5G smartphones are going to be taking over in 2019, with many of the biggest names in the business already confirming 5G-ready handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S10, Huawei P30, and OnePlus 7 are scheduled for launch next year.
Then throw in the fact that Qualcomm's President, Christiano Amon, has confirmed that "every Android vendor is working of 5G right now", and it becomes increasingly clear that by the end of 2019 5G is going to be well and truly here.
Indeed, speaking at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii in early December 2018, Amon stated that:
"By the holidays next year, every flagship handset – at least when it comes to those running Google's Android software and using Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor – will tap into 5G."
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Add in some extra leaks and hints to the official confirmations, and it's clear that 2019 is going to be not just a year where 5G technology hits laboratories, but when it will actually arrive in our mobiles... and there are plenty of reasons to get excited.
The next-gen data tech will not only absolutely smoke 4G and 3G in terms of speed, but it also has the potential to radically alter how the world's best smartphones are used every day.
Think augmented reality (computer graphics merging with the real world), virtual reality, improved streaming resolutions, holographic displays, enhanced power and next-gen cloud computing – 5G is going to be significant jump forward for phones.
With so much bandwidth available, we'll see plenty more gadgets and devices getting online too (self-driving cars and so on).
Partner these exciting developments with the other phone advancements charging over the horizon, such as totally notch-less and bezel-less displays, and its easy to see why many commentators are pegging 2019 as a big year of change for smartphones.
Here we're going to run through the best 5G phones we're expecting in 2019, with makers like Apple, Samsung, Sony, OnePlus and Huawei already chomping at the bit to launch astounding 5G-enabled flagships.
5G explained – what is 5G
Before we get to the phones though, what exactly is 5G? It's the successor to 4G or LTE, which succeeded 3G (can you spot the pattern?). Once phones and the network infrastructure have been made 5G-capable, we can all start enjoying faster upload and download speeds.
How much faster? It depends on your device, location, and network, but improvements of around 15-50 percent should be possible day to day in the real world. Hypothetically, in lab conditions, 5G can improve on 4G many more times than that, so there's room to grow: imagine full 4K movies downloading in a minute or two, and you're in the right area.
5G isn't just about speed though: about being able to watch 4K Netflix on the train home. It's also about capacity, and being able to get a stronger signal in crowded areas. In other words, you shouldn't lose connection at a crowded sports stadium or a music festival.
1. Samsung Galaxy S10
The 5G-toting Samsung Galaxy S10 is so close right now that the South Korean maker has just given a sneak peak at its incoming 5G flagship at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit in Maui, which runs from December 4 - 6.
The sneak peak entailed a demo by Samsung where a prototype device, which is almost certainly an early Galaxy S10, streamed native 4K movies from Netflix without any issues whatsoever, as well as simultaneously outputting the video to a connected 4K TV.
These Samsung Galaxy S10's 5G credentials were first hinted at well back in 2018, with reports detailing how Qualcomm and the South Korean maker had announced a 'strategic relationship' agreement, which specifically mentioned the "transition to 5G".
Then throw in the official announcement in early December of the Snapdragon 855 processor, which has been confirmed as being the first commercial platform to support multi-gigabit 5G, and it's easy to see how a 5G Galaxy S10 already exists.
And, simply put, the transition to 5G for the S10 would make perfect sense as it would add dramatically to its list of features that will have Apple worried.
A 5G connection on the S10 would allow users simply incredible download and upload speeds, while also opening the gateway to play AAA games via streaming services like PS Now, as well as stream high-fidelity 4K movies.
With the S10 slated for launch at Mobile World Congress 2019, taking place at the end of February, it would also cement Samsung's position at the fore of the 5G charge, leaving many of its rivals playing catch up.
If we were to make a call, though, of the rumoured S10 models we would expect only the "Beyond 1" and "Beyond 2" models to have a 5G connection, not the entry level "Beyond 0" model.
Still, the idea of holding a 5G-equipped smartphone as early as February next year, if not earlier (see rival 5G phones below) is a mouth-watering proposition.
2. Huawei P30 or Mate 30
We know Huawei is working on 5G smartphones as Walter Ji, President of Huawei's Western European Consumer Business Group spoke to T3 about it in an exclusive interview.
The senior Huawei exec confirmed that 5G would feature "if not for P30, then for sure it will be in the Mate series next September".
As to why it could arrive in either device, Mr Ji said that:
“We have two flagship products. In March, we have the P series, and in October, we have the Mate series. So it will depend on how the chipset develops, because the 5G needs high power consumption."
And, that's an interesting consideration to process in regards to 5G, with the tech needing both more space physically, as antennas need to be larger, as well as power.
We've been impressed with the P20 phones and the Mate 20 handsets that Huawei has put out this year, and its 5G-ready 2019 offerings should definitely be worth a look too, with improved speeds and connectivity.
Considering that battery life is one of the smartphone industry's biggest issues right now, with most flagship phones delivering at most a day and half of battery life between charges, clearly makers are going to have to find ways to increase their handsets' internal power banks, or streamline and optimise how energy is used.
