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From the Editor's Desk: The Galaxy S20 will be expensive, but so will every other flagship 5G phone

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (Image credit: Android Central)

The latest Galaxy S20 leaks don't paint an affordable picture: a €999 starting price for the Galaxy S20 (with 5G), up to €1349 for the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Typically those Euro prices translate roughly directly to the U.S. prices, so that would point to $999-$1349 stateside. That's a tough pill to swallow when the Galaxy S10e started at $750 this time last year, and the S10+ was $1000 — which is now the new starting price.

Samsunng being the first to launch all-5G flagships isn't an advantage in terms of pricing.

Given how much people balked at the $1100 starting price of the Note 10+ late last year, and the reality that very few people chose to pull the trigger on a $1300 Galaxy S10 5G or Note 10+ 5G in 2019, Samsung could be in for a good share of pushback when people see these Galaxy S20 prices. Even with carrier financing plans, that's $41 to $56 per month for one of these phones. Not to mention that those are just starting prices, with additional storage and RAM likely to add another $100-200 each.

Samsung gets first-mover advantage every year when it launches its Galaxy S phones in February before anyone else, but in this case being first to market with a full range of 5G-only flagships is going to hurt them a bit. It's going to get the brunt of the pushback for the price of the Galaxy S20 series, even though 2020 will eventually show that this is the new normal for flagship 5G phone pricing.

All 2020 flagships with 5G are going to be notably more expensive, so get ready.

The biggest driver of these higher prices is the addition of 5G. The new modem, radios and chipsets to support 5G networking — particularly both Sub-6 and mmWave in one phone — is very expensive right now. We've talked about it before, we've warned people, but it will hit home when you see that price up on the store page. Look at the prices of last-generation 5G phones versus their 4G counterparts — they made no changes whatsoever in the hardware or features, added 5G, and marked up prices about $200. So it should come as little surprise that the Galaxy S20 line is rumored to be about $200 more than their predecessors.

When you buy a Snapdragon 865 phone, you're paying the 5G 'tax' — whether you use it or not.

On some level we can all understand that getting a phone with a new networking technology inside is going to be expensive. The first LTE phones were incredibly "overpriced" at the time, and also had far more compromises in their operation than early 5G phones do. But even if you understand that 5G is driving the higher prices, that doesn't mean you agree with the value proposition — particularly if you live in the large swaths of the U.S. where 5G isn't available yet. And even if you live somewhere with 5G, you'll likely be falling back to LTE regularly.

And indications are that in the U.S., there's not going to be a less-expensive 4G version of any of the S20s to offer a cheaper alternative. That trend, too, will continue — every Snapdragon 865-powered phone will pay the 5G tax, whether you use it or not. We're all going to be paying top-dollar 5G prices even if we don't care about 5G or expect to use it. It'll level out over time, and cheaper mid-range phones with 5G are coming. But in this transition period, while 5G is still fresh and new, get ready to spend big for flaghship phones.

