Looking to buy a Verizon 5G phone today? Here's why you'll want it to be an iPhone 12, Galaxy S21 or Pixel 5

Your options today are limited if you want to ensure that you'll have the best Verizon 5G experience going forward.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming
Eli Blumenthal
2 min read
Angela Lang/CNET

Verizon's 5G service is going to be getting a big boost later this year when it adds some new midband 5G spectrum. The nation's largest carrier spent nearly $53 billion buying the airwaves, known as C-band, which can offer significantly faster speeds than its existing "nationwide" 5G network and better coverage than its fastest millimeter-wave offering. 

While the improved network won't be available until December, Verizon on Wednesday announced that a few of its phones already support the spectrum, including last year's iPhone 12 line and the Google Pixel 5, as well as the recently released Galaxy S21 line. Verizon Consumer Group CEO Ronan Dunne added that all upcoming 5G phones on the carrier will support the frequency, which can provide peak download speeds of 1 gigabit per second. 

On Thursday the carrier confirmed to CNET that its other 2020 5G devices -- even those still being sold today -- will not be able to take advantage of the faster spectrum, even if you have one of the "premium" unlimited plans that Verizon requires for this network. This includes the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 lines, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 foldable and the LG Wing. 

Read more: Best 5G phones for 2021

The issue, at least for some of the phones, appears to be whether the devices have the necessary support for the C-band frequency. As it's a hardware feature, there's no way to enable or add access to the airwaves with a software update if it is not already inside the phone. Since the modems inside the iPhone 12, Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 already support the spectrum, all they will need is a software update later this year to be able to access the faster 5G network.

It's worth noting that these other 5G phones will continue to work fine on 4G LTE and 5G, and the service should even improve as the carrier continues to upgrade both networks. However, with more people holding onto their phones for longer periods of time before upgrading, Verizon customers looking to buy a new device now should keep this in mind before making a purchase. 

Watch this: Camera comparison: Galaxy S21 vs. iPhone 12