The move from the previous 4G LTE generation of mobile connectivity to the current 5G era will be marred by a transitional period that is likely to be shorter than the move from 3G to 4G. Pandemics aside, it took just a few months for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to roll out nascent 5G networks and call it a revolution.
Somewhat paradoxically, 5G needs cable. Lots and lots of fiber optic cable that needs to be laid in the ground by good old-fashioned ditch-digging. Short of the national highway system and the railroad tycoon era, 5G may turn out to be one of America's grandest infrastructure undertakings, with assorted carrier base stations on buildings, and even lamp posts.
That infrastructure push stems from the fact that, unlike 4G, the 5G rollout is on such a wide range of bands, that each carrier is creating their own unique network, and 5G phones have to work on all of them, raising the number of antennas, modem filters, and 5G-related costs to sights unseen
. To help navigate the glut of 5G devices on Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T, we are rounding up the best ones you can buy.
The best 5G phones on the USA market to buy right now
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G ($999)
- LG V60 ThinQ 5G ($800-$950)
- OnePlus 8 5G ($699-$799)
The best 5G phones to buy on Verizon
Verizon called dibs to 5G fame claims, initiating a commercial connection a few days before Korean carriers: "for the first time ever, customers can access a commercial 5G network with the world’s first commercially available 5G-enabled smartphone
." Granted, at one lamp post near a Chicago stadium, and just with a Motorola Moto Z3
add-on, but who's counting.
The millimeter wave networks like the current 5G one that Verizon uses, offer the fastest speeds and thus marketing bombast at their initial rollout, yet on the other hand mmWave spectrum has very low penetration rates. So low, in fact, that the signal can get easily dispersed by the phone's glass body, and it has trouble getting through your hands holding the phone, let alone trees, buildings, and even windows.
Some analysts believe that Verizon is actually preferring the adoption of mmWave phones, even though they are more expensive to make as you have to stuff way more antennas and filters, and deploy them strategically around the phone so that signal can get through.
The cost to deliver a gigabyte to them with Verizon's mmWave stations is the lowest, though. Those would explain the launch lack of some staple 5G phones like the Galaxy S20
5G, as well as the higher prices of special "UWB" (ultra wide-band) editions for Verizon.
Here's a list of the best Verizon 5G phones:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G ($1399)
- LG V60 ThinQ 5G ($950)
- OnePlus 8 5G ($799)
Samsung's most noteworthy and exclusive S20 series camera specs belong to the Galaxy S20 Ultra
. It has a first-in-class 108MP sensor with record 2.4 micron Bright Night virtual pixels, as well as 5x periscope zoom, 10x hybrid optical, and 100x digital Space Zoom, not mention 8K 30fps or 4K HDR 120fps video recording. A 120Hz high-res display and giant 5000mAh battery round up the best 5G offering on Verizon.
The next best 5G phone you can get on Verizon is the LG V60 ThinQ
. It costs under a grand with the Dual Screen accessory, and has the most amazing battery life out of a 5G phone, thanks to the 1080p display resolution and the ginormous 5000mAh cell. There is only digital zooming but the pictures are very good, and the phone is powered by the latest Snapdragon 865 processor. Moreover, after strapping on a few deals, you can get the V60 for basically free
with a plan.ю
The OnePlus 8
may sit lowest on the totem poll of the best 5G phones for Verizon in price terms, but that's precisely why it's here. At $799, you'd be hard pressed to find a better phone with the latest Snapdragon 865 processor, a quality 90Hz display, good camera, and a large battery.
The best 5G phones to buy on АТ&T
Verizon may have shouted "first" on the 5G connection switch, but AT&T was the one with the first commercially available 5G device a few months prior, albeit it was actually not a phone, but a "puck," the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. Well, the carrier that delivered the "world’s first millimeter wave mobile 5G browsing session" has since added a lot of other gear than Netgear to its 5G street cred.
Here's a list of the best AT&T 5G phones:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G ($10/month) - 6.2" display, 64MP camera, Snapdragon 865
- LG V60 ThinQ 5G (free) - 6.8" display, 64MP camera, Snapdragon 865, 5000mAh battery
Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20+
If you are wondering why aren't we listing the Galaxy S20 Ultra as the best 5G phone for AT&T, well, it is $1399, while Samsung's Galaxy S20 5G is now just $10 a month over 30 months.
That's a $700 discount with a new line, and this deal can only be beat by the amazing LG V60 ThinQ which AT&T gives away for free under the same conditions - after $900 in bill credits applied in equal amounts over 30 monthly installments. Besides the free LG V60 ThinQ, you also score a $150 gift card - you know, a negative price like shale oil.
The best 5G phones to buy on T-Mobile
After its merger with Sprint, the new T-Mobile is very well positioned across the 5G spectrum, and the synergies of its 600MHz band with Sprint's 2500MHz, and whatever it can scrape off in the mmWave bands, are undeniable. There's barely a 5G phone under the sun that T-Mobile doesn't want to carry, but we've set our sights on a few deal-friendly ones to help your choice.
Here's a list of the best T-Mobile 5G phones:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G ($900 if you get two lines) - 108MP camera, periscope zoom, 5000mAh
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G (free with a twofer) - 6.2" display, 64MP camera, Snapdragon 865
- LG V60 ThinQ ($799) - 6.8" display, 64MP camera, Snapdragon 865, 5000mAh battery
- OnePlus 8 5G ($399 with a half-price offer) - 6.55" 90Hz display, triple camera, 4300mAh battery
The best 5G phones to buy on Sprint
Sprint's 2500MHz network is already being retooled into a New T-Mobile one in places like Philadelphia and New York. Unfortunately, this means that the best 5G phones you can get on Sprint are the ones that won't become obsolete after the networks' merge, so we've picked for you only those three that will make it as compatible with the New T-Mobile's network.
Here's a list of the best Sprint 5G phones:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
Starting 4/28/20, the only Sprint devices that support T-Mobile's 5G network are the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G when you install their latest device software updates. Not only was the Galaxy S20 5G the first to benefit from the combined network, but on top of that it enjoys a sweet deal on Sprint, so grab it if you want to be futureproof.
The best unlocked 5G phones you can get in the US
- OnePlus 8 Pro ($999) - 6.8" adaptive 120Hz display, quad-camera, Snapdragon 865
- Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G ($1299)
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G ($1399)
While Samsung's unlocked Galaxies are usually the go-to choice in the US, with 5G the compatibility is not that straightforward. You can, for instance, buy the unlocked Galaxy S20 from Samsung right now, and use it on Verizon right away, as the carrier supports it as BYOD gear.
While you can activate it on Verizon's network, however, it won't have access to Big Red's 5G network, as it doesn't have a mmWave modem. Ditto for the OnePlus 8 Pro
, but at least that one gives you a larger battery and larger display with adaptive 120Hz refresh rate for the same price.