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Incoming: 5G phones at 'very interesting price points'

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Depending on where you live, 5G may already be a part of your life, but for most people the benefits of the next generation mobile network are yet to be realized.

While 5G launched in 2019, in reality only a handful of cities around the world have been treated to the tech so far, and a pricey 5G phone is required to take advantage of the new data speeds.

Now, in early 2020, more than 45 mobile carriers have launched 5G offerings in 20 countries, including the likes of the US, UK and Australia, and we've just seen more 5G handsets announced, such as the new Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra.

While 5G phones are still out of many people's price range there is hope on horizon, as chipset maker Qualcomm has hinted that more affordable options are not far away.

Speaking during a briefing for the firm's new Snapdragon X60 modem, Qualcomm's Business Development Director, Vikrant Jain said that we will "see exciting products over the next few weeks at very interesting price points."

We were expecting to see a glut of new smartphones launched during MWC 2020 between February 24-27, but with the annual mobile show cancelled due to fears over Novel Coronavirus the launches we were expecting to see that week may be delayed until March.

However, we're still likely only weeks away for a number of announcements from a variety of manufacturers with the likes of Sony, Huawei, Honor, TCL, ZTE and Nokia all rumored to have new handsets to reveal in the next month or so.

While it will be great to see more affordable 5G phones hit the market, we could see handsets with even greater 5G capabilities as soon as later this year thanks to the aforementioned Snapdragon X60 chip.

The need for more speed, but not quite yet

The Snapdragon X60 is the world's first modem to offer 5G mmWave-sub6 aggregation and sub-6 carrier aggregation across FDD, TDD.

While that may sound like nonsense, the upshot of this support for network capabilities is smartphones with the X60 chip inside them will be able to work with more 5G networks around the world which, Qualcomm claims, will deliver wider coverage and faster download and upload data speeds in the process.

It's not just phones which need a modem with these capabilities, mobile carriers also need to upgrade their networks to provide the enhanced service.

These upgrades are expected to take place during 2020 for most carriers in the US, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, with the rest of the world having to wait longer for the support to reach their shores.

There's no firm date on when we can expect the first smartphones packing the X60 modem to roll off production lines - it could be later this year in devices such as the Google Pixel 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 20, but it may not be until 2021.