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Here's why you might want to shift to a 5G phone, especially if you browse the internet through mobile data plans. Image Credit: Unsplash/Frederik Lipfert

Even in the thickest of crowds, a 5G-enabled phone dodges a spotty Internet connection. Think clearing a conference call en route to work in a teeming city, without any awkward signal drops. This is because the newest generation of cellular networks, as opposed to 4G/LTE, supports millions of devices simultaneously.

According to the UAE-based telecommunications company Etisalat, a 5G network has 100 times more traffic capacity and is 10 times faster than the preceding generation. But what does it mean for smartphone users? Let's take a deeper look.

What is 5G?

Simply put, it's the fifth generation of wireless mobile networks. Each generation that came before made possible the use of a smartphone. Dr Thabet Mismar, assistant professor and the director of the networks and communication engineering programmes at Al Ain University, explained: “When 1G – the first generation – came out, we could only voice call using bulky phones, 2G introduced digital voice and messaging, 3G brought the Internet to the phone, and with 4G, speeds went up to 450mbps with improved voice quality”.

The latest network generation is less concerned with the already improved voice quality. At a glance, 5G is all about higher data speeds, reduced download delays and incredible network capacity.

“It’s not just an evolution of 4G,” said Dr Obada Al Khatib, assistant professor and the discipline leader of electrical, computer and telecommunication engineering at the University of Wollongong in Dubai. “5G is completely revolutionary – it will be integrated into every domain we know, from self-driving cars to e-health. The network is designed to handle up to one million connections per square kilometre, whereas, 4G supports only 10,000. This is done to communicate with the millions of sensors that will be installed for the Internet of Things (IoT) or smart cities.”

Is a 5G smartphone worth it?

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Internet speeds are unmatched, whether it's for gaming, downloads or virtual reality. Image Credit: Unsplash/Shiwa ID

The network is destined for greater things – so how is it going to improve a phone user’s experience? A good example is the 5G trial run that took place at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

“The Olympic Winter Games of 2018 in South Korea was the first place where 5G was implemented. Spectators enjoyed internet speeds of 3.5Gbps, while the peak speed for 4G there was 133mbps,” said Dr Al Khatib. Viewers streamed high-resolution clips of athletes from 100 cameras on special tablets, in real-time. And, guess what? Nothing lagged.

If you like web browsing to be lightning fast, and movies to be downloaded in seconds, a 5G-enabled handset is your answer. According to both our experts, here’s what you can expect:

  • Speed: Etisalat provides 5G speeds of up to 1Gbps in the UAE, says Dr Mismar, who tested the data rates with his smartphone in Abu Dhabi. Play heavy virtual reality (VR) games, without a hitch.
  • Latency: This is the time that the network takes to start the download process. Latency has come down to a whopping one millisecond, from five to 10ms. You’re getting a faster response on webpages.
  • Mobility: Dr Al Khatib says your connection is staying put, even if you’re moving at 500km per hour, like on a high-speed railway.

However, the experts do note that 5G isn’t as good at penetrating walls and windows, as 4G. The network travels on high-frequency waves, which, Dr Mismar says, have the natural tendency to degrade when they hit a roadblock.

So far, outdoor coverage in the UAE is excellent, where it’s concentrated in densely populated areas. As for homes and malls, we’ll get the bars soon enough indoors, with more base stations.

Which 5G-enabled smartphone is for me?

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From Samsung Galaxy to Oppo, check out our picks below to hop on the 5G train. Image Credit: Unsplash/Frederik Lipfert

Dr Mismar advises buying a 5G smartphone from a trusted seller. These phones will most likely have gone through the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) in the UAE.

“5G phones aren’t very expensive. Most higher-end and mid-range phones already carry the technology, so you’ll find a good variety. Stick to known smartphone brands, like Samsung Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi. I use a Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, which gives me 5G coverage almost everywhere outdoors, while indoors it switches to 4G,” said Dr Mismar.

