.

When will 5G be widely available? Verizon announced a few cities where 5G will be available in homes by the end of the year. Also, AT&T plans to sell puck-like gadgets this year, similar to mobile hotspots, that you can connect to your devices via Wi-Fi to get 5G service. T-Mobile plans to build a nationwide 5G network this year. You will probably see the first 5G smartphone in the first or second quarter of 2019.

Will I need a new phone to take advantage of 5G? Yes. Those of us who stay with 4G might find it a little faster because wireless is a shared resource and others will be moving to a 5G network. But you will need a new phone for the real advantages.

Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.