Bargain 5G smartphones might be coming far sooner than we expected

Realme has announced it will start releasing 5G smartphones in 2019, and we’re hoping that this finally means an budget-friendly 5G smartphone is almost here.

The CEO of Realme, Madhav Sheth, revealed on Twitter that the company would start releasing 5G smartphones globally before the end of 2019.

Realme (a subsidiary of Oppo) has a reputation for manufacturing budget handsets, so is this the first sign that 5G phones will actually start to become affordable for the average consumer? Let’s hope so.

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Currently, 5G smartphones are cripplingly expensive. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G boasts flagship specifications such as an excellent triple camera and a gorgeous 6.7-inch screen, but it currently retails at an eye-watering £1099 SIM-free. Similarly, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is available on a two-year contract from EE, with the cheapest option costing £79 up-front and £59 per month. But Realme’s reputation for affordability might offer us the chance to experience the blistering high speeds of 5G without the prohibitive price tag.

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Take the Realme 3 Pro for instance. This mid-range rival to the Google Pixel 3a features a Snapdragon 710 processor, a 25-megapixel rear camera, and a 4045mAh battery, yet has a starting price of just €249 (~£220/$280). If Realme can price a 5G smartphone at a similarly competitive price, it would be a great breakthrough for 5G becoming more accessible. Be warned though — 5G data plans are also still very expensive regardless of the handset you choose.

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So, is it worth buying a 5G phone? We advise you to hold off for now. As already mentioned, the handsets and contracts are still very pricey — and there’s still not much choice.

Even more reason for being wary is that 5G connectivity is very patchy: EE has launched its 5G network in six UK cities, but even within these cities the coverage is focused on a handful of locations; Vodafone will also launch its network later in the year, and from there we can only expect 5G coverage to keep improving. All these factors mean you’re best advised to wait for at least another few months before switching to 5G.

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