Most populated areas in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Northern Emirates already have 5G coverage – now all you need is a 5G-compatible phone to tap into the benefits. Find the latest models of 5G phones below to enjoy improved Internet and telephone network speeds. Order with Prime to save on delivery fees.

1. Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G Mobile Phone

Pros

  • High RAM capacity for snappy performance
  • Great photography tool
  • 40MP front camera
  • 45W fast charging
  • Dust- and water-resistant S Pen

Cons

  • Reviewers report faster battery drainage than previous models

Samsung Galaxy was one of the first 5G phones to break the market back in 2019. All of the latest flagship phones by the tech giant have been 5G compatible since, including the most recent Galaxy Z foldables, set to launch on August 26, 2022. The Galaxy S22 Ultra also shares the hype for its hyper-fast Snapdragon chip, supported by 5G cellular service and 12GB RAM. Game, draw and hop on video calls in the rain or sunshine, since both the S Pen and your phone resist water and dust. Then there’s its bright 6.8-inch AMOLED display, crafted specially for outdoor visibility that works against the sun’s glare. Join Zoom conferences looking your best with the 40-megapixel selfie camera and even shoot the moon like a pro with its rear cameras’ incredible zooming power. Choose from four different colours.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh300.27 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh227, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh380, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh484.

2. Best Battery Life: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (256GB), Sierra Blue

Pros

  • Excellent battery life – 28 hours of video playback
  • Memory options of up to 1TB
  • Multiple camera modes
  • 4k video recording

Cons

  • Expensive

The iPhone 13 Pro Max promises blazingly fast multiplayer gaming, thanks to its 5G cellular support. It boasts a bigger screen than a 13 Pro, measuring 6.7 inches, with OLED display for deeper contrasts. Powered by the A15 Bionic chip, the smartphone’s neural engine performs up to 15.8 trillion operations per second. You’re also getting 2.5 more hours of battery life on this model of iPhone. Several pro camera features, like cinematic mode, Apple ProRAW, 4k filming and more, make room for exciting experimentation. Like our Samsung S22 Ultra pick, you’re playing games with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh374.92 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh256, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh427, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh545.

3. Best Dual SIM Phone: Huawei Mate 40 Pro 5G Smartphone

Pros

  • Maximum 66W fast charging
  • OLED display
  • Captures slow-motion video selfies
  • Dual 5G SIM compatible with 4G

Cons

  • Doesn’t have Google Play Store

Huawei fans might want to upgrade their current device to a Mate 40 Pro. You can use both 5G and 4G SIM cards to ensure full network bars, always. The phone stands out for its unique rear camera ring, powered by the popular German camera manufacturer Leica. From smooth zoom to day and night colour filters, every shot boasts stellar quality. When with friends, the selfie camera automatically zooms out for a group pic, including a whopping 240 FPS (frames per second) slow-motion video selfie. You can even convert it into a GIF file (graphics interchange format) and set it as your lock screen display. Now with 66-watt fast charge, get a decent percentage in minutes before you leave home.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh333.25 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh227, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh380, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh484.

4. Best Budget: OPPO A74 5G Smartphone

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Extremely lightweight at 190 grams
  • Clear quad cameras and 16MP front camera
  • Snapdragon processor

Cons

  • Only shoots 30fps videos
  • Lower refresh rate and RAM (6GB) for the price

A 5G-enabled phone on a budget, the OPPO A74 smartphone wows with its gorgeous shell. For this price, you’re getting a Snapdragon eight-core processor that delivers 2.1 Gbps of maximum download speeds. Enter dual 5G SIM cards in this device, and enjoy 90Hz of refresh rate, 27 hours of battery life for calls and more. Its 128GB storage can be upgraded via a microSD card, so your stunning gallery will never need downsizing. Click and shoot from four cameras that produce 108MP images. Reviewers are impressed with the specs, which offer value for money.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh63.57 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh57, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh95, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh121.

