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Samsung makes 5G cheaper with Galaxy A90 5G phone

The device will cost 749 euros (about $827) when it arrives in Europe in October, making it nearly $500 less than Samsung's other 5G phones.

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Samsung's Galaxy A90 5G is the company's cheapest 5G phone -- by nearly $500. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Samsung's got another 5G phone -- and it's one of the cheapest available. The new Galaxy A90 5G will cost 749 euros (about $827) when it hits the market, making it nearly $500 less than Samsung's other 5G phones.

The 6.7-inch device, which Samsung unveiled at the IFA electronics show in Berlin, sports three rear cameras, including a 48-megapixel lens and one 32-megapixel front camera. It's powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor and X50 5G modem. For the first time in the A-Series, you can connect the phone to a monitor or PC using Samsung DeX and Microsoft's Your Phone app.

The phone comes in two color options, black and white, with a geometric pattern on the back glass. It will be available in Korea on Wednesday before expanding to other markets. The A90 5G will come to Europe in October, Samsung said Thursday during its IFA press conference. It's unclear whether the device will arrive in the US, and a Samsung spokesperson declined to comment. 

The biggest feature of the A90 is its 5G connectivity, the first time Samsung's expanded the super-fast wireless technology to its cheaper handsets. 

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"With its launch, we now have a full portfolio of 5G devices," Nicole Ng, product manager for Samsung Europe, said Thursday during the company's IFA press conference.

5G is touted as a game-changing technology, with the ability to dramatically boost the speed and coverage of wireless networks. It can run between 10 and 100 times faster than your typical 4G cellular connection today. And latency, the amount of time between when your phone pings the network and when it responds, is faster than what Wi-Fi provides.

But the first 5G devices have been expensive. The Galaxy S10 5G costs $1,299, while the regular S10 starts at $900. The new Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G retails for $1,300, while the 4G model starts at $1,100. Samsung also will sell a 5G version of the Galaxy Fold that's likely to cost more than the $1,980 4G model. 

At 749 euros, about $827, the A90 5G is one of the cheapest 5G phones on the market, and it's a bargain compared to Samsung's other 5G phones. A-series phones cost hundreds less than their Galaxy S and Note siblings, while still having many of the same features. 

For instance, customers can buy the Galaxy A50 for Verizon and other US networks for $350. The device includes a 6.4-inch display and three cameras on the back. Both of those features are also found in the Galaxy S10 Plus, which starts at $1,000.

By bringing 5G to the Galaxy A lineup so soon, Samsung's making the network technology accessible to more people. Not everyone can shell out over $1,000 for a 5G phone, even if they'll hold onto the device for several years. By late next year, 5G networks will be widespread and anyone buying a new phone will want to opt for a device that taps into that technology. Offering 5G in the A90 will help even more people use 5G sooner. 

"Samsung has worked tirelessly with our partners in the 5G ecosystem to bring 5G to as many people as possible, and now we are offering 5G connectivity across the entire Galaxy smartphone portfolio, giving more people high speed access and connected experiences," DJ Koh, CEO of Samsung's mobile business, said in a press release. 

Galaxy A boost

Smartphone makers, led by Samsung and Apple, have been jacking up prices over the last few years. But consumers have been pushing back. It's Samsung's less expensive Galaxy A lineup that's proven to be popular with buyers in recent months. 

Apple and Samsung in late July reported earnings for the June quarter that showed how hard it's been to sell pricey handsets. In Apple's case, iPhone sales dropped 12% from the previous year, and its overall net income tumbled 13%. Analysts believe the iPhone XR, the company's cheapest new model at $749, has become more popular than Apple's $999 iPhone XS and $1,099 iPhone XS Max. The company's next iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 11, may also struggle. 

Samsung's overall handset sales for the second quarter, meanwhile, rose about 7% to 24.3 trillion won (about $20 billion) -- and the company increased its lead in the global smartphone market share by two percentage points to 22%, according to Strategy Analytics. But the gain was largely because of the cheaper A Series devices. As Samsung noted, its overall phone shipments increased from the first to second quarter because of "strong sales of the new Galaxy A Series, including the Galaxy A50 and A70."

Many of those devices have features similar to those found in Samsung's pricier phones, and some even have characteristics not found in the Galaxy S and Note lines.

The Galaxy A80 became the first, and so far only, Samsung phone to sport a rotating, pop-up camera when it launched in April. The phone's sole camera array automatically flips around when toggled into selfie mode and contains a 48-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultrawide and a time-of-flight sensor that can be used for facial recognition. 

"The new devices, from the A10 to the A80, accounted for more than 50% of Samsung's shipments in Q2," Canalys noted after Samsung's earnings report. They're "expected to drive volume growth for Samsung for the rest of the year."

A 5G future

5G is finally live in the US and other countries around the globe. Many networks today are spotty, and coverage can be sparse. And there aren't many devices that tap into 5G. Samsung's one of the few companies to launch more than one 5G phone. With the Galaxy A90 5G, it now has three. 

When it comes to 5G devices available now, Samsung has launched the $1,299 Galaxy S10 5G and the $1,300 across all four major networks in the US. The Note 10 Plus 5G initially will be available only on Verizon before moving to other 5G networks. Later this year, a version with a different modem for AT&T and T-Mobile will become available, and if you live in South Korea and other markets outside the US, you'll be able to buy the smaller Note 10 with a 5G connection.

Like virtually all 5G phones available today, the A90 uses Qualcomm's X50 modem, which only taps into certain flavors of 5G. That includes the ultra-fast millimeter wave networks of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, and Sprint's midband network. It can connect to some low-band, sub-6Ghz networks as well, but not the kind favored by AT&T and T-Mobile in their broader network rollouts. 

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Samsung's Note 10 Plus comes with a version that runs on 5G.

Angela Lang/CNET

It's unclear if the A90 5G will come to the US, but if it does, it may be limited in terms of networks it can access. It would be one of the cheapest 5G phones available. 

Most 5G phones hover above the $1,000 level. LG'S V50 ThinQ, for instance, costs $1,152 at Sprint and $1,000 at Verizon. The Oppo Reno 5G, which isn't officially available in the US, costs about $1,030, when converted from its Australian price of AU$1,499. In the UK, it's sold exclusively via monthly plans through EE, from £49. 

Other less expensive devices include the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which will cost $840 when it arrives on Sprint's network this week. Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3 5G sold for 599 euros ($679) when it hit the market in May, an amount that's less than many 4G phones today. Lenovo's Moto Z4 -- which connects to 5G with a Moto Mod accessory that attaches to the back of the phone using magnetic pins -- costs $499 for the phone itself and extra for the Mod. For a limited time you can get both for $440, making the Z4 the cheapest 5G phone yet.

The Galaxy A90 5G may not be that cheap, but for Samsung fans, it's a steal. 

Originally published on Sept. 3 at 3 a.m. PT
Update with Europe availability information on Sept. 5 at 2:30 a.m. PT. 

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