Even better, recent comments from Huawei boss Richard Yu have confirmed that Huawei's 5G phone will be foldable too. He didn't specify a time frame but we reckon that 2019 is a good bet for this particular handset.
3. OnePlus 7 or OnePlus 7T
OnePlus CEO Pete Lau recently confirmed at Mobile World Congress Shanghai that the company is "working with US carriers" to bring a 5G smartphone to market next year.
Those claims have since been backed up by more comments from the OnePlus executive team, reaffirming the company's commitment to getting a 5G handset out in 2019.
This all makes a lot of sense, as 5G would be a perfect fit for the cult Chinese maker, with its penchant for crazy speed and performance syncing well with the rapid data transfer speeds of 5G.
Considering that OnePlus knows what it is doing in terms of hardware, too, with this year's OnePlus 6 flagship absolutely smoking rivals in benchmark tests, a 5G-enabled device next year would make it a no-brainer insta-buy.
OnePlus usually releases its main phone refresh in May or July, so the OnePlus 7 would likely be among the second wave of 5G devices, potentially following Samsung, Sony and Huawei.
4. Oppo 5G flagship
A more recent addition to the 5G phone race is Oppo, with the Chinese maker confirming that it has successfully made a connection between a customised Oppo R15 smartphone and a 5G network.
And, while this connection was made in Oppo's 5G communication protocol laboratory, it is nonetheless a very positive sign that the maker now has a very firm grasp of incorporating the technology into its devices, paving the way for a fully commercial 2019 release.
This has been coming, too. In January 2018 Oppo finalised a deal with Qualcomm to use its components and technology in its devices, while in May 2018 it demonstrated the world's first 5G video call, too.
Taken together, this points to a March or April release date for Oppo's first 5G phone, a date based on the launch window of this year's Oppo R15.
5. Honor 5G phone
You don't get much more committed to launching a 5G phone in 2019 as when your president, in the case of Honor George Zhao, comes out and confirms it himself.
Indeed, Zhao is so confident in Honor's 5G plan that he also confirmed that the Chinese maker would be first to market with its 5G device, too, really laying down the gauntlet to rival makers.
No details about the Honor 5G smartphone have yet been revealed, or even leaked for that matter, but considering that Zhao says Honor will be first to market, that would seem to indicate that the maker would have to launch very early in 2019, perhaps in the February-March slot that this year was filled with the Honor View 10.
We know that Honor is set to attend CES 2019 in Las Vegas in January, so hopefully more information will come to light then.
6. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
The 5G Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 was confirmed in late October and, in the UK and Europe at least, is currently set for a Q1 2019 release date. This would put it near the front of the 5G smartphone release schedule, with the device likely to hit store shelves either just before or just after MWC 2019.
5G aside, the Mi Mix 3 already looks like a strong device, with a magnetically sliding 6.39-inch OLED display embedded in a sleek bezel-less design (93.4% screen-to-body ratio), and a suite of hardware that includes a maximum of 10GB of RAM and 256GM of storage space, as well as a dual rear camera system (24MP + 2MP).
Most excitedly for users looking to upgrade to a 5G phone next year is the smartphone's price, with the top-spec version thought to cost around £560. If the 5G Mi Mix 3 does launch in the UK and Europe, and it carries a price point in this ball park, it will therefore likely be one of the most affordable 5G phones on the market next year.
7. Sony Xperia XZ4
This year's Sony Xperia XZ3 has come and gone without 5G but we think it's almost certain that the Xperia XZ4 (or whatever it ends up being called) is going to have the super-fast technology.
"Smartphone innovation has always been at the core of Sony Mobile engineers. design philosophy," said Sony as it recently talked up its heritage of world firsts in smartphone technology.
It made these comments mere days after rival makers OnePlus and Huawei confirmed they were working on 5G phones.
A coincidence? We think not.
In fact, going off what we know already about Sony's commitment to 5G, as well as Sony's track record, it does indeed look like at least one of the company's 2019 phones will feature 5G.
We've already heard a few rumours and hints trickle out: here's everything we know so far about the 5G Sony Xperia phone for 2019.
If it is to release the first 5G phone, potentially with a battery that can last an entire week, then it looks like Sony is going to be launching it before the end of February 2019, which is when the Samsung Galaxy S10 is slated for an unveiling.
8. New iPhone (2019)
Now that we've got over the excitement of the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR arriving, it's time to turn our attention to what Apple might have planned for 2019 – and that might include a phone with 5G.
Unfortunately, right now, the latest reports indicate that apparently due to Apple's on-going feud with Qualcomm, it looks like its 2019 iPhones won't feature 5G. This is because the maker will instead have to source its phones' 5G modems from Intel, and these don't look like they will be available until 2020.
Now, it has to be said that Apple isn't usually a maker that adopts new technology first (even the iPhone X didn't come with LTE-Advanced, for example), so this may well be the strategy it adopts for its 5G devices — launch a year later when the market has settled down somewhat.
But then again, considering the iPhone is due a major overhaul next year after 2018's iterative reworking, would it be too much of a risk to hold off on 5G until 2020? Every Android maker of note looks set to have a 5G device in 2019, so Apple may have its hand forced to stay competitive. Watch this space!