2019 was the year the 5G phones started appearing on store shelves, 2020 is the year that the technology is really taking off; with the country’s major mobile carriers now all supporting this new super-fast networking infrastructure and a wealth of manufacturers now offerings top-tier phones with 5G modems onboard.
Before you buy
Getting a 5G phone is only one piece of the puzzle, of course. To truly take advantage of this next-gen connectivity you need to:
Have a 5G-capable phone
Subscribe to a network that actively offers 5G connectivity
Subscribe to a contract that actively includes 5G connectivity
Be in an area with good 5G coverage
EE and Vodafone were the first networks to get their 5G networks up and running, with O2 joining the fray in October 2019. Three’s 5G network was technically up and running in 2019 too but the carrier didn’t start offering 5G phone plans until earlier this year.
There’s also the matter of the nation’s MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) – carriers that effectively piggyback off of other network’s existing 5G infrastructure. Right now, BT Mobile (using EE’s 5G network), Sky Mobile (using O2’s 5G network), Tesco Mobile (using O2’s 5G network) and Voxi (using Vodafone’s 5G network) all also offer 5G plans/phones.
Before you splash out on a 5G phone, it’s worth checking to see what the quality of 5G coverage in your area is like. Not all 5G phones are available from all carriers and you may have to change network if you want to reap the benefits of 5G in your area.
Why upgrade to 5G?
5G is around 20 times faster than 4G, with the potential for even better speeds in future. With 5G, you’ll be able to stream video in 4Kresolution without buffering and make 4K video calls if you so wish. There are also benefits for mobile gaming because of 5G’s lower latency. For more details on the technology, check out our What is 5G? guide.
If you decide to wait, we’ve also tested some great 4G smartphones at various price points. Check out the best flagship, mid-range and budget phones available now, as well as some great phones coming soon (some are even foldable, which for now is arguably cooler than supporting 5G).
Best 5G phones of 2020
OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company’s first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating to make it a genuine contender with Samsung’s finest.
Understandably the price has gone up accordingly, but at £799/$899 for the base model – no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – it still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers. You can save even more with the £599/$699 OnePlus 8, though you’ll have to give up a few features and downgrade the display and cameras.
The 8 Pro camera is OnePlus’ best yet, and while it still lags behind rivals slightly in some software the hardware is among the best around, which has helped to close the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design, and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy S20
The Galaxy S20 is the best phone in Samsung’s S20 series, and simply the best phone the company makes right now. It’s compact, powerful, and packs a versatile camera system that may not match the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail, but it meets – and sometimes beats – it across the rest of the board, which means it’s more than a match for just about any other phone out there too.
The wider 5G ecosystem isn’t quite there yet, but will be within the lifetime of this phone, making it almost worth the upgrade. And while battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish, and in this case we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
Oppo Find X2 Pro
The Oppo Find X2 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in, 10-bit, 120Hz, QHD+ panel is the best display you’ll find in any phone right now, and Oppo backs it up with the fastest wired charging around at 65W, and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses, 12-bit colour photos, and up to 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging, and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish orange vegan leather finishes might leave some shoppers struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro can’t be beat right now, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 5G chipset, 512GB storage, and 12GB LPDDR5 RAM – you’ll just have to be willing to pay the price for it, as at £1,099 it doesn’t come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G
Samsung’s £1,099 Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is now available direct from Samsung or on contract through Three and EE.
The Note 10 Plus has a huge 6.8in Dynamic OLED display but it’s easier than you might think to hold in the hand, with its tall aspect ratio and almost bezel-less design.
The new flagship phablet piles on the performance with its 7nm processor and 12GB of RAM, adds extra Depth Vision and Time of Flight sensors to the rear camera and integrates an in-display fingerprint sensor for the first time in the Note series.
It does lose the headphone jack but there’s USB-C audio (with bundled AKG earbuds), microSD support and Samsung’s famous S Pen stylus – here updated with new Air Actions that allow it to behave almost like a magic wand, triggering abilities without it even touching the screen.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review for more.
