Over 30 Android devices capable of communicating with the fifth generation of wireless networks will be released over the course of this year, Qualcomm announced Monday as part of its appearance at Consumer Electronics Show 2019. The figure cited by the San Diego, California-based company pertains exclusively to consumer-grade products utilizing a 5G-ready configuration of the Snapdragon 855, its latest and most powerful mobile system-on-chip to date which the firm officially unveiled last month.
The majority of devices in question are Android smartphones and such solutions aren't likely to be seriously rivaled this year, Qualcomm believes, describing its premier 5G solution as an unprecedented technological feat that its competitors will be trying to match for some time now. While Qualcomm's insistence on the superiority of its products is unsurprising, the current state of affairs mostly goes in line with its 5G pioneering claims; Huawei is the only major original equipment manufacturer that's expected to deliver a 5G-ready android handset not reliant on a Snapdragon-series chip before the end of the year. Every other high-profile brand such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, and HTC interested in commercializing 5G in 2019 will be leveraging Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 SoC in conjunction with the Snapdragon X50 modem and accompanying antennas.
Uncertainty between Gs
2019 is likely to be remembered as a period "between Gs" seeing how 5G deployment in the U.S. and abroad barely started by now and the next generation of mobile networks likely won't be available on a significant scale prior to 2020. Allowing consumers to take advantage of 5G at a time when the thereof won't enjoy widespread coverage is a significant technical challenge and one that will require clever implementation of non-standalone 5G networks, as well as cutting-edge mobile software capable of switching between LTE and 5G depending on signal strength in an intuitive and consistent manner.
Whether the wireless industry and smartphone manufacturers will be able to pull off such a feat in the immediate term remains to be seen, though some minor technical issues are to be expected, especially on the end-user part of the equation; most, if not all of the aforementioned 30 or so devices are likely to exhibit some degree of problems with battery life or at the very least be bulkier than their LTE-only peers seeing how Qualcomm's X50 modem and accompanying hardware take up a lot of space that would otherwise be filled with a battery. Those issues are expected to eventually be ironed out, much like what happened with the first generation of LTE smartphones, Android and otherwise.
Patience is a virtue
While 5G's reliance on millimeter-wave spectrum makes the technology tricky for large-scale implementation due to high-band frequencies' tendency to have their signals stuck in walls, rain, and foliage, the wireless industry is convinced the wait will be worth it as once fully deployed, the new generation of mobile networks will enable unprecedented latencies in bandwidth. As this is also the first major wireless upgrade devised with use cases in mind from day one, it should have a relatively swift impact on the global economy by supporting emerging technologies such as remote surgeries and self-driving cars, consequently creating jobs, industries, and boosting economic growth worldwide. Augmented reality streaming, virtual reality multiplayer gaming, near-instant cloud services, real-time video collaborations, and truly intelligent cities are just some of the fields expected to be enabled or significantly improved by the advent of 5G.
Samsung and LG are among the major manufacturers that already confirmed their intention to commercialize the Snapdragon 855 and embrace 5G as early as the current half of the year. In the former's case, its consumer-grade 5G episode is likely to start with the Galaxy S10 lineup scheduled to be officially announced late next month as part of the 2019 edition of Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona, Spain. Still, as global 5G deployment barely begun, 5G-ready devices are expected to only account for a minority of annual worldwide shipments until at least 2023, according to several industry trackers. By then, the next generation of connectivity should be in full swing, covering the vast majority of the developed world and enabling a truly futuristic era of technological innovations wherein cars drive themselves, 4K VR streams are accessible, and surgeons don't even have to be on the same continent as their operating rooms in order to do their jobs.