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Do not buy a 5G smartphone – at least not for a while

  5G is here, but that does not mean you have to buy into it.
Enlarge / 5G is here, but it does not mean you have to buy. [19659003] 2019 is going to be the 5G year, that's what the mobile industry continues to say. We are going to see the launch of more 5G smartphones from OEMs like Samsung, Motorola and OnePlus, and carriers want to talk about themselves to tell you how amazing their new 5G networks are, despite coming with a number of stars . I'd like to do something about how ridiculous 5G hype has been, but it's hard to top-up quotes from business leaders, like Verin's claim that 5G will "dramatically improve our global community." Faster mobile internet is coming, but should you care about it yet?

Qualcomm has recently received its major 201

9 chip message, and as the world's largest smartphone chip provider, giving us a good idea of ​​what the upcoming 5G hardware will look like. The industry is doing its best to hype 5G up as The Next Big Thing ™, but 5G hardware in 2019 is going to be a certain first-generation affair. Early adopt for 5G must accept any kind of deviation. And when it may not even be 5G reception in your area, it might be better to just wait the whole thing for a year or two.

A 5G mmWave Primer: Using the Range as No Wanted

"5G" is a shorthand reference for the next generation of mobile network technology launched in 2019. The entire name of the G name started in the 1990s with the launch of GSM , which was called "second generation" -aka "2G" -Av mobile network technology. GSM upgraded early networks from analog to digital, and the old analog networks got the retroactive name "1G." Since then, we have received new "G" numbers with highly coordinated network upgrades every 10 years. These iterations took important features like SMS and MMS, IP-based networks and mobile Internet, and of course more speed.

Today, modern smartphones run on 4G-LTE, operating somewhere in 450 MHz to 5.9 GHz range. The move to 5G will include improvements to the existing LTE infrastructure, but the 5G defining feature is addition of a new range of spectrum in the 24 GHz to 90 GHz series. The industry has committed itself to calling this new 5W spectrum "mmWave" (millimeter wave) and it will require new hardware in the phone, new hardware on the towers, and major changes in today's phone and network design.

  MmWave offers many spectrum, but it's hard to use. "src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/24-1-980x397.jpg "width =" 980 "height =" 397
Enlarge / MmWave offers many spectrum, but it's hard to use.


We are accustomed to these G Network upgrades coming with a compelling sales line about how much better everything will be, but moving to 5G mmWave is not a slam-dunk argument. Since mmWave runs at a significantly higher frequency than LTE, it means that it comes without a lack of deviation. MmWave has worse ranges and worse penetration relative to LTE. An mmWave signal can be blocked by buildings, trees, and even your hand. MmWave does not work well in rain or fog, and the ~ 60 GHz lump of this spectrum can actually be absorbed by oxygen. It's right-a piece. The wave range can be blocked by the air.

With so many problems to overcome, mmWave sounds like a terrible amount of spectrum to build a mobile network until you consider two key points: higher frequency means mmWave has good bandwidth and low latency if you can get it and most Of all, the range is available. MmWave is not used too much right now because there is such a pain in the butt to work with. So if you can figure out all the implementation issues, you suddenly have a large amount of airspace to work with. It's actually the first thing these companies are talking about when they take up mmWave. Everything is going to be very, very hard and complicated, they say, but it's going to be worth it.

LTE debuted in 2011, and the last 7 years have seen significant advances in making 4G smartphone hardware less, faster and more efficient. With 5G, we will lose a lot of this technical maturity by packing up tons of new and expensive 5G hardware.

Discrete 5G Modems-Multiple Components, More Power Consumption, Less Batteries

Smartphones today are almost entirely powered by a single chip, suitably called a "SoC" or "System on a Chip." As the name suggests, these are the most basic parts you need to create a computer on a single small piece. There are usually many CPU cores, a GPU, an "ISP" for camera functionality, Wi-Fi and more. RAM is not technically included on this chip, but in order to save space, RAM is actually stacked on top by SoC. The main-off-SoC component is the storage space, and over the motherboard it will typically be a sprinkle of small chips for power management, audio, Bluetooth, NFC and other things. From there, it's the motherboard's job to connect everything to everything else and then get hell out of the way so as much as possible the phone can be filled with battery.

The point is that Space is in a premium within a smartphone and while you can not do much to control the size of core components such as the SoC, Camera, SIM card or USB port, the battery is the only part that can be as big or as small as you want it to be. When you think of "size" in a smartphone, you should think about "battery". Everything that gets bigger means less battery. Everything that adds an extra component means less battery. The battery gets all remaining space in a smartphone. (This is basically the headphone draft argument.)

In recent years, smartphone manufacturers have all tried to convince us that we do not need a headphone jack and the argument has been that removing them means less complexity and more space for the battery. Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan put a number to this argument: He said that skipping a headphone jack in Razer Phone meant that the company could increase the battery capacity at 500mAh.

Why is this important in an article about 5G? The short answer is that 5G mmWave requires much more hardware than 4G, which brings up all these battery sizes and problems with device complexity.

  5G requires a separate chip, even on Qualcomm's new SoC. "Src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/snapdragon-855-mobile-platform-hero-image-980x323.png "width =" 980 "height =" 323 [19659002] Enlarge <span class= / 5G requires a separate chip, even on Qualcomm's new SoC.


Qualcomm's biggest advantage in the 4G era has been its modems. Qualcomm, through a combination of technological know-how and intellectual property rights, is the only chip maker to combine a SoC and a single-chip modem and sell it all over the world at a low cost.

This single-chip solution is a major advantage, resulting in a smaller, less complex, cheaper motherboard and more space for battery. Merging everything to a single chip also results in power saving while the phone is running, since a chip usually has less power than two chips. For years, Qualcomm users have had SoCs with embedded 4G LTE modems, and the company rode this design advantage to market domination. Today, as a high-end SoC provider, Qualcomm is basically a monopoly, with almost all Android flagships using Qualcomm SoC.

Qualcomm recently showed its flagship SoC for 2019, Snapdragon 855. While the company spent hours beyond target Hyping up Snapdragon 855s 5G compatibility, it will not actually have a 5G mmWave modem on board. 855 want LTE on board, as usual, but 5G phones need their own modem. Qualcomm is going to lose its one-chip advantage for 5G. As explained above, this means less battery power and more power consumption.

We have already lived through the entire "first-gen network hardware" routine before. When the switch to 4G occurred, the first party came with new 4G hardware with the same discrete modem compromise as we would like to see with 5G. The most famous example was HTC Thunderbolt, the first 4G device on Verizon's network. This used Qualcomms Snapdragon MSM8655 SoC (before the simplified model numbers!) With a separate Qualcomm MDM9600 LTE modem. Thunderbolt was a disaster since it included all this new 4G hardware with just a 1400mAh battery. It was thick, hot, slow, buggy, and had terrible battery life. Thunderbolt makes regular lists of "the worst phones at all times", and an HTC employee, despite apology for the phone's creation. New network hardware can be a disaster if you do it wrong.

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