The great early adopter 5G smartphone scam continues, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 5G highlights how early adopters are likely to get hosed.
At Unpacked, Samsung launched its Samsung Galaxy Note 10, a small version, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. I'm a Note 8 customer and find the device helpful. Simply put, I want to upgrade and like the phones, but buying a device with a network shelf life of a year doesn't make much sense. 5G may be more marketing today, but in the next year networks will be built out, and components won't warrant a premium.
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Today, you need to exercise patience, postpone purchases, and maybe flip the bird at your friendly neighborhood wireless carrier.
Here's what has me wound up. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G starts at $1,300 with 256GB and $1,400 for the 512GB version. The pricing is the same as the Galaxy S10 Plus 5G. The LTE version of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus starts at $1,099.
Now if I was getting a few years of 5G futureproofing maybe the extra $200 is worth it as well for what'll be a pricier data plan -- even though CNET's Roger Cheng argues that we shouldn't have to pay extra for 5G service either. And given 5G networks are more efficient to manage I'd tend to agree.
Instead, $1,400 plunked down on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G gets me a device with an extra chip -- the Qualcomm X50 -- that accesses Verizon's millimeter-wave network, but not sub-6Ghz networks that AT&T and T-Mobile will have with the latest Qualcomm X55 modem.
Millimeter-wave is what's available today and can be speedy but has trouble with distance. Sub-6Ghz networks aren't as fast but handle distance better. Bottom line: Carriers will have to use both networks.
You buy Verizon's Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, and you get the equivalent of one half of a future 5G network. Instead of complete futureproofing, you wind up half-assing it for a $200 premium -- way to reward early adopters. Verizon does sweeten the pot somewhat with a deal for people that switch to Verizon or add a new Verizon Unlimited Line. The deal: Buy a Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G and get a Galaxy Note 10 free.
Not bad, but no thanks.
The upshot to this tale of early adopter woe is that it doesn't pay to be a 5G hero. Most X55 devices will land in 2020. Buying a Verizon premium Samsung 5G device today may mean you'll want to upgrade in a year. And with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, I may not even have a year's worth of futureproofing. I may have even less given Verizon doesn't have Philadelphia 5G yet. The smartphone lifecycle is pushing three to four years.
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Meanwhile, it doesn't suddenly get better on T-Mobile and AT&T, which will only allow 5G adopters to access sub-6Ghz networks and not millimeter wave.
The economics dictate waiting for those 5G upgrade cycles to become a bit more real.