Now that Black Friday has come and gone, and Cyber Monday is about to do the same, it's worth talking about why, in late 2020, it's still not worth giving 5G much considering when it comes to buying your new phone.
It's not that 5G is bad — though, in many parts of the world it still is — but it's that for most people, on a day-to-day basis, it really doesn't factor much into how you use your phone. Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T will all beg to differ, because of course they do, but the reality is that there's very little that differentiates your 4G connection from its 5G counterpart right now. That may very well change in the future, but it's true today.
That won't stop them from pointing out ways 5G can magically enhance your experience. Yes, Verizon has the audacity to advertise that its new millimeter-wave network, which can barely penetrate a soft mist when you're in line of sight of the tower, can enhance sports, gaming, AR and, journalism.
It's likely that 5G will be an important talking point in a couple of years, when developers and users and marketers and the internet as a whole have caught up with the technology that lets bits travel tighter and faster through the air, but that time isn't now. I've been connecting to 5G every day since the middle of the year, and I've yet to have a single wow moment beyond a speed test, and even then the wow is kind of muted, more like a soft whoa.
There's an argument to be made that you're buying a 5G phone now to secure your place in that revolution, when the inevitable moment arrives where 5G proves its mettle and the whole narrative comes into focus. Sure, maybe.
The issue that phone buyers are having is that it's pretty difficult to buy a phone that isn't 5G-capable these days. Basically if you're buying a phone in the U.S., you're likely buying one with a Qualcomm 5G modem in it (including the latest iPhones), and if you're signing up for a new phone plan with any of the Big Three carriers (and quite a few of their MVNO partners), you're getting a 5G plan. You no longer have a choice.
For all of 5G's limited usefulness, it does have one tangible effect on your phone: it makes it more expensive. As Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 proliferated in 2020, phone prices continued to rise across the board, as phone makers spent more money on the complex and expensive components that go into building a 5G-capable handset. That extra cost got passed onto you, and OEMs tried to obscure it by leaning into the 5G hype, or focusing on other elements like display tech and cameras.
But it's the display tech and cameras — and many other things — that should inform your buying decision around the best Android phones. If you can get away with buying a Pixel 4a because of its great camera and you don't mind the mediocre screen or lack of 5G, do it. If you want a better screen, get a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, which has more-but-worse cameras, a beautiful display, and also happens to have 5G. If you need all of the above, and can spend a bit more, get a OnePlus 8 Pro.
Most phones are slightly discounted over Cyber Monday — that's why the shopping holiday exists — but when you're deciding on an the best phone deal, don't let 5G get in your way. It just complicates the conversation, and makes it about something it shouldn't be.
The best phone deal around
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE | $151 off at Amazon
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE was voted Best Phone of 2020 by Android Central for a good reason — it provides a ton of incredible functionality for way less than a typical flagship. And you don't sacrifice many features while you say. A beautiful 120Hz panel, the fastest current processor, plenty of RAM and storage, and awesome cameras — this phone has it all. At $550 for Cyber Monday, this is the best phone deal you'll find anywhere.
Google Pixel 4a with free Galaxy Buds Live + $100 back at Visible
Visible uses Verizon's 4G LTE network while offering some of the most affordable phone plans around at just $40/month! Today you can score free Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds and a $100 prepaid Mastercard when you switch to Visible and buy the Google Pixel 4a either outright or with monthly device payments starting at $14/month.
OnePlus 8 Pro | $799.99 at Amazon
Amazon is offering $199 off the cost of the OnePlus 8 Pro today in your choice of Ultramarine Blue or Onyx Black while supplies last. These models have Amazon Alexa built-in.
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