Three years after the first 5G phone landed in Europe, 5G still hasn’t proven itself

It’s been three years since the very first 5G phone was launched in Europe, and the handsets that followed it have met with mixed reception; 5G was expected to be a revolution for 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 has become an early battleground for 5G phone companies, as it was one of the first to get 5G networks earlier that year.

Oppo beat Huawei and Xiaomi, which 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 victory came as a surprise because at the time Oppo was not as big in Europe as it is today. With last year with the Oppo Find X5 Pro, the OnePlus merger and major sponsorships such as Wimbledon, it’s easy to forget that 2019 was pretty fresh.

In the big European launch, subsequent 5G phone launches and 5G network rollouts throughout 2019, one thing was made clear: 5G is the future. But after using next-gen connectivity technology in various phones for three years, I’m not convinced that’s the case.

Why 5G?

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G (Image credit: TechRadar)

5G has two main selling points: it offers faster speeds than 4G and also promises a more reliable connection – all in theory, of course, as these factors will largely depend on your network and location.

However, the benefits of a more stable connection are that you can download apps, movies, or music on the go, as well as play mobile games online while on the go.

Of course, depending on what area you’re in, all of this is possible over 4G, but there’s more. In several 5G network launches, it was pointed out that 4G initially seemed useless, but after several years of existence, developers were learning how best to use this technology. The result was apps like Instagram and Uber that hadn’t worked well on 3G.

So, in 2019, the future looked bright for 5G, and I was looking forward to all the changes that might come to smartphones in the future. But that’s the future now, and I’m still waiting.

5G is unproven

I’ve been using 5G phones since the technology launched in 2019, testing different functions on different networks in different countries on different mobiles. However, when someone recently asked me if they needed to buy a 5G phone, I had to be honest and say “no”.

Sure, the novelty of being able to download an episode of a TV show on my way to the subway was nice, but I never watch TV on the subway, so it was a redundant feature. And sure, video calling on the go was quick and easy, but I don’t want to inflict my calls on other people; I prefer to keep it for my return home.

In addition, these functions worked very well on 4G. In fact, in some places I’ve tested phones, 4G was faster than 5G. So far there are no killer 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 connecting to the web on the go much more convenient; but a few years at home made that much less important.

In addition, user habits have changed; the shift to working from home and spending more time indoors has seen 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 lead to severe battery drain and are also expensive, driving up the price of 5G devices.

Hopefully in the future, applications and software will make 5G a vital technology – yes, I said this in 2019, but three years was not enough. Technology isn’t moving as fast as its biggest fan, and companies, want you to believe – and in 2022, buying a 5G phone still isn’t a necessity.

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