5. Best for Photography: ONEPLUS Nord 2T 5G

Pros

  • Sony IMX766 flagship rear camera
  • 32MP front camera
  • Brilliant night photography
  • Delivers a full charge in 15 minutes

Cons

  • Lower display resolution (2400 x 1080 pixels)

Known for its premium build, the ONEPLUS Nord 2T smartphone is another bang for your buck. App launch speeds and graphics are even better with the 5G-ready MediaTek Dimensity 1300 chipset. In just 15 minutes, the phone powers up to a full day’s charge, thanks to its 80W super charging. Fixed with a Sony camera sensor, expect all your shots to shine bright in low-lighting conditions. Slow motion is even slower here – it captures 960 frames per second for the most fluid of playbacks. And bring on your selfie game through the 32MP front camera. Considering the 12GB RAM at a budget price, this is a solid choice for someone who wants to venture into new brands.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh124.92 for 12 months with select banks.

6. Best for Performance: Honor Magic4 Pro

Pros

  • Snappy downloads and fast loading times, per reviews
  • 100W charger delivers a full charge in minutes
  • Large 6.81-inch OLED display
  • 4k video selfies

Cons

  • 100x zoom can be blurry

A smartphone that can keep up with your nimble fingers - the Honor Magic4 Pro has a maximum screen refresh rate of 120Hz, and its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip makes everything go much faster. This processor is the US-based semiconductor company Qualcomm's most advanced 5G platform yet, supporting clear calls and blazing data speeds of up to 10 Gbps. Powerhouse chips can take a toll on the battery, which is why the Magic4 Pro has a 100-watt charger that refuels 50 per cent in 15 minutes. If you enjoy big displays, this smartphone has a 6.81-inch OLED screen, one that supports 1.07 billion colours. Its triple rear cameras go up to 64MP, while the 12MP selfie camera boasts 4k video recording.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh293.25 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh227, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh380, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh484.

7. Best Value for Gaming: Xiaomi 11T Pro

Pros

  • Hi-Res Audio-certified speakers
  • Zooms into audios as well as videos
  • Good processing power
  • 12GB RAM with 120Hz refresh rate

Cons

  • Camera's video and photo zoom resolution is not the best

In Xiaomi's smartphone range, you can find similar specs in the 11T Pro model, except it's powered by Snapdragon 888, an 8 Gen 1 predecessor. Still, this version of the 5G mobile platform is designed for long battery life. Plug it into charge, then circle back after 17 minutes - you'll be looking at a full battery bar, thanks to its 120-watt charger. Its 108MP main camera of the three is described as a pro-grade tool, working flawlessly in any lighting condition. You're also getting a 16MP front camera, capped at 60fps. It even has a rare audio zoom feature that brings you closer to the subject as you zoom into a video. Let's not forget the 120Hz refresh rate and a whopping 12GB RAM for mobile gaming, especially if the user can overlook the mid-range camera quality. 

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh149.92 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh114, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh190, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh242.

8. Best Multimedia Phone: Sony Xperia 1 III

Pros

  • Audio tuned with Sony Entertainment Pictures
  • Suitable for gamers, too - 12GB RAM, 120Hz refresh rate, headset jack and 4k display
  • Digital camera interface with a range of controls
  • Dedicated camera shutter button

Cons

  • Known to overheat during filming
  • Expensive

Here's another Snapdragon 888-powered smartphone. The Sony Xperia 1 III has features for every multimedia user - whether you're a photographer, gamer, cinephile or an audiophile. A trusted brand name within the entertainment field, Sony developed its 12MP smartphone camera with input from pro photographers. Its camera interface resembles closely to that of the brand's own digital cameras, where auto-focus is better than ever before, and the shutter button on the side makes capturing pics tactile. But if the many controls get overwhelming, you can always switch to the basic interface that we're all familiar with. Watch movies on an OLED 4k display and experience Dolby Atmos sound, perfected with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Any traditional headset will plug into the 3.5mm audio jack, which is an essential for mobile gamers.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh360.83 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh256, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh427, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh545.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.