Why You Shouldn’t Buy A 5G Phone In 2019

5G is coming! It’s the future! It will speed up your phone, make your house connected, and finally bring you the fulfillment no other wireless standard could bring you. Or not.

Phone makers and carriers would have you believe 5G is really, truly, absolutely going to happen this year. But just like its predecessors, 5G mobile tech is going to have its growing pains, and early adopters will essentially be a huge group of product testers who are paying companies for the privilege of ironing out the kinks. If you’re hoping for a phone that’s sleek, gets long battery life, works wherever you go, and (perhaps most of all) is affordable, you might want to hold off on a purchase for at least a year or so.

This is all just a little bit of history repeating. The first selection of 3G phones had some of the same issues, as did LTE phones (or “4G” if you’re in the US and you had to de-tangle that thread) a few years later.

Why should you think twice about buying a first-gen 5G phone? Let’s break it down.

5G Phones Will Be Bigger

We’ve become addicted to phones that are thinner and sleeker as manufacturers have pushed for bigger screens, allowing batteries and other components to spread out without adding bulk. But speedy 5G wireless will require some bigger radios inside your phone, and more of them.

A Qualcomm working prototype 5G phone. Notice the thick build to accommodate a larger battery. Image credit: AnandTech

That’s a lot of extra space a 5G phone will need to make inside its glass and metal case. That being so, it’s likely that 5G phones will be limited to the larger “phablet” models (think the “Plus” iPhone size and bigger) just so they’ll have room to hold all those guts. If you prefer something smaller, or for that matter thinner, you’ll be out of luck.

If you want a practical example, check out some of the early hardware for 5G hotspots. These little gadgets don’t need much more than a radio cluster, a battery, and maybe a little LCD screen, but they’re still twice the size of their LTE predecessors.

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