It’s just insane to think that in less than 30 years, we’ve evolved from the humble SMS to watching whatever we want, whenever we want, thanks to mobile data. And now, mobile data speed is kicking it up a notch, with the imminent introduction of both 5G networks and the first 5G-capable smartphones to the Australia market.
Telstra were the first cab off the rank, upgrading some base stations in Sydney and Melbourne to be 5G-ready in late 2018 and then launching their formal consumer offering in May 2019. At that time, the telco announced that 5G access would be free for the first twelve months before becoming a paid add-on for Telstra customers.
Once May 2020 rolls around, consumers will have to pony up an extra $15/month on top of their existing bill to remain connected.
[Related: Everything you need to know about 5G]
It's worth noting that this isn't the only caveat. While Telstra’s 5G network is technically available over 20 "locations" around the country, including regional areas Toowoomba and Launceston, the degree to which each of these places is covered can vary greatly.
The below map of coverage in Sydney (as of January 2020) reflects this nicely. You can get 5G in suburbs Rockdale but not in places like Strathfield or Chatswood. You can find out if Telstra’s 5G network is available in your area here.
Even if the physical footprint of Telstra's 5G network has increased significantly over the last six months, overall coverage is currently very patchy compared to what the existing 4G network covers.
Optus' 5G presence isn't much better and comes with its own bag of caveats. The telco won't be charging extra for 5G. However, their current 5G service does come with a pretty big catch: it currently doesn't work indoors. Optus have indicated this probably won't change until mid-2020 at the earliest.
Check out the map below for a better fix on what Optus' 5G coverage in Sydney looks like as of November 2019. You can find out what Optus 5G coverage looks like in your area by clicking here.
It's a similar story when it comes to 5G smartphones. At the time of writing, there are six 5G-capable smartphones officially available for purchase in Australia - here’s what you need to know about each of them.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Samsung are the first to take advantage of the 5G network with the Galaxy S10 5G, a slightly souped-up version of the flagship S10.
Featuring a 6.7-inch screen and packed with 256GB of storage, a huge 4500mAh battery and wireless charging, the S10 5G is perfect for those always using their phone on the go.
One disadvantage, however, is that the S10 5G lacks a microSD slot for expandable storage. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is available exclusively through a Telstra plan starting at $132 per month. You can check out plans for the device below:
Oppo Reno 5G
Though Samsung may have won the battle, Oppo may have won the war - on screen real estate, that is.
The Reno 5G’s front facing camera isn’t in a notch like many smartphones these days; it actually pops out from the top, like last year’s Oppo Find X. Long story short, you can use every pixel of the near-borderless 6.6-inch screen for binge-watching.
The Oppo Reno 5G will be available to preorder from the 31st of May through Telstra and JB Hi-Fi for a recommended retail price of $1499. It's also available on a number of Telstra plans:
Customers who preorder the Reno 5G will get a free set of Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones (valued at $499). Those who pick the Reno 5G after it goes on sale on the 11th of June will get a set of Bose SoundSport Free Wireless Earphones instead.
LG V50 ThinkQ
If one screen just isn’t enough for you, how about two? Enter the LG V50 ThinkQ 5G (say that five times fast).
The V50 ThinkQ 5G features a 4000mAh battery, 6.4-inch OLED display, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It also features the same triple-lens rear camera configuration found in the earlier LG V40.
What sets the V50 apart from the competition is the Dual Screen accessory, adding a second 6.4-inch screen to be used for multitasking. Amusingly, the device ends up looking somewhat like a vertical Nintendo DS while still feeling like a top-of-the-line smartphone.
The LG V50 ThinkQ 5G will be available exclusively through Telstra from the 11th of June, at an outright price of $1728. It'll also be available on a variety of Telstra plans, starting at $114 per month.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
If the Galaxy S10 5G is Samsung's pitch for the everyday user who wants to get in on 5G early, the Note 10+ 5G is firmly focused on attracting the power users that the Note brand is known for.
The Note10+ 5G features a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, Exynos 9825 processor, stereo speakers, a 4300mAh battery, 12GBs of RAM, 512GB of on-board storage, a triple-lens rear camera and the series' iconic S-Pen stylus.
In our review of the Note10+, we said that "Part of the reason that the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 are so exciting (and the reason why they’re so much fun to write about) is that there’s so much stuff to talk. Samsung really have tried to cram every bell and whistle they can into the Note 10."
In Australia, the 5G-enabled Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G is available for AU$1999. You can check the widget below for a look at how much the device costs on a plan through Telstra and Optus:
Samsung Galaxy A90 5G
Where the Galaxy S10 5G and Note10+ 5G are Samsung's top-of-the-line tech, the Galaxy A90 5G is a little more modest. It's one of the cheapest 5G handsets you can buy, and it genuienly feels like Samsung haven't cut that many corners to make that happen.
The Galaxy A90 5G features a Snapdragon 855 processor, 128GB of storage, a 4500mAh battery and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, a triple-lens rear camera (48-megapixel + 5-megapixel + 8-megapixel), a 32-megapixel front-facing camera plus a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display.
The Galaxy A90 5G is available through Samsung, Telstra, Optus and selected retailers at a local price-point of $1049. You can check out the widget below for a look at the best deals and postpaid plans for the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G.
Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G
Xiaomi surprised everyone last year when they suddenly launched their first 5G phone in Australia without carrier support.
The Mi Mix 3 5G is essentially a rehash of the regular Mi Mix 3 (review here) except that Xiaomi have swapped out the Snapdragon 845 processor inside the device for the more recent and powerful Snapdragon 855 and X50 modem.
Although it initially launched at $1399, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G has since been discounted to $699 - which makes it the cheapest 5G smartphone you can buy in Australia. You can find it via www.mi-store.com.au, Amazon, Catch, eBay and JB Hi-Fi.
Wait a minute, what about Vodafone?
If you're currently a diehard Vodafone customer, I have some bad news. The travel-friendly telco probably won't be offering 5G anytime soon. They signed a 5G partnership with Nokia in December 2019. However, the results of that deal won't pay off for some time.
Vodafone say that they will begin to rollout their 5G services in the first half of 2020. With that in mind, it's not yet clear when they'll look to launch a consumer-grade offering or how they'll look to price it.
Read more: LG V50 ThinQ 5G review: Two bad
Should you buy a 5G phone in 2020?
If you’re interested in buying a 5G phone specifically to use 5G, it still might be best to wait for the network to be more broadly available.
No, seriously. Have a look at Telstra’s current (as of January 2020) 5G coverage in Sydney. The middle of the harbour has more coverage than most of the city.
Unless you absolutely need a new phone right this minute because you dropped yours in the toilet, you’re better off waiting a while - at least until 5G becomes more widely adopted and 5G phones drop off in price. Right now, they’re supremely expensive and there aren't that many places where you get the full value from their 5G capabilities.
There also aren't any real consumer use-cases or popular apps that require 5G yet. The download speeds might be dramatically faster but there aren't any things you can do on a 5G phone that you can't with a 4G device.
So calm your FOMO - you’re not missing out. Unless you’re in the 1% of Australians that will have access to 5G straight away, there’s not much point in upgrading right now.
This article was originally written by Sarah Lewis and updated by Fergus Halliday in January 2020.