We strolled by Samsung's enormous booth, hoping to get our hands on the 5G prototype phone that Samsung brought to CES 2019 in Las Vegas. And there we found it, trapped behind glass in its dock, so near yet so far away.
At first glance, the phone doesn't look like anything special. Again, it's a prototype, not a final design, so we can't even say it's Samsung's first phone. The most we can assume is that this the device Samsung's using as the basis for its first 5G phones.
The presence of the phone here is important, even from afar, despite the fact that not much has changed since we first saw the prototype in the very same dock at Qualcomm's annual tech summit in Maui, Hawaii last month. With this showpiece, Samsung is staking its claim as a 5G mover and shaker. The world's largest smartphone maker is signalling that it's bullish on 5G, after announcing that it'll have its first in the first half of 2019, and . (But this will be .)
Samsung is also rumored to have a 5G-capable version of its upcoming. (The Galaxy S10 launch event .)
Although these 5G networks aren't ready yet, phonemakers are eager to get ahead of the curve. Having compatible handsets ready to go when the networks turn on their 5G services will give the first brands an advantage with early adopters, and earn brownie points for appearing to be first to the next-generation wireless technology. The transition from 3G to 4G phones was slow, and carriers and device-makers alike would like to hasten the transition.
Ushering in the 5G era isn't without its pitfalls. 5G phones and hotspots will T-Mobile because the mix of bands each network uses is so different. (Read .), and so will 5G service plans. That's partly because networks and device makers have to cover their expenses for building out these networks and testing them, and partly because vendors have to tailor-make each device to a specific network. A 5G phone for AT&T will never work on
The definition of 5G is also a touchy subject. AT&T learned the hard way when Verizon and T-Mobile 4G LTE service as 5G E, which stands for 5G Evolution. AT&T rebutted that it was " " of its marketing term.for branding its advanced
If CES 2019 has taught us anything, it's that the path to 5G is, but no less vital in the year to come.
: Feb. 20 at Samsung's Unpacked event in San Francisco
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