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Galaxy S10 5G phone will launch first at Verizon in Q2

The super-fast phone will head to AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile later that same quarter, and will also show up in other countries.

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The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will launch first on Verizon's network. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want Samsung's super-fast 5G phone ASAP, you'll have to be a Verizon subscriber. 

The Galaxy S10 5G will be available first on Verizon's network when it launches in the second quarter. It then will be sold by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile later that same quarter. 

Samsung didn't give specific details about the launch dates or pricing, but Drew Blackard, Samsung senior director of product marketing, told CNET after Unpacked that the device will be more of an "incremental step-up" from the $1,000 S10 Max, not a huge jump like the $1,980 Galaxy Fold. He noted it will be over $100 more expensive but declined to give any further specifics. 

"That's natural because it has a bigger battery, more cameras and also has 5G," Blackard said in an interview.

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The phone is essentially the Galaxy S10 Plus on steroids. It has an extra camera lens on the back, bigger battery and other features that makes it the highest-end phone Samsung will have available the first half of the year.

Samsung unveiled the phone Wednesday at its Unpacked event in San Francisco. The launch came with a host of announcements, including the introduction of Samsung's new flagship smartphones -- the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and cheaper S10E. 

5G speeds

5G technology is expected to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run between 10 and 100 times faster than your typical cellular connection today, and even quicker than anything you can get with a physical fiber-optic cable going into your house. It will also connect a device to the network faster, with speeds as quick as a millisecond to start your download or upload.

The overall speed gains mean that phones will be better equipped to handle complex computing tasks in a fraction of the time they currently take. This could make possible advanced photography features, artificial intelligence actions and augmented reality apps, all of which would take far too long to process with today's phones. 5G technology will also allow driverless cars and buses to talk to each other, as well as surrounding objects, such as smart streetlights.

"5G will change everything," Blackard said during the Unpacked keynote. "It's true, it won't happen overnight. [But] the whole tech industry has been laying the groundwork for 5G for decades."

Samsung has tended to be ahead of the pack when it comes to new technologies. Its devices were some of the first to use OLED displays, and it also released slightly curved phones early on. It's natural for the company to push into 5G as quickly as possible. Samsung, facing a slowdown in smartphone demand, hopes 5G -- along with foldables and other new device features -- will help get consumers excited about phones again.

Samsung said in December that it would introduce a 5G phone for Verizon, AT&T and other wireless providers in the first half of 2019. Its first device uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor paired with the chipmaker's X50 5G modem

The US carriers are in a race to be first with the faster networks -- and woo the biggest handset makers. When it comes to the wooing, Verizon appears to be ahead. Along with Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G launching first on its 5G network, Motorola soon will release a 5G "Mod," or module, that attaches to the back of the Moto Z3 to let it run on the faster wireless network.

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Verizon will be the first carrier to get Samsung's 5G phone. But other carriers in the US and around the world will also be getting the device later this year.  

CNET

Supercharged Galaxy S10

The Galaxy S10 5G has a 6.7-inch display packed into a device about the same size of the Note 9. The older device is 6.37 inches long by 3.01 inches wide and has a 6.4-inch display. The Galaxy S10 Plus also has a 6.4-inch display. 

"While it's a big display [in the Galaxy S10 5G], it's not a big phone," Suzanne De Silva, director of product marketing at Samsung Electronics America, said at a press meeting ahead of Unpacked. 

The camera set-up is similar to the Galaxy S10 Plus, but the Galaxy S10 5G also has a fourth lens on the back of the device to give 3D-depth information for augmented reality and other tasks. But it's not capable of 3D mapping for secure biometrics to unlock the phone, like what Apple has done with Face ID

The Galaxy S10 5G has a 4500 milliamp battery, larger than the 4100 milliamp battery packed into the Galaxy S10 Plus. 5G phones are expected to consume more power than 4G LTE phones, which means they need bigger batteries to get through the day. 

Samsung isn't saying yet how much the device will cost, but it's likely to be pricier than its fancy Galaxy S10 Plus. That phone starts at $1,000 for 128Gb of storage. Samsung also hasn't finalized the colors, but the model viewed by CNET ahead of the launch was a shiny, silver metallic finish. It also has a 5G logo on the back. 

The initial 5G phones on the market are expected to be expensive. It's possible they could be significantly higher than 4G LTE variants. OnePlus, for instance, believes its first 5G phone may be $200 to $300 higher than this year's flagship OnePlus 6T. That's a whopping 36 percent to 55 percent increase over the older device. 

Justin Denison, Samsung's senior vice president of mobile, in December at a Qualcomm conference said the belief is that 5G's expanded capabilities will make consumers willing to shell out more because they feel like they're getting more. "If you generate enough value [in the phone], then consumers will be ready to pay," he said at the time.

Originally published at 11:30 a.m. PT
Update at 1:22 p.m. PT: Adds comments from Samsung executive.

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