We are inching close to a hyper-connected world thanks to the upcoming 5G technology. The fifth generation of cellular mobile communications would be a successor to the 4G network, that we are currently consuming. Although we are still a couple of years away (in India) from mainstream 5G availability and adoption, 5G-capable phones are already here.
5G brings the following improvements to the table:
- Greater speed, projected at 10-100x faster than 4G (Strictly speaking, the average speeds would be better than what we get with 4G).
- Better stability in connection
- Lower latency would make 5G useful for critical applications like self-driving cars, robotic surgeries, etc.
- Higher bandwidth will allow for a larger number of connected devices on a network.
Apart from faster and more stable, 5G will make the internet more reliable thus making it ready for prime time applications like Mixed Reality experience, edge computing, and better delivery of web-based services.
In case you are interested, we have covered 5G in detail in a separate article.
The term dual-mode 5G was marketed a lot last year and it will be the same in 2021.
All new 5G modems have full 5G support – both NSA and SA – and are being marketed as dual-mode 5G phones. In practice, dual-mode support doesn’t mean much as almost all 5G networks only support NSA architecture as of today. Perhaps having SA support makes your phone more future proof. Perhaps not.
Integrated vs Discrete Modem
Another metric to decide between 5G phones is the use of a discrete or integrated modem. Having the modem integrated on the same SoC helps in reducing battery consumption and in reducing design complexity.
Kirin 990 5G was the first chipset with an integrated 5G modem. Most popular flagship chipsets like Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 still have a discrete 5G modem. On the other hand, mid-range chipsets like Snapdragon 765 and Exynos 880 have integrated modems. We will have to wait and see how much of a difference this makes.
List of best 5G phones available in 2021
5G is not yet ready in India, but in case you plan on sticking with your phone for at least the next couple of years and don’t want to miss out on the next-gen cellular connectivity when it arrives, here’s a list of 5G phones that you may consider.
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
While Samsung has been offering 5G phones for some time in other markets the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is its first true flagship in India. The Samsung phablet can reveal the best Android phones with its Exynos 990 processor and up to 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage.
The Note 20 Ultra 5G also includes a versatile camera setup with a 108MP primary sensor taking the centerstage. And of course, being a Note series phone there is S-pen which is now more precise, and pressure-sensitive. The S-Pen touch latency has also improved drastically to just 9ms which is really an impressive feat.
2. Apple iPhone 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max
Apple claimed on stage that ”5G is now real”. As millions of iPhone 12s hit the markets across the globe, that’s ought to be a much-needed catalyst in shaping the 5G landscape. Coming to the phones themselves, all four of them support both Sub-6 and mmWave (location-specific).
Rest, the new iPhones now feature Dolby Vision HDR video recording, night sight on front cameras, a flat design, stronger Ceramic Shield protection on the front, powerful A14 Bionic chipset, OLED display, and many other things.
3. Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G, and Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
Samsung’s first set of flagships is expectedly powered by 5G enabled chipsets. In the U.S., the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra are powered by Snapdragon 865 octa-core chipset with a discrete X55 modem that supports 5G NR sub-6 (both SA and NSA) and mmWave.
In other regions, the Galaxy S20 troika employs Exynos 990 with Exynos Modem 5123 that supports NSA and SA 5G. The Exynos 5G modem is missing mmWave support, but that’s fine since Samsung would launch the Exynos variant only in regions where mmWave deployment isn’t on the cards. In India, S20-series will only support LTE for now.
The new Samsung flagships boast of impressive camera hardware and other impressive features like LPDDR5 RAM, 45W fast charging, and 120Hz refresh rate screens.
4. OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus 8
OnePlus 8-series phones – 8 Pro and 8 – are both 5G ready and are both available in India. The Pro model entails additional perks like Wireless charging, IP68 water, and dust resistance, better camera hardware, and better display. The 8, on the other hand, is relatively more manageable.
Both of these phones have the same core performance hardware – Snapdragon 865 backed by UFS 3.0 storage and LPDDR5 RAM. In India, the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8 starts at Rs. 54,999 and Rs. 41,999, respectively.
5. Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro 5G and Xiaomi Mi 10T 5G
Xiaomi’s Mi 10T Pro and Mi 10T – are both 5G ready and are available in India in 2021. These phones also have 108MP primary rear cameras, LPDDR5 RAM, Wi-Fi 6, and a 6.67” LCD screen with a 144Hz refresh rate.
The Mi 10T Pro 5G and Mi 10T 5G house their selfie snappers in a punch-hole cutout within the display. Xiaomi is also offering a 5000mAh battery, 33W power adapter, an ad-free MIUI 12 based on Android 10, dual speakers, and more.
