Welcome to the indispensible T3 guide to the best 5G phones on the planet in 2019: all the big-name 5G handsets are here, from the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to the Huawei Mate X, and we'll guide you through the specs and the features you need to know about when it comes to 5G.
As Qualcomm President Christiano Amon has pointed out, just about every phone maker out there is working on 5G right now, (as we saw at CES 2019 and MWC 2019 this year) Read on to pick out the best 5G phone on the market, whether you're buying now or waiting until later.
- 5G UK: the phones, networks, and deals you need for 5G in the UK
- Best phones: all the top smartphones right now in one place
Buying a 5G phone is making more sense every day, with UK operators now starting to roll out 5G coverage in a select number of places and cities, giving you access to super-fast speeds and extra bandwidth (albeit in limited parts of the country for the time being).
And while there might be a price premium right now for making the jump to 5G, it's worth the investment, and a few affordable options are starting to appear. New models are appearing on the market every month, which means there's never been a better time to take the plunge into the world of 5G.
Sometimes newer tech takes a while to filter down to the masses, but fortunately it looks as though that won't be the case with 5G: operators and phone makers alike seem keen to get 5G technology into the hands of users.
While it might take a while for our best smartphones list to get filled with 5G phones, by the time 2019 turns into 2020 you should have a wide choice of handsets to pick from – and we're here to guide you through all the current options.
In terms of the impact of 5G, 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.
You might see some regional variation – 5G phones in India might not launch at the same time as in Europe for example – while Apple seems to be taking its time for now. We think the iPhone 12, due to appear in September 2020, is going to be the first to support 5G.
Before we get to the 5G phones leading the 5G vanguard, though, let's briefly recap what 5G exactly is…
5G explained – what is 5G?
5G is 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, among many other 5G phone benefits.
How much faster is a 5G phone connection? 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 simply 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 anywhere near as easily at a crowded sports stadium or a music festival, for example.
Be sure to check out T3's dedicated 5G explained feature if you want even more information about 5G technology.
The best 5G phones of 2019
1. Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
The supercharged version of Samsung's 2019 flagship phone
Reasons to buy
Samsung has taken the plunge into 5G with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the super-fast variant of the Samsung Galaxy S10 range it launched in February 2019. In fact it's a major upgrade over the standard S10, with a bigger screen and better camera as well as that 5G capability.
The phone comes with a 6.7-inch QHD AMOLED display, 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of built-in storage. A huge 4,500mAh battery is on board too, and you get the same reversible wireless charging trick as the other S10 phones offer.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone is slowly rolling out to markets across the world now, but expect to pay a premium over the standard Samsung Galaxy S10.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
Bigger is sometimes better
Reasons to buy
if you want to stick with Samsung for your 5G needs then the 5G-enabled Galaxy Note 10+ offers an interesting alternative to the 5G-enabled Galaxy S10 Plus. It has a slightly bigger screen, and more RAM, and of course that S Pen stylus.
So if you think you're going to want to make notes on the lock screen, control your phone remotely, and do all the other stuff that the Samsung stylus enables, this might be a better bet than the S10 above. It also has a slightly tweaked design that you might find preferable.
Really though you can't go wrong with either phone – just decide on the screen size you want and whether or not you'd like a stylus. Remember to check the latest prices on the web as well, as they could play a big part in helping you make a decision.
One of the best phones of 2019, with added 5G
Reasons to buy
As promised all those months ago at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai, OnePlus has created a 5G-enabled version of its latest flagship smartphone. The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is identical to the standard 4G-touting OnePlus 7 Pro – same design, cameras, display, battery cell. In fact, the only difference is its ability to surf speedy 5G networks. That's a very different approach to the Galaxy S10 5G, which is an entirely-new device with more cameras, a bigger battery and screen than the standard S10.
As such, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G owners will enjoy the same 6.67-inch display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and 90Hz refresh rate. The latter, branded Fluid AMOLED by the firm, equates to 90 frames-per-second and makes animations and transitions appear much smoother on the edge-to-edge display. It also supports HDR10 and HDR10+.
OnePlus 7 Pro has a fingerprint scanner embedded beneath the AMOLED display, which is 36% bigger than the one included with the OnePlus 6T for faster and more accurate unlocks. According to OnePlus, the scanner unlocks in 0.24 seconds.
Aside from the AMOLED display, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G has a triple rear-camera capable of shooting images in Portrait Mode, ultra-wide or at 3x optical zoom. There's also a 16MP f/2.0 selfie camera found in a small pop-up drawer that emerges from the chassis. OnePlus 7 Pro 5G benefits from UFS 3.0 storage, which dramatically improves speed across the entire operating system – from loading-up a hefty PDF document for the first time, to saving photos from the camera. There's also a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 under the bonnet to keep things ticking over, as well as a 4,000mAh battery, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of built-in storage.
