It’s been three years since the very first 5G phone ever launched in Europe, and the handsets that followed have had mixed reception; 5G was expected to revolutionize mobile technology, but several years of Covid and lockdown have thrown a spanner in the works.
On May 1, 2019, the Oppo Reno 5G landed in Switzerland. The country became an early battleground for 5G phone companies as it was one of the first to get 5G networks earlier that year.
Oppo beat out Huawei and Xiaomi, who literally launched its first 5G phones the next day, although the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and a mod for the Moto Z4 won the race to be first in other continents.
The win came as a surprise as Oppo was not as big a force in Europe at the time as it is now. With the last year with the Oppo Find X5 Pro, the OnePlus merger and major sponsorships like Wimbledon, it’s easy to forget that 2019 was pretty fresh.
With the big European launch, then the launch of other 5G phones and the roll-out of 5G networks throughout 2019, one thing became clear: 5G is the future. But after three years of using next-gen connectivity technology in several phones, I’m not convinced this is the case.
5G has two main selling points: it delivers faster speeds than 4G and also promises a more reliable connection – all in theory, of course, as these factors largely depend on your network and location.
However, the benefits of a more stable connection are that you can download apps, movies or music and play mobile online games when you’re on the go.
Of course, depending on the region you’re in, this is all possible on 4G, but there’s more. Several 5G network launches pointed out that 4G seemed useless at first, but after several years of existence, developers learned how to best use the technology. The result was apps like Instagram and Uber, which didn’t work well on 3G.
So in 2019, the future looked bright for 5G, and I was looking forward to all the changes that might come in the future for smartphones. But it’s the future now, and I’m still waiting.
5G has not proven itself
I have been using 5G phones since the technology was launched in 2019 and testing different features on different networks in different countries on different mobile phones. However, when someone recently asked me if they should buy a 5G phone, I had to be honest and say no.
Sure, the novelty of downloading an episode of a TV show on the way to the subway was nice, but I never watch TV on the subway, so it was a redundant feature. And of course, making a video call while on the road was quick and easy, but I don’t want to force my calls on other people; I’d rather save it for when I get home.
Plus, those features worked fine over 4G. In some places I’ve tested phones, 4G was even faster than 5G. So far there are no great apps for 5G and I’m still waiting for something you can’t do on 4G.
Of course, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on 5G. It was intended to make it much easier to connect to the Internet on the go; but staying at home for a few years has made that much less important.
In addition, user habits have changed; the hub of working from home and spending more time indoors has led to a resurgence in tablet use and an increase in fitness technology, making 5G a secondary concern for many people.
It’s also worth pointing out that 5G modems in phones cause significant battery drain, and they’re also expensive – pushing up the price of 5G devices.
Hopefully in the future there will be apps and software that make 5G an essential technology – admittedly, I said this in 2019, but three years wasn’t enough time. Technology doesn’t move as fast as its biggest fan, and companies want to believe you – and in 2022, buying a 5G phone is still not a necessity.