5g smartphone
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/James Yarema

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?

5g phone
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?

5g phone
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, 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.

Editor's tip
Select electronics are up to 20 per cent off on Amazon right now, from laptops and tablets to smartphones and televisions.

Most populated areas in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Northern Emirates all 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, and check out discounts on electronics.

1. Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 5G Mobile Phone

Pros

  • High RAM capacity for snappy performance
  • Samsung's most eco-friendly phone yet
  • Runs on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
  • 200MP wide-angle camera
  • Dust- and water-resistant S Pen

Cons

  • Went from 40MP selfie camera in S22 Ultra to 12MP

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 S23 Series, launched in February, 2023. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra also shares the hype for a hyper-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, supported by 5G cellular service and 12GB RAM. However, this phone carries Snapdragon's fastest mobile platform yet - it's how the handset is able to upgrade to a 200MP wide-angle camera. 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 especially for outdoor visibility that works against the sun’s glare. Join Zoom conferences while looking your best, with the 12-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 Dh324.83 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: The manufacturer offers a one-year 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 15 Pro Max (256 GB)

Pros

  • Excellent battery life – 29 hours of video playback
  • Memory options of up to 1TB
  • Improved 48MP camera sensor
  • Multiple camera modes
  • 4K video recording

Cons

  • Expensive

In 2022, the iPhone 14 Pro range drew attention for its Dynamic Island - an interactive bubble that displays phone activity at a glance. The latest iPhone 15 Pro Max model retains the same feature, but ditches its mute switch for a new Action button on the left side. It boasts a bigger screen than the iPhone 15 Pro, measuring 6.7 inches, with a Super Retina XDR OLED display for deeper contrasts. Powered by the new A17 Pro chip, the world’s first 3nm chip, it celebrates incredibly high performance and efficiency. Its new six-core graphics processing unit (GPU) is up to 20 per cent faster than its predecessor, and enables hardware-accelerated ray tracing in games. Several pro camera features, like anti-shake action mode, cinematic mode, Apple ProRAW, 4K filming and more, make room for exciting experimentation. The camera system features a large new main sensor, with a 5x optical zoom option for better macro shots and improved low-light photography. Like our Samsung S23 Ultra pick, you’re playing games with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Don't forget to check what the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus have to offer, as well.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh420.75 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh312, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh522, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh666.

3. Best Value for Specs: OPPO Reno8 Smartphone 5G

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Extremely lightweight at 179 grams
  • Sony sensors for front and rear cameras
  • AMOLED display
  • Super-fast 80W charge

Cons

  • No stereo speakers

Released just last year, in 2022, this 5G-enabled phone on a budget wows with its gorgeous iridescent shell. For this price, you’re getting a MediaTek Dimensity eight-core processor that delivers 4.7 Gbps of maximum downlink speeds. Enter dual 5G and 4G SIM cards in this device, and enjoy a 90Hz of refresh rate, 80W fast charge and more. But, the highlight of this phone is its front 32MP and rear 50MP cameras equipped with Sony sensors that let in 64.36 per cent more light. This means excellent nighttime photography and videography. Your stunning gallery will never need downsizing, thanks to its 256GB storage. Reviewers are impressed with the specs, especially its 5G capability, which offers value for money. They do note that it only has a single speaker, as opposed to a dual stereo set.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh95.75 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh143, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh182.

4. Best for Photography: OnePlus 10 Pro 5G

Pros

  • Sony IMX789 flagship rear camera
  • Colour calibration by Hasselblad
  • 32MP front camera
  • Delivers a full charge in 15 minutes

Cons

  • Battery drains fast

Known for its premium build, the OnePlus 10 Pro smartphone is another bang for your buck. App launch speeds and graphics are even better with the 5G-ready Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, also found in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. OnePlus collaborates with the iconic Swedish maker of cameras, Hasselblad, the same manufacturer whose camera clicked the first landing images on the moon. The second generation of Hasselblad's Camera For Mobile software is found on the 10 Pro. This, combined with the power of a Sony sensor, produces some of the richest real-life colours in mobile photography. You can also shoot 12-bit RAW images on all three rear cameras, peaking at 50MP. And, bring on your selfie game with the 32MP front camera. In just 15 minutes, the phone powers up to a full day’s charge, thanks to its 80W supercharging. However, reviewers point out fast battery drainage. Considering the chipset 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 Dh162.33 for 12 months with select banks.

5. 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 second-most advanced 5G platform, 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. Those who come from other Android phones speak highly of Honor Magic4, saying that it's an easy transition.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh225.96 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh171, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh285, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh363.

6. Best for Gaming: Xiaomi Poco F5

Pros

  • Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chipset with 12GB RAM
  • Various gaming features - antenna for reduced latency, L-shaped charging cable, voice chat mic and more
  • Hi-Res Audio-certified speakers
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 120-watt charger comes included

Cons

  • Powerful chipset can cause some overheating, note reviews

At a budget price, the Poco F5 surprisingly runs on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. We've picked this as the 5G mobile for gaming because of its dedicated features, starting with the gaming antenna found inside the hardware. This component works extra hard to ensure a high-speed internet connection at all times. With the connection taken care of, don't worry about running out of fuel, either. 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. You'll find yourself abandoning your headphones in favour of the quad speakers, dual tweeters and dual woofers. An additional third mic on the phone lets gamers voice chat in landscape mode worry-free. To top it all, there's the fun RGB lighting at the back of the phone that flashes with every notification. Gamers mention playing titles like Diablo Immortal on the Poco F5, but do note some overheating.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh93.25 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh143, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh182.

7. Best Multimedia Phone: Sony Xperia 1 IV

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 8 Gen 1-powered smartphone. The Sony Xperia 1 IV 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 (AF) 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 a 4K HDR OLED display and experience Dolby Atmos sound, perfected with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Any traditional headset will plug into the 3.5mm audio jack, which is essential for mobile gamers and editors.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh445.13 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh312, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh522, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh666.

8. Best Value: Realme GT Master Edition 5G

Pros

  • Designer leather shell
  • Street photography camera with Kodak-inspired filters
  • Snapdragon chipset
  • 65W fast charging

Cons

  • No stereo speakers
  • 3GB native RAM

Stand out from the crowd, when you pocket this designer smartphone. Realme's GT Master Edition boasts a suitcase design, its shell made of vegan leather in slate grey. This travel-inspired motif is the brainchild of renowned Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. What really drives home the explorer theme, is its camera's street photography mode. Choose from a set of filters based on classic Kodak effects that highlight raw details. Its 64MP main camera captures pixel-dense images perfect for magazine and poster prints. As for the specs, it runs on Snapdragon 778G, with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, from where 5GB is converted into virtual RAM. If you're plugged into the 65W charger, you'll get a full battery in just 33 minutes. Reviews call it a decent mid-range phone with a responsive screen and fast charge.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh112.52 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh86, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh143, and a two-year damage protection plus one-year extended warranty for Dh182.

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.