5G technology: how it works
4G vs 5G: how they compare
5G use cases: examples of 5G
5G Dangers: the fact and fiction
5G Internet: will it replace fibre
5G security: the full picture
5G speed: guide and tools
5G deals: get the best offers
5G networks: in the US and UK
5G stocks: investment tips
If you want to upgrade to 5G, you'll need a 5G-capable phone to access the new, higher-speed 5G networks that will become much more prevalent during the coming months. Most major manufacturers have released or announced 5G phones, with the exception of Apple - that's something to look forward to later in 2020.
Samsung currently dominates the space with a range of phones released over the last 12 months.
As you may know, you need to have a 5G-enabled phone to use 5G technology and you'll also need to make sure your network supports it before jumping in. If you're in the UK or US, all major networks are now offering 5G in limited areas. And with second-generation 5G devices now coming onto the market, meaning still-excellent 2019 models will be sold off at cheaper prices.
But what else is coming up soon in the way of 5G phones? Let's get our crystal ball out and find out - before we look at the 5G phones that are available so far.
What other 5G phones are on the way?
There are stacks of 5G phones coming in 2020 and some have already launched in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, the Huawei P40 5G and P40 Pro 5G plus lesser-known handsets such as the Realme X50 Pro 5G. We have seen a lot of launches take place under different circumstances, but we're not expecting long-lasting delays in availability of new phones.
The S20 series is included in our list below, while the also-launched Sony Xperia 1 mark II and Nokia 8.3 5G will appear in our list when they become available. At present we have no exact release date for these handsets, although we are expecting them to go on sale over the next couple of months.
Huawei's current US trade ban prevents it from using Google services and apps. As such we aren't currently recommending the P40 as a viable option, even though both the P40 5G and P40 Pro 5G are excellent handsets in terms of their specification sheet, the design and the cameras.
The Mate 30 Pro 5G isn't available in the UK but similarly doesn't have Google apps. However, Huawei's Mate 20 X does have access to Google apps including the Play Store so is included in our list below.
Waiting on a 5G iPhone
We believe that Apple will launch a 5G iPhone in 2020. And we expect the 5G iPhone to be the next generation of the iPhone 'Pro' series, so it stands to reason that the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max would both be 5G handsets.
We didn't originally think the standard iPhone 12 will be a 5G phone, but – according to the notrious Apple tipster Jon Prosser, of the Front Page Tech YouTube channel – both iPhone 12 models will include 5G at launch, even if it might be a different flavour.
"Remember, even the base models this year for the iPhone 12 are getting 5G and OLED," Prosser explained in a recent YouTube video. "Although I'm being told that it's not mmWave 5G for the base models, but it's still 5G, just so Apple can say."
BEST 5G PHONE: OVERALL
Put simply, this is an absolute stunner. Available most of the time in either 128 and 512GB versions, this phone prioritises two things - speed and a supremely powerful quad-camera.
It's a 6.9-inch phone with a 3,200 x 1,440 AMOLED display. There are two headline facts about the camera - firstly, there's a 100x zoom. Now we think this is more of a gimmick rather than being something truly practical.
But one of the lenses is capable of shooting unbelievable 108 megapixel photos alongside a still-large 48 megapixel telephoto lens.
It's certainly a serious phone, based on Samsung's own Exynos 990 platform in Europe or Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 in the US. And, for such a serious device you get serious colour options to go with it - cosmic black or cosmic grey.
Despite its huge price tag since launching last summer, analysts reported that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G was selling faster than any other 5G phone. It has a 6.8-inch ‘cinematic infinity’ AMOLED screen – now only superceded by the S20 Ultra.
An interesting ‘Live Focus Video’, feature blurs out backgrounds in video for movie-like depth of field. It’s also waterproof to 1.5m for 30 minutes, and ships with Samsung’s S Pen stylus. It really is a total powerhouse. If you don't want the stylus though, look elsewhere.
Best foldable 5G phone
Is your phone foldable? Samsung’s first effort at a shape-shifting smartphone was originally announced in February. However, it was withdrawn pre-sale after some ‘issues’ with its folding screen. It's back after some remedial work, especially on the screen edges.
The headline act sees it transform from a 4.6-inch to a 7.3-inch screen, though with six cameras, the 5G-ready Fold has top specs all-round. However, it is the most expensive 5G smartphone currently on sale.
Dual screen 5G phone
A modular phone? Well, not exactly, but LG’s first phone to support 5G does have a trick up its sleeve. Despite it being a rather run-of-the-mill effort that doesn’t look or feel much different to LG’s non-5G V40 smartphone, this 6.4-inch device can be upgraded with a ‘dual screen’, an optional accessory resembling a cover case that gives users a second 6.2-inch OLED display for multitasking. That could be handy for business users.
