This week was an enormous one for 5G technology. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or if you haven’t paid attention to anything we’ve been talking about here over the past year, you’re probably aware that 5G is going to be a game-changing technology. Everyone from wireless carriers to smartphone and connected home manufacturers are gearing up for the launch of this new, next-gen network that promises to revolutionize the way we interact with technology. 5G, it’s said, will open the door to products and services that we can’t even begin to conceptualize in our minds quite yet.
This week, 5G, which has been more of a mythical creature to this point, took some enormous steps towards becoming a reality. Both Verizon and AT&T announced that they’ll be launching 5G-ready smartphones with Samsung in early 2019. And, during it’s annual Snapdragon Technology Summit, Qualcomm introduced us to their Snapdragon 855 chipset, which is the company’s 5G-ready chip that will power the next generation of smartphones.
Again, the promise is huge. These devices stand to be, at a minimum, 10 to 20 times faster than our current 4G LTE connected phones. That’s insane.
Here’s the thing. I hate to be the one to throw cold water on a technology that carries so much excitement, but shouldn’t we really pump the brakes on the immediacy of 5G’s impact? Don’t get me wrong. I have zero doubt that, over the next several years, 5G will more than live up to expectations, and create myriad possibilities, and put a merciless end to the obnoxious era of content buffering. But if the history of new global network launches has taught us anything, it’s that we need to really tamper expectations out of the gate.
The way we’re talking about 5G right now, it makes it feel like the second we flip that magical switch on, all of the world’s problems are going to be solved. Setting those kinds of lofty expectations will only result in disappointment when consumers realize that they’ve been misled.
When the 4G network was launched back in 2011, there was a similar sort of buzz about the new technology, and rightfully so. But hindsight shows how bumpy that launch really was. Coverage was limited, and still is limited to a certain extent. Early 4G devices were clunky, power hungry, and often not the most reliable. It’s like we’re all forgetting the fact that this is a brand new technology. This is what happens when you launch the next generation of any kind of technology, let alone one that’s on such a massive scale. There are going to be growing pains with 5G.
Which leads us to Apple. A lot has been made this week about the company’s decision to wait until at least 2020 to launch a 5G-ready iPhone. This follows their 4G iPhone roadmap, but still has analysts and consumer worried that the company’s flagship device will be left in the dust as others prep 5G phones for as soon as next year.
Listen, I get it. There’s a certain amount of pride attached to being the first or among the first to do something—especially in the consumer tech space. But that’s not Apple’s MO. They’ll happily let the excitement around 5G’s launch come and go. Then, once the technology matures and works all of the kinks out, they’ll swoop in with that 5G-ready iPhone, pitching it like a brand new technology. Annoying? Absolutely. But it’s Apple’s patience and purposefulness around their product strategy that got them to where they are today.
We’ll have continuing coverage on all things 5G in the days and months to come—especially as we gear up for CES in January. So stay tuned for that, and we’ll catch you next week.