Last week, Apple announced its very first 5G iPhone, shortly after Google announced its $500 5G phone. But before you run to get these, the first thing you have to do is make sure that 5G is offered where you live, and that it’s worthwhile. You don’t want to spend half your paycheck on one of these phones only to realize later that it was a bust.
If you’ve been waiting for a while before you make the switch to 5G, you may want to start thinking about it. But because 5G phones can be more pricey, here’s how you can find out whether it’s the right call for you.
Before we dive into the details of where to find a 5G signal, it’s worth looking into whether or not this is a service that you need. Though it sounds very logical to want 5G (Faster speed? We all need that!), you just as well may not need it, especially if you already have a pretty fast wireless connection at home. For the better part of the decade, major carriers in the U.S. have rolled out their 4G LTE networks, and the speeds that they already carry are pretty fast. The speeds that they provide are not too far off from the average home internet speed.
The speeds are already somewhere between 30-50 Mbps, which is normally enough to stream videos, download apps, listen to music, and many of the other tasks you normally do online. So why would you need 5G? 5G speed will ultimately be useful for bigger endeavors such as connecting your car to the internet, or streaming games from services such as xCloud (even though these are new services in and of themselves).
So before you make that purchase and buy a 5G phone because of its “faster speeds,” make sure that you actually need the higher speed for a specific service or task. Do you need to upload large files such as videos that need a higher speed? Do you plan to do a lot of gaming and game streaming? If so, then you may actually make use of a 5G connection—but even then, it may be a bumpy ride for now.
Does your phone support 5G?
The second question to ask yourself is whether your phone actually currently supports 5G. If your phone is specifically marketed as being a phone that supports 5G, well, it probably supports some version of 5G. In fact, some carriers were misleading their users through using a “5G E” label (like AT&T) on phones that do not necessarily support the high speed function. But even among phones that actually support 5G (like the iPhone 12 and the Galaxy S20), the technicalities of the function haven’t been completely figured out. The phones may support a spectrum that is fast but one that doesn’t travel far and can’t really even penetrate building walls. That means the range is limited, especially in urban and dense cities.
So after all, whether your phone supports 5G or not, it may be too early to get into that game. While spotty coverage is normal when features are just beginning to be rolled out, these upgrades will cost you a fortune.
Where can you get 5G coverage?
And finally, the most important question of all: where does your carrier actually have 5G coverage?
The best way to know is by using your carrier’s coverage map. You can check out Verizon’s 5G map that is color coded to show areas covered by typical 5G. On the other hand, T-Mobile’s coverage map is more straightforward. So, if you’re outside a coverage area, then honestly, you’re probably better off waiting.
5G may not be what it’s all cranked up to be yet—the feature has just started rolling out and it takes a little bit of time for it to develop fully. So do your research and decide wisely before you make that new big purchase!