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.
We strolled by Samsung's enormous booth, hoping to get our hands on the
prototype phone that Samsung brought to
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
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 5G phone for Verizon in the first half of 2019, and two 5G phones with AT&T. (But this will be Verizon's first 5G phone.)
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 cost a premium, 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
because the mix of bands each network uses is so different. (Read more about that here.)
The definition of 5G is also a touchy subject. AT&T learned the hard way when Verizon and T-Mobile bashed their rival for branding its advanced
service as 5G E, which stands for 5G Evolution. AT&T rebutted that it was "proud" of its marketing term.
If CES 2019 has taught us anything, it's that the path to 5G is more confusing than ever, but no less vital in the year to come.
From Apple to Samsung: 5G phones available right now