In 2020, major carriers kicked off their 5G deployment in earnest, and we'll continue to see 5G phones being released this year and next. In the US, 5G is currently live in select cities for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and other regional carriers. The 5G networks for all four major carriers in the UK are live too.
Apple's latest iPhone 12 phones all have 5G connectivity, and Samsung, the most popular manufacturer of 5G phones, has several under its belt. This includes the Galaxy S21, the foldable Galaxy Z Flip 5G, the premium Galaxy Note 20 phones, and the more budget-friendly Galaxy A71 5G. Though it won't replace 4G in its entirety, 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G works fast, and many industries will benefit from the new network, including drones, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things.
Most people will likely experience the benefits of a robust 5G network only through a 5G phone. After all, the grand promises carriers and chipmakers are making with 5G coverage won't mean much if you can't access 5G service with your own device after the rollout. To give you an idea of what's currently at the top of the 5G heap, here are CNET's picks for the best 5G phones.
Apple iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max
CNET TAKE: In October of 2020 Apple unveiled four iPhones, all of which are 5G phones. At the helm of the lineup is the iPhone 12 (https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-iphone-12-review-5g-phone/#ftag=CAD187281f), which starts at $829 and features the A14 Bionic processor and dual rear cameras. If you're looking for something smaller and cheaper, the iPhone 12 Mini is your best pick for a 5G capable phone. And if you want something more premium, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are decked out with more features.
Samsung Galaxy S21
CNET TAKE: There's a lot to like about the Galaxy S21 (https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s21-review-5g-phone-your-next-upgrade/#ftag=CAD187281f), but the best thing about it has got to be the price. Samsung's next-gen flagship lineup starts at $800, and you can find it on Amazon right now for an extra $100 off. Samsung made some trade-offs to get to that price: The phone has 4GB of RAM less than its predecessor, the wall charger and headphones don't come in the box, and it doesn't have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you're getting a lot for your money, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 5G connectivity.
OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro
CNET TAKE: The OnePlus 8 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/oneplus-8-specs-fits-into-a-budget-without-sacrificing-hardware-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) and 8 Pro's premium experience comes at a relatively affordable price compared to its high-end Android competitors. As the more advanced phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a 120Hz display and a telephoto camera. But the OnePlus 8 is cheaper and still has 5G technology, a 90Hz display and the same top-of-the-line processor.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Senior Associate Editor Patrick Holland, former CNET editor Lynn La and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.
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