6. Google Pixel 5
Google Pixel 5 might not be packing the best of specs, but it has 5G capable Snapdragon 765G chip inside. This is paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
The phone looks like the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G but is made of better material, viz. aluminum. The front has a 6inch 90Hz OLED panel with a punch hole by the left corner. The resident of this indent is an 8MP camera. Meanwhile, the rear optics is handled by a 12.2MP primary sensor and a 16MP ultrawide shooter.
Among other things, the phone features a USB-C port, capacitive fingerprint reader, Bluetooth 5.0, reverse wireless charging, and IP68 water plus dust resistance.
You could also check out the cheaper Pixel 4a 5G.
7. Asus ROG Phone 3
Being a bespoke gaming machine, ROG Phone 3 will particularly leverage from 5G speeds and stability. It is engined by a Snapdragon 865+ chipset with Android 10 OS on top. It comes in up to 12GB RAM + 256GB storage configuration.
Then there are things that would excite gamers such as customizable RGB ROG insignia, side-mounted USB-C charging port to facilitate landscape maneuvering, Air Trigger buttons, specialized heat dissipation measures, and 144Hz AMOLED display. That fascia is 6.59 inches in size with 10-bit HDR10+ support.
The rest of the repertoire also consists of Bluetooth 5.1, WiFi 6, stereo speakers, NFC, USB-C (bottom), under-display fingerprint reader, 6000mAh battery, 30W charger, 64MP triple rear cameras, and many more things.
8. iQOO 3 5G
This is the first iQOO phone in India and one of the first 5G phones in the country (top variant only). As with all SD 865 phones, the 5G part is handled by a discreet X55 modem. Other highlights include a punch-hole display, 64MP quad-rear cameras, and Android 10-based software.
9. Realme X50 Pro 5G and X50 5G
Realme X50 5G was officially announced on January 7 in China as the brand’s first 2020 flagship. The X50 Pro 5G was also the first 5G phone in India. The X50 Pro 5G is powered by Snapdragon 865 octa-core chipset and supports 50W VOOC fast charging.
The Realme X50 5G is the first Realme phone powered by Snapdragon 765 octa-core chipset. The handset includes a punch-hole display and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor.
10. OnePlus Nord
OnePlus Nord is currently the cheapest 5G phone from a brand that started its journey with a flagship killer tagline. The OnePlus Nord is a sensible phone that capable hardware, 5G network support, 90Hz OLED screen, a 4,115mAh battery with 30W fast charging.
No, the OnePlus Nord isn’t a perfect phone. The Cameras on the phone aren’t that impressive. Be it a selfie camera or the rear camera, results are underwhelming.
11. Motorola Edge Plus
Edge+ is Motorola’s return to the flagship territory. Thus, it bags the high-end specs like Snapdragon 865, 5G (of course), a large 108MP main camera sensor, and a 5000mAh battery.
Those curved edges feature Edge Lighting for notifications, battery status, alarms. You can swipe up or down on the edge to quickly switch apps and check notifications. While gaming in landscape mode, you can use the two customizable buttons at the top and bottom as shoulder triggers.
12. Oppo Reno 5 Pro Plus 5G, Reno 5 Pro, and Reno 5 5G
The Oppo Reno 5 Pro+ 5G, Reno 5 Pro 5G, and Reno 5 5G have 5G support, but they are running on different platforms. While the Pro+ model is powered by Snapdragon 865, the Pro is on Mediatek Dimensity 1000+, and the regular model is geared by the Snapdragon 765G chipset.
The software is Android 11 based on ColorOS 11.1. They sport swanky displays with punch holes for selfie camera(s), and quad-camera set up by the back. The phones also support 65W fast charging, FHD+ OLED 90Hz displays, under-display fingerprint scanners, among other things.
13. Vivo X50 Pro+, Vivo X50 Pro and Vivo X50
We got 3 phones under the X50 family. While the vanilla X50 is touted to be the slimmest 5G phone (at least at the time of its launch), the scene-stealer is X50 Pro Plus, after all, it is the top trim.
Besides the 5G prowess, the phone also boasts specs like Snapdragon 865, FHD+ Super AMOLED 120Hz display, 60x hybrid zoom, and a gimbal-like camera stabilization system. Basically, it employs an on-screen radar that guides the lens’ movement for stable stills and video.
14. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G
The second-gen Galaxy foldable is a refinement upon the already cutting-edge Galaxy Fold. The new phone also has a 5G variant available in select countries. The phone opens like a book to reveal its bigger, flexible display.
The Z Fold 2 comes powered by Snapdragon 865+ mobile platform, 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and
512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. It combines two batteries for a 4500mAh capacity, has dual front cameras, triple rear cameras, and Android 10 with One UI 2.5 software.
