Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
ExpertiseContent strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
In exactly two weeks, Samsung is set to reveal the Galaxy S20 series of flagship phones and the Galaxy Z Flip, a foldable clamshell device whose screen folds from top to bottom down the middle. Rumors are pouring in that the Galaxy S20 will be a bigger update than in past years, with a new camera design, new screen technology and 5G data to help push us into the era of faster speeds.
It's a different world than a year ago, when hype was high for 5G and the first foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, but expectations were otherwise lukewarm for mainstream handsets. Sales were stagnant, devices felt same-same, and while we knew change was in the air, nobody was sure if the 5G and foldable phone revolutions would go to plan.
Now, devices like the Galaxy S20 and Huawei P40 Pro have the chance to deliver on some of last year's dramatic promises. Add to those faster screen refresh rates, support for 8K video, photographic skills like seriously impressive periscope zoom technology and astrophotography, and you have yourself some excitement creeping back into the phone game.
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The annual CES electronics show in January taught us that cheaper foldable phones are coming, 5G prices are dropping and camera elements are becoming more important. Here are even more important things you have to look forward to with this year's phones.
What 5G can do for you besides fast phone downloads
5G networks kicked off in 2019, but the handful of phones had to be there to support them were either extremely expensive or had extremely limited 5G networks to work with. 5G phones also have a tendency to overheat when it's hot out, with the 5G connection shutting down to keep the phone from reaching dangerous internal temperatures.
Despite 2019's growing pains, 5G is inevitable in 2020. In countries where carriers are building out their 5G networks, expect every premium phone to be either 5G-ready or have a 5G variant. For example,
Galaxy S20 will likely be one of the first to bring 5G to many more people.
Once 5G networks become more widespread, phones will be able to access significantly higher data speeds and more responsive service, which could mean:
Lighting-fast downloads of large files, like Netflix shows to watch offline.
Seamless video calls.
Amazing graphics on streaming real-time games and AR experiences.
A split-second advantage in responsiveness when shooters like Fortnite.
If 2019 was the year of seeing foldable phones come to life, then 2020 is about determining if phone screens that bend are a potential future or a gimmick destined to be forgotten like 3D displays.
have launched foldable phones that work, each with their own design. The Galaxy Fold gives us a book design that opens into a tablet. The even larger Mate X has one big wraparound screen around the outside of the device, which can be used three different ways. And the
is a small phone flips up vertically to reveal a tall, narrow display within.
Foldable phones seek to give you a larger screen in a much smaller body. In 2019, they're expensive, ranging from $1,500 for the totable Razr to over $2,000 for the Galaxy Fold and roughly $2,400 for the Mate X.
That's at least 50% more expensive up front than you'd spend on a premium superphone, like the $1,000
iPhone 11 Pro
. Consider, too, that foldable phone screens are made of plastic, a more fragile material than glass. They're more prone to scratches and damage from too much direct pressure.
Mobile phone photography made deep strides in 2019, with advancements in telephoto quality and advanced image processing. For example, telephoto and/or wide-angle sensors have now become standard for high-end phones. The Huawei P30 Pro is notable for its periscope lens that achieves incredible zoom results using a combination of optical and digital zoom.
Phone brands are also using sophisticated sensors and post-processing to achieve shots that were previously only achievable on DSLR cameras. The standout was Google Pixel 4's astrophotography mode, which is capable of taking sharp photos of the starry sky, assuming you're in a dark enough place to begin with. It's astounding.
The standard refresh rate is currently 60Hz. That indicates the number of times the images on your display update per second. So, 60Hz equals 60 refreshes, and 120Hz equals 120 refreshes per second.
A faster refresh rate makes graphics look smoother, which is important for fast-paced and graphically heavy games. But It also enhances graphics for 4K video, screen animations and even scrolling through a web page or your app drawer.
Right now, only a handful of phones have 90Hz or 120Hz screens built in, like the
Google Pixel 4
. The setting is optional, because increasing the screen refresh rate by 50% (90Hz) or 100% (120Hz) takes a toll on your battery.
Fast charging will get faster
Your phone is only as good as its battery, because if it runs out of charge, or you're dashing for the nearest outlet, then your phone's no good to you.
A bigger battery that holds more charge is one solution. Fast-charging is another. The idea is that if you can't get everything you need out of your battery, you can at least give yourself most of one in as little as 30 minutes.
For example, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with a 25-watt charger that fills up your empty battery in about an hour. It also works with a 45-watt charger that fills your battery up in half the time.
So it's pretty inevitable that fast charging and battery maintenance are going to become even more of a hot topic in 2020. The fastest fast chargers will start showing up as a matter of course, and we could potentially see Samsung start including 45-watt chargers in the box for its most expensive phones.
Phone prices have been on the rise in the last several years, with new camera features and larger screen sizes used to justify the hike in cost.
Enter 5G, foldable phone designs and even more camera, battery and processor enhancements and it's clear to see that prices will only go up, at least on the high end. We'll always see more moderate pricing for midrange phones, especially those that use older technology.
Phones that are 4G-only, or which use a midrange 5G processor like the Snapdragon 765 chipset will also be able to dodge the steepest costs. But on the whole, expect 5G phones to cost more than
with the same parts. Also expect that affordable 5G phones will downshift specs in exchange for 5G support -- and they might not be all that good.
Originally published earlier this month and updated with new information.
Galaxy Fold redesign: Here's how Samsung fixed its foldable phone