5G really shouldn't be a factor in the purchase of your next phone contract

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It's new, it's exciting and it's the next stage for your smartphone...and yet, it's really not worth putting too much energy or time into right now - we're of course talking about 5G here.

While phone brands are screaming from the rooftops about their new handsets decked out with 5G features, including all four of the iPhone 12 devices, Samsung's Galaxy S21 range and the new OnePlus 9 devices, it really doesn't feel like a big factor...yet.

While most networks have now rolled out 5G, there is still a few that haven't got there yet and even the most developed like EE and Three have barely made a dent in the UK.

Future-proofing your phone:

5G is obviously the next step for mobile phone deals with most new handsets including it. And that's not just flagship devices, mid-range phones ranging from Samsung's new Galaxy A52 through to the bargain OnePlus Nord come 5G-ready.

But right now in early 2021, it's hard to see it being beneficial anytime soon. Yes, brands will make a big deal of it, pushing the incredible latency and speed possibilities of their devices but for now, that's all it really is - possibilities.

Unless you're lucky enough to live bang in the centre of a 5G hotspot and just so happen to be on the right network for that area, you are unlikely to experience the benefits of 5G.

And if we're being realistic, this isn't going to change for quite some time - take up a two year contract on a non-5G phone right now and you're really not going to be missing anything.

Ignoring 5G can lead to some excellent deals:

As we said above, most new phone releases offer 5G anyway and with the way it is heading, 5G will become an expected feature, even on budget devices and lesser-known brands.

But thinking 5G is a necessity or major benefit right now can mean you miss some great options. Apple's iPhone 11 deals or iPhone SE deals for example do not come with 5G but are two of the brand's best value devices.

Many of the more budget brands like Motorola or Nokia haven't progressed into the 5G world and interestingly, certain key mid-range devices like the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or the Google Pixel 4a give you the option to skip out on 5G for a lowered cost.

The affordable world of 4G only networks:

smartphones themselves are one place where you're going to be considering the 5G upgrade, but the question turns up again when looking at SIM only deals.

While the key networks of EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone are 5G-ready and so are big name providers including Virgin, BT and Voxi, many of the cheaper providers aren't there yet.

If you want a budget SIM plan from the likes of Lebara, Smarty or iD Mobile, none of these networks have developed their 5G networks yet and are unlikely to until later this year.

On top of that, even the networks that do have it can require you to pay more for 5G or only offer it on select deals. This means forgetting about the 5G aspects of phones can massively open up the number of available deals and get you some of the cheapest prices on the market.

When should you make the 5G jump?

As we said above, 5G is the future and is slowly becoming the norm for both SIM plans and devices. This obviously means that it won't be long until you're buying a 5G handset no matter what new phone you get.

With all that said, 4G is still more than capable and 5G isn't going to be a noticeable change for most people. If you're desperate to be at the forefront when it happens - make the change now.

If it's something you have no real interest in - you don't play intensive games, download huge files or use any software that would greatly benefit from 5G - you can skip over it for as long as you like.

As for when 5G will be really usable, we've likely still got a couple of years. While it has been mostly rolled out now, we wouldn't expect it to be truly usable until 2022 at the absolute earliest.

Alex Hughes

Alex is a journalist who has written extensively about all things broadband, SIMs and phone contracts, as well as scouring the internet to land you the best prices on the very latest in gadgets and tech. Whether that be with the latest iPhones and Android handsets, breaking down how broadband works or revealing the cheapest SIM plans, he's in the know, and will help you land a bargain.