15. LG Wing 5G
LG Wing comes from the company’s Explorer Project that brings out experimental or cutting edge phone designs. 5G is thus just one of its novel features. The phone gets the name Wing for its swiveling primary display. It aligns 90-degree horizontally while revealing the secondary screen at the bottom.
This lets you use two apps simultaneously. So, multi-tasking. There’s also a clever application of gimbal camera mode. Inside, the Wing is wielding a Snapdragon 765G processor, Android 10, 8GB RAM, 128/256GB storage, 4000mAh battery with 25W fast charger, etc.
16. Black Shark 3 Pro
This gaming beast brings 5G onboard, amongst many of its high-class hardware. This includes Snapdragon 865, a 6.69-inch full HD+ 90Hz display, a 64MP triple rear camera setup, and a 4,720mAh battery.
Being a gaming rig, Black Shark 3 Pro continues with a flashy design. Look at the camera stack and there’s even an RGB LED lighting on its rear, for instance. Mm, then there are those pop-up shoulder triggers too.
17. Nubia Red Magic 5G
Again a 5G-capable gaming phone, this time from the Nubia lineup. It bears the Snapdragon 865, coupled with a 4,500mAh battery that supports a 55W fast charger.
And since Red Magic 5G a gaming breed, you get stuff like 144Hz refresh rate display and 240Hz touch-sensing, Active cooling through a rotating fan within the phone, Low latency game, Touch-sensitive shoulder buttons, and support for external accessories.
Additionally, Nubia Play is also a 5G phone with a much cheaper price tag.
18. Nokia 8.3 5G
Nokia 8.3 5G has been developed to support 5G in all markets which, according to HMD global, makes it the first of its kind. The specs are comparable to most midrange phones, which is also why the 600 Euros price feels way to steep.
The Nokia 8.3 5g is powered by Snapdragon 765G, has a 4500mAh battery with 18W fast charging support, and has an array of rear cameras with a 64MP sensor in the lead. Another plus point is stock Android software and the fact that Nokia has a good track record with updates.
19. Sony Xperia 1 ll
Dubbed Sony Xperia One Mark Two, this is the brand’s first 5G phone. It is harnessed by Snapdragon 865 silicon. The rest of the feature set also consists of a 6.5-inch 4K 90Hz HDR OLED panel, a 4,000mAh battery, and Android 10 software.
The Zeiss optics-based cameras are backed by things like a standalone Cinema Pro app, super-fast autofocus, EyeAF for humans, and animals, 20fps burst shooting with 60 times per second AF/AE (Auto Exposure) calculations.
20. Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ is one hell of a phone heralding “the most powerful 5G processor in the world” — Kirin 9000 with Balong 5G modem. It flaunts a quad-camera setup by the rear that includes a 50MP RYYB Ultra Vision camera, a 20MP ultra-wide Cine camera, a 12MP telephoto camera with 5x optical zoom, an 8MP periscope camera with 10x Optical Zoom, and finally a 3D Depth Sensing ToF Camera.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ also comes with an FHD+ OLED 90Hz display, 12HB RAM, 256GB storage, 4400mAh battery, 66W HUAWEI SuperCharge, 50W Wireless HUAWEI SuperCharge, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and more.
Additionally, Huawei also released the Mate 40 and Mate 40 Pro with 5G capability.
It’s a shame to see such powerful devices ship without Google services.
So, there are plenty of 5G phones to choose from. But the real question is —
Should You Be Excited About 5G?
5G expansion would be a staged process that comes with its set of problems. The adoption from smartphone makers would depend on the progress in the telecom infrastructure to a great extent. OEMs would have to overcome some early design challenges too. So, we advise you not to invest in a 5G promise. Even if you are an early adopter, it just doesn’t make sense in markets like India where 5G is in its nascent state.
Anyhow, just like you, we too wish for a trouble-less transition and can’t wait for the 5G utopia.
Meanwhile, here’s a quick recap of the –
Best 5G Phones to buy in 2021
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
OnePlus 8 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro
Google Pixel 5
Asus ROG Phone 3
Realme X50 Pro
Motorola Edge Plus
Oppo Reno 5 Pro+
Vivo X50 Pro+
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
LG Wing 5G
Black Shark 3 Pro
Nubia Red Magic 5G
Sony Xperia 1 ll
Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Which phones support 5G?
In this article, we have listed all 5G phones highlighting their key features and specification.
Both Moto G 5G and Xiaomi MI 10i retail for ₹20,999 (subject to change with time) and are currently the cheapest 5G phones in the country, closely followed by OnePlus Nord.
Indian telecom operators won’t be offering 5G services anytime soon. We don’t recommend it as a must-have feature. Still, if you are buying a phone keeping more than 3 years of the horizon in mind, you should consider buying a 5G phone.