-Andrew

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

29 Comments
  • Heh. Typical of Samsung, they’ll drop the prices of the devices within 1-2 months of release. The “tax” is for owning a 5G device when it immediately comes out.
  • These prices are getting ridiculous , I refuse to pay anywhere near 1000+ for a phone . My Pixel 2 XL will be my last expensive flagship. Looking forward to the Pixel 4a as my replacement.
  • Same here. I'm done. So many phones in the $250 market that are fantastic.
  • As consumers, this is the stand we need to take. As long as the companies see that people are willing to pay a mortgage payment for these phones, they'll keep going up as high as they can with every release. As @MrSegundus said, soon after a release the price drops dramatically on a flagship phone (sometimes by $200). To me this shows that the phones (amazing as they are) the manufacture cost isn't anywhere near the selling price. That's your reward for being a loyal early adopter. :-( I'm finding "budget" phones are really not that bad depending on your needs. Text messages won't be faster on a Samsung S200, for example.
  • The good thing is there are some great deals out there right now on the S10 and S10+. They've been updated to Android 10 and Samsung UI 2.0. I mean for those who are not willing to spend over a thousand dollars plus 🤷🏻‍♂️
  • And for those of us that have S10's, we can totally wait.
  • Typically Samsung has generous trade in programs. If that continues this year it will help to offset the higher prices.
  • Exactly. I always use samsungs trade in program and chose it over any other. Last year I had the Note 9 and traded it for a S10+ and paid $520 plus galaxy buds.
  • Funny enough, if the Ultra actually was $1300 here in Canada that would be affordable for me. However, after conversion this is easily expected to be a $1899+ 13% taxes here. So I'm looking at over 2 G's for this puppy. And that's not even the dual sim variant which I require for my work/personal phone. Good luck to me.
  • Psst... you don't HAVE to buy it. ;)
  • True. But it's too good not to lol.
  • Not to worry, my S10e is chugging along fine, I'm 3 years away from a new phone and I'm good with that!
  • I have no interest in 5G and don't need it. I'll happily keep my Note 10.
  • I am totally happy with my s10+ I've just fully wiped the phone after having it since release day. I gotta say this is the first Samsung phone that didn't even needing doing, but hey I did it and it's like when I first received it absolutely stick stock smooth as butter. Enjoyed the s10 I have and I think I'll try the next Note series when that beast comes out.
    The only thing that will annoy me is when I start seeing all the reviews going on about the new s20 camera features if I can get past that I will definitely wait for the note20 series.
  • If it isn’t 5g on a SOC, get ready for hot phones that die fast, like every other new band phone that had a separate modem. And first gen SOCs are expensive.
  • I will never spend flagship money again!! There are too many mid-range ($300-$450) phones that are just as good or better.. my next phone is the Moto G Stylus.
  • I'm looking at that one too. Looks like the sweet spot.
  • 5G isn't going to bring anything special to the average consumer so don't waste your money. LTE-Advanced offers plenty of bandwidth to watch 4K videos on a device that cannot support that resolution. AR/VR applications are being designed to work on LTE-A just fine. Most networks are going to operate in hybrid mode so you can take advantage of the low bands to get extended coverage. I work with this stuff daily and I will not rush out to buy a 5G phone.
  • I'm waiting for the Note 20 Plus. The ultra version will most likely be too long for me and I don't even want it. 5G, with its presently expensive infrastructure, will not get to my country. 4G network coverage still needs improvement.
  • Get a Note 10 plus 5G for half the price instead, problem solved....
    Or simply don't buy, they will eventually have to drop their prices then.
  • Heh. Typical of Samsung, they’ll drop the prices of the devices within 1-2 months of release.
  • After seeing how well 300-500 phones perform, especially for my use case, I will never buy another $700+ phone again. Good luck selling these overpriced things!!!
  • What about the Galaxy buds plus 🤔🤔🤔
  • They only cost Samsung a tenner to make so a free pair won't make me pre-order this time
  • I thought only the Ultra model was getting 5G and that the smaller S20 is expected to cost $850. The S10e isn't a fair comparison because it's in a different class. Might as well compare the S20 with the A70. For those touting the value of more budget friendly devices, what you read on the spec sheet doesn't always translate to the best experience. I have experience with the Samsung A50, and despite it having a more impressive sounding camera, my S8+ takes better photos and videos. My old flagship is also faster at downloading and installing apps. If cost is a concern, the A series is a good value, but I'd rather get more longevity out of my device. You can get the S9 for about $300 unlocked from Samsung.
  • I will say my s10e has been just as good as my s10.
    With a flat screen to boot
  • You aren't comparing Apples with Apples. The S10 phones were 4G only. The 4G S20 series are roughly the same price as the S10 series.
  • 5G is a niche feature right now, the infrastructure isn't even there. If you're stupid enough to buy a 5G phone you cannot even use in most places expect to pay for it.
  • "And indications are that in the U.S., there's not going to be a less-expensive 4G version of any of the S20s to offer a cheaper alternative." Oh really this changes things, are you sure? They've then just effectively made them more expensive.