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Forget the Galaxy S10 5G it’ll be years before the next-gen tech is mainstream

It’ll be at least four years before 5G becomes the main networking tech used by smartphones, according to fresh research from Gartner.

The report went live on Wednesday and suggests 5G will make up the majority of smartphone sales by 2023, but will remain a niche in 2019. The biggest leap in 5G adoption is expected to occur between 2020 and 2023 – with 5G sales jumping from 6% to 51% of the smartphone market.

5G is continuing to roll out across the UK – with EE and Vodafone expected to launch in more locations before the year is out. 5G launches have also begun across countries like the US, South Korea, Switzerland and Finland this year. These rollouts are expected to lead to 7% of global communications providers offering commercial 5G by 2020.

As it stands there are a limited number of handsets with 5G connectivity. The main ones most networks are carrying are the Galaxy S10 5G and OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.

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The report comes from research agency Gartner and – while the 5G growth sounds promising for networks – the analysis doesn’t show it’ll all be plain sailing for manufacturers and network providers.

Despite the 5G growth, global smartphone shipments are expected to fall by 2.5% this year. The decrease would mark the worst decline ever for smartphone sales.

Garner research director Ranjit Atwal said: “The current mobile phone market of 1.7 billion shipments is around 10% below the 1.9 billion shipments reached in 2015. If mobile phones don’t provide significant new utility, efficiency or experiences, users won’t upgrade them, and will consequently increase these devices’ life spans”.

Related: 5G in the UK

Atwal’s comments on life spans are backed up by the data. The figures show the life span of high-end smartphone ownership is expected to increase from 2.6 years to 2.9 years by 2023 – meaning phone users are buying new devices far less often.

Gartner has previously released analysis about a different side of future smartphones. By 2023, foldable smartphones are expected to account for 5% of all high-end smartphone sales.

The recent analysis went beyond mobile phone sales. A decline is expected across the whole device market (PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones). This year will see a 3% drop in global device shipment sales. The decrease in sales is expected to continue year on year.

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