LG V50 ThinQ 5G
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G was something of a surprise when it was announced at MWC 2019 – it wasn’t expected to arrive until October that same year. It’s available to buy now from EE, with plans starting at £54 a month.
LG has decided to hold off on its proper foldable phone, for now, offering its V50 ThinQ as a sort of halfway house that serves up 5G and similar functionality to a foldable with its optional secondary display.
Even without the second screen, the V50 is something of a chunk, which is necessitated by the extra hardware required for first-gen 5G. It also packs a 4,000mAh battery and is fitted with a 6.4in 19.5:9 Quad-HD+ display.
LG’s 5G support is provided by 2019’s flagship chipset of choice, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (with X50 modem). In comparison to 2018’s 845, it promises a 45% boost in general processing power and a 20% uplift in games performance. This is paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, as standard.
As ever, audio is a particular standout for LG and the V50 ThinQ 5G offers some of the best wired audio of any smartphone (only really competing with LG’s other phones) thanks to its high-quality DAC. Photography is also noteworthy, with a triple-lens (16Mp + 12Mp + 12Mp) setup at the rear and dual-lenses (8Mp + 5Mp) at the front.
Find out more by reading our LG V50 ThinQ 5G review.
Samsung Galaxy A90 5G
The first 5G phone that sits outside a phone maker’s flagship family, the Galaxy A90 commands a slightly lower price than some of those listed here.
That said, it does have a flagship processor, in the form of the Snapdragon 855 (necessary for it to have a 5G modem), though Samsung makes some savings elsewhere, with a downgraded triple-lens camera and lack of support for wireless charging.
A 6.7in AMOLED screen is interrupted only with a small teardrop notch to house the selfie camera, while a fingerprint sensor is integrated to the display. There’s also a high-capacity 4,500mAh battery and 25W fast charging.
Read our full Galaxy A90 5G review
Red Magic 5G
The Red Magic 5G is undeniably one of the best gaming phones on the market. Its 144Hz display and stereo speakers are among the best in their class, while the camera enjoys a notable upgrade over the Red Magic 3S.
The phone is targeted squarely at mobile gamers and as such, some aspects are less well suited to mainstream users. These include its imposing industrial design and some unimpressive software tweaks – the frustrating in-display fingerprint scanner chief among them.
All things considered, however, the Red Magic 5G offers everything budding gamers are looking for, not to mention 5G speeds, at a price that means it’s hard to resist.
Read our full Red Magic 5G review
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 5G was the first 5G-capable phone to go on sale in the UK and now you can actually use it on Vodafone’s and O2’s 5G networks. On Voda, plans start at £54 a month (£29 upfront), though the best deal is arguably the £62/month Unlimited Lite data deal, which also has an upfront fee of £29.
This is an upgraded version of the Mi Mix 3 that launched in October 2018 (January 2019 in the UK), with its Snapdragon 845 chip swapped out for the Snapdragon 855, plus that all-important X50 modem. It’s available in Onyx Black with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage.
The Mi Mix 3 is notable as being the best implementation of a slider phone we’ve seen yet. By hiding the twin (24Mp + 2Mp) selfie cameras behind the screen, it’s able to achieve an incredible 93.4% screen-to-body ratio.
Other hardware highlights include wireless charging (bumped up to 20W). All you really sacrifice in return for the lower price is a Quad-HD+ display and water-resistance.
Read more about the Mi Mix 3 5G.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
Initially expected to go on sale in the UK in June 2019, Huawei’s first 5G phone went on sale in the UK on 26 July at £999 via Three, Sky Mobile and Carphone Warehouse.
It is a variant of the Mate 20 X with the addition of Huawei’s Balong 5000 modem and SuperCool graphene heat pipes, but a slightly lower-capacity 4200mAh battery with 40W SuperCharging.
Available in Emerald Green, the Mate 20 X 5G has an enormous 7.2in FullView IPS display and runs the same Kirin 980 chip as almost all Huawei’s other 2019 flagships. In common with the rest of the Mate 20 range, there’s a triple-lens camera at the rear, comprised of a 40Mp, 20Mp and 8Mp lens setup.
Read more about Huawei Mate 20 X 5G.
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