4. Huawei Mate X
5G connectivity with the added bonus of a folding screen
Reasons to buy
Behold the wonder of the Huawei Mate X – the foldable phone unveiled by Huawei at MWC 2019 that throws in 5G just for the fun of it. This is a seriously good-looking device with seriously fast upload and download speeds to go with it.
When closed, there are screens front and back for you to use; when open, the Mate X sports an 8-inch display for all your multitasking needs. The grip on the side helps you hold it in tablet mode and holds the camera system too.
Under the hood you've got a Kirin 980 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and of course that Balong 5000 multi-mode 5G chipset. The large 4,500mAh battery keeps everything powered. It's going to cost you though – the Huawei Mate X is going to be priced at €2,299 (about £2,000) when it ships, which should be soon.
5. Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G
The Huawei powerhouse 5G phone
Reasons to buy
Not everyone wants a folding phone of course, and as an alternative to the Mate X in terms of Huawei phones sporting 5G, there's also the Mate 30 Pro 5G. This is a device absolutely stacked with power, and the quad-lens rear camera keeps up Huawei's reputation in that area too.
The big problem, of course, is that this phone doesn't run any Google apps, as a result of the US sanctions placed on doing business with Chinese companies. That's a big mark in the negative column, and it's difficult to recommend the phone unless that situation changes (which it might well do).
Keep your eyes on the current political situation as well as the current prices for this phone, because eventually it might become a very compelling proposition indeed. It certainly has the style, performance, and photo-taking abilities to impress.
6. Oppo Reno 5G
One of the more affordable 5G options
Reasons to buy
A more recent addition to the 5G phone race is Oppo, with the Chinese maker officially unveiling the Oppo Reno, a brand new, 5G-toting flagship phone.
The Reno 5G comes with a 6.6-inch edge-to-edge OLED display, a large 4,065mAh battery, 10x lossless hybrid zoom camera and, yes, a 5G modem. It also features a wizzy pop-up wedge selfie camera. In short, the Oppo Reno 5G looks like a real 5G phone contender.
The dramatic Reno release 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.
The 5G Oppo Reno is set to cost €899 (roughly £790) at launch and is set for release in June 2019. That's still a lot of money, but it's likely to be one of the more affordable 5G handsets to begin with.
7. LG V50 ThinQ 5G
LG quality with added 5G makes this one of the best 5G phones
Reasons to buy
The LG V50 ThinQ may not carry the "wow" appeal of the Huawei Mate X, but it's a strong 5G phone in its own right – and it's even foldable, sort of, thanks to the Dual Screen accessory that you can attach to it for a second display.
The phone was launched alongside the LG G8 ThinQ at MWC 2019 in Barcelona, and brings with it a Snapdragon 855 processor, a 6.4-inch QHD+ OLED display, and a triple-lens camera system around the back. Those are decent specs if you're shopping for a flagship phone in 2019.
It's the 5G that's the real selling point here though. The roll out of the phone started in April, with a listed price of 1,199,000 Won (approximately £810 or $1,055).
8. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
Get one of the best 5G phones for less
Reasons to buy
The 5G Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 was confirmed in late October, and after being teased at MWC 2019, it went on sale in May 2019, putting it near the front of the 5G smartphone release schedule.
5G aside, the Mi Mix 3 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 256GB of storage space, as well as a dual rear camera system (24MP + 2MP). We were certainly impressed with the non-5G version of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.
Most exciting for users looking to upgrade to a 5G phone this year is the smartphone's price, with prices starting at £520 – that's still a substantial amount of money but it shows you don't have to break the bank to be a 5G early adopter.
9. Moto Z3
At the vanguard of the 5G revolution... with a mod
Reasons to buy
There are a few qualifiers here: the Moto Z3 is capable of 5G speeds, but only if you buy the 5G Moto Mod for it, and are on Verizon in the US, and are in an area where 5G is supported. Tick all those boxes and you can join the 5G revolution!
The Z3 itself was actually launched last year, bringing with it a decent 6.01-inch screen, a Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of RAM. It's not the most capable phone in the world, but with a 5G add-on, it qualifies for our roundup.
Now Motorola has joined the 5G club, we'll have to wait and see what it has planned for the other smartphones it's launching in 2019. You'll certainly be able to pick this up relatively cheaply, but remember the 5G Moto Mod.
10. Samsung Galaxy A90 5G
Get hold of 5G for less
Reasons to buy
Our final Samsung pick in this list is the one to go for if you want a quality 5G Samsung phone for as little cash as possible: the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G. It comes with all the usual Samsung qualities (speedy, well designed, great screen) but won't make you part with your life savings.
And you're getting a whole lot in return for your money too, including a triple-lens rear camera (with one camera a 48MP monster), a generous 6.7-inch screen and a big 4,500mAh battery. Some corners are cut – no IP68 waterproofing and no wireless charging, for example – but overall it's a fantastic deal.
It's fantastic to see 5G phones coming down in price, and the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G should be the start of an ongoing trend where 5G becomes more affordable. We'll add more great 5G phones to this list as we come across them.