Elsewhere, the core V50 is IP68-certified for dust/waterproofing (for 30 minutes under 1.5m of water), and is one of the few new phones to have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Best all-rounder 5G phones
This is 2020's key 5G phone - or rather it is until we get a 5G iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S20 absolutely sings, with flagship power under the hood in the form of Samsung's own Exynos 990 platform in Europe and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 in the US.
It's not small, with a super bright 6.2-inch AMOLED display. While the more upmarket S20's have a quad camera, there are three lenses here, led by a very powerful 64 megapixel sensor. It's also capable of a 30x digital zoom.
It's competitively priced versus other handsets - the same can't be said for others in the S20 range - and is available on some good contract deals, too.
It's only available in a 128GB version which is a bit of a shame but if you want bigger you can always plump for the S20+ instead.
The S20 comes in cloud pink, cloud blue and cosmic grey.
As well as a 6.7-inch curved screen, the S10 5G has six cameras, an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, Qi wireless charging and power share, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The colours, contrast and the viewing angle of its AMOLED screen is to die for, even if its Bixby natural language commands and dictation is probably not. Still one of the best 5G smartphones around.
Best budget 5G phone
In an effort to out-do its arch-rival Oppo, Xiaomi has fitted the Mi Mix 3 5G with not one, but two lenses on its slide-out selfie camera. OK, it’s not motorised, but the main camera is high-resolution at 24-megapixels, and it comes with a depth-sensor for adding blur to backgrounds. Elsewhere, the Mi Mix 3 5G – essentially a 5G makeover of 2018’s standard-issue Mi Mix 3 – has a dedicated Google Assistant button.
Best 5G phone for selfies
Chinese phone maker Oppo has come up with something no other 5G phone has; a motorised selfie camera. Essential stuff? Absolutely not, but it does mean that the Reno 5G has a notch-free display. As well as that pop-up 16-megapixel front-facer for selfies and video calls, this phone – the world’s first commercially available 5G handset when it was launched – has a 48-megapixel primary camera alongside a sensor for 10x zoom.
Also inside this 6.6-inch phone are two nano SIM card slots to make global travel easier. Coincidentally, Oppo has also recently launched the Oppo Reno 3 and Reno 3 Pro series, which we're awaiting a European announcement for.
Best mid-range 5G phone
Happily Samsung’s attempt at cutting costs isn’t immediately noticeable on the Galaxy A90 5G. Its AMOLED display has a novel 20:9 aspect ratio, which makes it a very tall phone. It’s there for watching widescreen video, of course, but it could also push productivity.
Unusually, its three-camera array drops the telephoto lens, so forget about optical close-ups. It’s also not quite as slim as or as lightweight as Samsung’s flagship phones, and it’s a little plasticky to hold, but the Galaxy A90 5G is nevertheless a great way to enter the 5G era.
The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is cheaper than phones with similar specs from the likes of Samsung and Huawei, and by hiding the front-facing camera in a pop-up housing, you get an all-screen Fluid AMOLED display without any extra notch cutout or bevel.
You get a 90Hz screen refresh rate, too, which is great for watching movies and playing games. And the The 7 Pro 5G’s triple camera enables you to capture great shots in a multitude of settings.
Best big-screen 5G phone
If you’re after a 5G phone with as big a screen as possible for added productivity, look no further than this absolute whopper from Huawei. Stretching to an incredible 7.2 inches in diameter, the OLED screen at the core of this phone impresses, as does the ridged ‘hyper optical’ covering on the back. It’s got IP53 certification, so it’s dust and splash-proof, and for foreign travellers, it’s got dual SIM card slots.
There’s an optional stylus, which works well on the massive screen. Its Kirin 980 5G chipset-powered Mate 20 X 5G may have already been bested by the Kirin 990-powered Mate 30 Pro 5G (below) but this phone comes with all the standard Google apps whereas the Mate 30 series doesn't.
The Mate 30 Pro 5G doesn't sport Google's core services, such as the Google Play Store, so cannot host Google apps.
That’s because Google had to revoke Huawei’s license to use its services, on instruction by the US government.
And, while the 4G version has now been announced in the UK, the 5G version remains AWOL in Europe.
We’ve included it here because things might change and, if they do, the Mate 30 Pro 5G is a beautiful 5G phone with ‘ultra’ curved edges, a ‘halo ring’ housing a 40MP ‘Cine Camera’, and the new Kirin 990 5G chipset. We just wish it didn’t come with a political problem.
Plus a T-Mobile US exclusive...
This phone is exclusive to T-Mobile in the US, but it's an interesting choice given that there's a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G - though not the 7T Pro. notice. This phone comes with McLaren branding to reflect OnePlus' affiliation with the FIA Formula 1 team of the same name.
There are two key features aside from the eye-popping 6.67-inch QHD+ OLED display and triple camera with main 48 megapixel lens; super-fast charging that will juice your phone up in minutes and a pop-up front camera.