Sunday, 16 June 2019

Cost of 5G phones means early adopter phase could be lengthy

By Mary Lennighan, for Total Telecom
Friday 26 April 19

Verizon shares Galaxy S10 5G pricing, details next launch cities, while Oppo offers a cheaper option in Europe

When Verizon unveiled the pricing of its first real 5G handset, Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G, this week it led me to question just how many people will be willing to pay well in excess of $1,000 for early access to the next generation of mobile technology. As anyone who has met me in real life – I'm a delight, honest – will know, I don't much care about phones. A smartphone is very much a means to an end for me. Ergo, it will come as no surprise to learn that I made a sharp intake of breath when I read that the 256 GB version of the Galaxy S10 5G will retail at one cent shy of $1…

When Verizon unveiled the pricing of its first real 5G handset, Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G, this week it led me to question just how many people will be willing to pay well in excess of $1,000 for early access to the next generation of mobile technology.

As anyone who has met me in real life – I'm a delight, honest – will know, I don't much care about phones. A smartphone is very much a means to an end for me. Ergo, it will come as no surprise to learn that I made a sharp intake of breath when I read that the 256 GB version of the Galaxy S10 5G will retail at one cent shy of $1,300 and it's an extra $100 for the 512 GB version.

Ouch.

Then I was reminded of the price tag of recent iPhone models, for example, and realised that the Galaxy S10 5G is actually not that expensive for a new-generation smartphone, relatively speaking.

But, we're still very firmly in early adopter territory for 5G – naturally, services are but a few weeks old – and the price of a new handset could well be a contributing factor to how long we remain there.

For many people, 1,400 bucks is a lot of money for a new smartphone, particularly if they don't really need one, as the increase in handset replacement cycles has demonstrated over the past couple of years. Naturally, Verizon has unveiled a raft of promotions to reduce the wallet-squeeze of its first proper 5G phone – the Motorola z3 with its Moto mod adapter for 5G access just won't cut it for most people – but it's still a big outlay when the areas in which 5G is actually available are so limited.

Granted, the footprint is increasing. Having launched 5G earlier this month in limited areas of Chicago and Minneapolis, Verizon this week named 20 cities that will gain access to its ultra-wideband mobile 5G services before the end of the year, including Boston, Dallas, San Diego and Washington DC, although it did not share any new launch dates. The small print of course states that 5G will be available in selected areas of those cities only.

With a $10 monthly surcharge for 5G, the need for a new and pricey phone, and the limited coverage areas, 5G looks set to be small-scale for some time to come.

However, customers who want the Oppo-rtunity (please direct all 'Dad joke' complaints to @RobDChambers) to test out 5G at a lower price point can do so in a number of European markets, where China's Oppo is set to make a 5G smartphone available at around the half the price.

Oppo conducted the European launch of its Reno line of smartphones, including the Reno 5G, in Switzerland this week. The 256 GB Reno 5G will retail at €899 when it hits the shelves in Switzerland in May. Swisscom announced its partnership with Oppo a few weeks ago and has since flicked the switch on its 5G network, but would-be customers are still waiting for handsets.

Meanwhile, the UK's EE announced that it will also range the Reno 5G "later this year." The telco has yet to share any pricing information, but one assumes that the device will retail at a similar level to Switzerland. Incidentally, EE plans to trial 5G technology at this summer's Glastonbury Festival, although with no devices in circulation the telco will essentially offer WiFi connectivity with 5G backhaul.

We have been here before though, haven't we? Debates over device readiness, availability and affordability have accompanied the arrival of previous generations of mobile technology and yet somehow here we are, happily using 4G phones without giving it a second thought. Rumour has it that we won't see a 5G iPhone until next year at the earliest, so expect the 5G early adopter period to last at least that long.
 

Since you're here...

...the Telecoms industry is characterised by constant change and evolution. That's why it's crucial for telecoms professionals to keep up-to-date with what is happening. Join 35,000+ of your peers and sign up to our free newsletter service today, to be in the know about what is going on. PLUS, as a member you can submit your own press releases!

See all membership options

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Newsletter signup

Quickly get on board and up to date with the telecoms industry