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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 get involved.
Enlarge / 5G is here, but that does not mean you need to get involved. [19659003] 2019 will be the year of 5G – so at least the mobile industry claims. We will be launching some 5G smartphones from OEMs like Samsung, Motorola and OnePlus, and the carriers will be ambushed to tell you how great their new 5G networks are, even though they have a whole host of asterisks on them. I'd like to say something about how ridiculous the 5G hype has become, but it's hard to beat the actual quotes from industry executives, such as Verizon's claim that 5G will "dramatically improve our global society." Faster mobile internet is coming, but should you care?

Qualcomm had his big announcement for 201

9 chips recently. As the world's largest provider of smart phone chips, we can get a good idea of ​​what the upcoming 5G hardware will look like. The industry is doing its best to shoot 5G as The Next Big Thing ™, but 5G hardware will be a very first generation in 2019. Early users of 5G must accept all possible compromises. And if there is not even 5G reception in your area, it may be better to wait for the whole thing for a year or two.

A 5G mmWave Primer: Utilizing the Spectrum No One Wanted

"5G is an acronym for the next generation of mobile network technology to hit the market in 2019. The entire" G "naming scheme began in the 1990s Years ago with the introduction of GSM called "second generation" – "2G" – Mobile Network Technology GSM has upgraded previous networks from analog to digital, and these old analog networks have been retroactively referred to as "1G" Every 10 years, we get new "G" numbers with major network upgrades, which brought important features such as SMS and MMS messages, IP-based networks and mobile Internet, and of course, more speed.

Modern smartphones are running today On "4G" LTE, which runs somewhere between 450 MHz and 5.9 GHz offer.The conversion to 5G will include improvements to the existing LTE infrastructure, but the defining feature time of 5G is the addition of a new spectrum in the range of 24 GHz to 90 GHz. The industry has decided to call this new 5G spectrum "mmWave" (millimeter wave), and it will require new hardware in your phone, new hardware in the towers, and major changes to current telephone and network designs.

  MmWave offers a lot of 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 a lot of spectrum but is hard to use.


We're used to having these "G" network upgrades come up with a compelling sales pitch as to how much better everything will be, but switching to 5G mmWave is not a powerful argument. Because mmWave runs at a much higher frequency than LTE, it means there are no compromises. MmWave has a worse range and worse penetration compared to LTE. A mmWave signal can be blocked by buildings, trees and even your hand. MmWave does not work well in rain or fog, and the ~ 60GHz portion of this spectrum can actually be absorbed by oxygen. Right – part of the mmWave spectrum can be blocked by the air .

With so many issues to overcome, mmWave sounds like a terrible piece of spectrum to build a mobile network until you consider two keys. Points: The higher frequency means that mmWave has plenty of bandwidth and has low latency, if you can get it, and above all, the spectrum is available. MmWave is not much used right now because it's so painful to work with the piston. So if you can figure out any implementation issues, you suddenly have a huge amount of airspace available. That's actually the first thing these companies talk about when they talk about mmWave. It will all be very, really hard and complicated, they say, but it will be worth it.

LTE debuted in 2011, and over the past seven years, significant progress has been made in scaling down, accelerating and accelerating 4G smartphone hardware more efficiently. With 5G, we lose much of this technical maturity by first packing tons of new and expensive 5G hardware.

Discrete 5G Modems – More Components, More Power Consumption, Smaller Batteries

Smartphones today are almost completely powered by a single chip called "SoC" or "System on a Chip". As the name implies, these are the most basic parts you need to make a computer on a single, tiny chip. There are usually many CPU cores, a GPU, an "ISP" for camera functionality, WLAN and more. RAM is not technically included on this chip, but to save space, the RAM is actually stacked on of the SoC. The most important off-SoC component is the memory. On the motherboard are usually small chips for power management, audio, Bluetooth, NFC and other things scattered. From then on, it is the motherboard to connect everything with everything, and then to clear hell out of the way so that the phone can be filled as well as possible with battery.

The point is space is paramount in a smartphone, and although you can not control the size of core components like SoC, camera, SIM card or USB port much, the battery is the only part that is so big can be as small or as small as you want. When you think of "size" on a smartphone, think of "battery." Everything that gets bigger means less battery. Anything that adds an extra component means less battery. The battery gets the remaining space in a smartphone. (This is basically the headphone jack's argument.)

In recent years, all smartphone manufacturers have tried to convince us that we do not need a headphone jack. The argument is that removing these components means less complexity and more room for the battery. Razer boss Min-Liang Tan has even put forward an argument for this argument: He said skipping a headphone jack in the Razer Phone meant the company could increase its battery capacity by 500 mAh.

Why is this important in an article about 5G? The short answer is that 5G mmWave will require much more hardware than 4G, raising all these concerns about battery size and device complexity.

  5G requires a separate chip, even for 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 [19659008] Enlarge <span class= / 5G requires a separate chip, even in Qualcomm's new SoC.


Qualcomm's biggest advantage in the 4G era was his modems. Qualcomm is the only chip maker that can combine a SoC and a modem into a single chip, combining technology expertise and intellectual property rights, and sell it globally at an affordable price.

This single-chip solution is hugely beneficial, resulting in a smaller, less complex, cheaper motherboard and more battery space. Consolidating everything on a single chip also results in power savings while the phone is active, as one chip generally consumes less power than two chips. Qualcomm users have been enjoying SoCs with built-in 4G LTE modems for years, and the company has taken that design advantage to market dominance. As a high-end SoC provider, Qualcomm is now virtually a monopoly: almost every Android flagship uses a Qualcomm SoC.

Qualcomm recently released its flagship SoC for 2019, the Snapdragon 855. However, the company spent hours gauging it If you're upgrading the Snapdragon 855's 5G compatibility, there's no 5G mmWave modem on board. The 855 will have LTE as usual, but 5G phones will require a separate modem. Qualcomm will lose its single chip advantage for 5G. As explained above, this means less battery and more power consumption.

We've already gone through the entire routine of "first generation network hardware". When we switched to 4G, we got the first batch of new 4G hardware with the same discrete modem compromise that we'll see with 5G. The most famous example was the HTC Thunderbolt, the first 4G device in Verizon's network. Qualcomm's Snapdragon MSM8655 SoC (prior to the simplified model numbers!) Was used with a separate Qualcomm MDM9600 LTE modem. The Thunderbolt was a disaster, because it contained all this new 4G hardware with only 1400 mAh battery. It was thick, hot, slow, faulty and had a terrible battery life. The Thunderbolt regularly keeps lists of the "worst phones ever" and an HTC employee even apologized for making the phone. New network hardware can be a disaster if you do it wrong.

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