What are the bestselling 5G phones in the US? It's 2021, and small handsets aren't on the list

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What are the bestselling 5G phones in the US? It's 2021, and small handsets aren't on the list
Save for Apple fans, phones with 5G connectivity ceased to be an exciting and exotic novelty as far back as the spring of 2020, when virtually all Android flagships started coming on the market with Qualcomm, Samsung or Huawei 5G modems in them. As of this writing, phones as low in the price and street cred totem pole as the new Galaxy A32 from Samsung, have launched with support for the next-gen cellular connectivity standard, and that one costs about three Benjamins.

The carriers, too, have rolled out 5G networks in breakneck pace, blanketing vast swaths of the US population with "nationwide" networks. The term is debatable, given that even the slow but far-reaching low-bands reach a lot of people in populated areas but don't cover nearly as much surface are as 4G LTE, and are often slower to boot. 

They do have the rest of the 5G standard advantages, though, and that's extremely low latency, and the ability to hook up way more connected devices to the same tower or base station. When moving to the mid- and high-bands, the speeds start growing, too, and the trifecta of 5G advantages kicks into your thus-equipped handset. Which exactly are the 5G phones that sell best in America, though? 

The most popular (not best) 5G phones in the US

While virtually every major phone company is now busting out 5G models down to its lower midrange and even budget lines, they are not all created equal in the eye of the beholder, i.e. the end user and buyer of those phones. 

This is why Ookla, the makers of the crowdsourced network probe Speedtest, and research firm M Science rolled up their sleeves and tracked sales channels as well as 5G speed tests to gauge both which were the most acquired and most widely used 5G phones in America just this last month of January (the S21 series is not included in the sample as it launched after the January 27 cutoff). They divulged their findings to the veteran tech reporter Sascha Segan from PCMag, and the results are... not at all surprising.

Bestselling 5G phones 2021 list:

  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Apple iPhone 12
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Yep, it's an Apple country, sorry, Samsung, you were first to mass market a bunch of 5G models, but you weren't born here. The results, however, somewhat mimic the market share distribution of phones in the US this past quarter. Thanks to the iPhone 12 series belated launch, Apple dominated Q4 with up to 64% of all phones sold in the US, followed by Samsung, LG and others. 

That's not to say that it will continue outperforming this quarter, of course, as it usually hovers around the 45% mark on an yearly basis, yet this explains why its first 5G phones have rocketed to the most popular place among all their 5G brethren. It's just that people are buying a lot of iPhones after launch in the US, not necessarily for their 5G prowess - it's good but not the best out there, separate modem and everything. With the launch of the Galaxy S21, and, perhaps, the Galaxy A52/A72 5G this quarter, it may very well be Samsung that will dominate Q1 2021 5G phone sales in America. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the 5G phones that, well, don't sell so well. It's not necessarily because they are bad phones or have 5G connectivity problems, it's just that their brands or particular models are less popular in the US.

5G phones list with the lowest sales volume in the US January '21:

  • LG Wing 5G 
  • TCL 10 5G UW
  • OnePlus Nord N10
  • Motorola Edge+
  • Nokia 8 V 5G UW

The blacklist above doesn't tell the whole story, of course. The positive takeaway for LG is that, as usual, it is the third most popular phone brand in the US, as the LG V60 is the first non-Apple and non-Samsung phone in the ranking. The LG Wing's first place from the bottom is part of the phone's general quirkiness and pricey nature, too, rather than its 5G cred. 

Also, the OnePlus Nord N10 is perhaps the cheapest brand name 5G phone and is selling very well, it's just that it was recently introduced. For Nokia, having a 5G phone on any list, and at Verizon's fortress of a phone portfolio with its peculiar Ultrawide Band mmWave network support, is a win in and of itself. Also, if you sell a dud like the iPhone 12 mini which nobody seems to like and is behind most of Samsung's phones in the ranking, it will be a 5G dud, too. Nobody seems to like small phones any more, and the S20 and 12 mini were the least popular of the Apple-Samsung duopoly's 5G phones in the list here. 

In any case, it'd be interesting to follow how the 5G phone sale sands will be shifting this quarter, when the early iPhone 12 adopters are done with their buying spree, while Samsung is just starting its 5G march for the year.

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