Samsung is making 5G mainstream in the U.S. with the Galaxy S20
Last year, Samsung was the first to offer a 5G-enabled smartphone in the world with the Galaxy S10 5G. This 5G phone launched nearly two months after the Galaxy S10 series launch and despite a rough start, it was met with great demand. Samsung followed up this success with a special Galaxy Note10+ 5G model. Yet these 5G devices were network and carrier-limited—they only supported sub-6GHz or mmWave frequencies on certain carriers, but not both. However, at the Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event, Samsung announced that each of its three flagship models – the Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and the higher-end Galaxy S20 Ultra – support 5G connectivity.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Samsung is making 5G a mainstream technology with the introduction of the S20 series—at least in the U.S. Until now, consumers in the U.S. seeking 5G connectivity did not enjoy the freedom to choose their carrier and were restricted to the service provider appointed by their preferred OEM. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G has been limited to Verizon’s 5G network (along with AT&T for corporate users), the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G on Sprint, and the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G on T-Mobile. With the Galaxy S20 launch, Samsung is empowering users by giving them a choice among different carriers with the latest flagship series. If purchased directly from Samsung, the new devices will be carrier-unlocked and support all major carriers in the U.S.
Sub-6GHz and mmWave for Samsung Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra but not base S20
Notably, the Galaxy S20 sold at launch will only support the sub-6GHz spectra for 5G connectivity whereas the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra will support both the sub-6GHz spectra as well as the mmWave frequencies (what Verizon calls Ultra Wideband), which constitutes frequencies above 24GHz. Internally, this means that the S20+ and the S20 Ultra are the only two in the S20 series to have mmWave antennas built into their bodies. The regular S20 lacks mmWave antennas likely to save cost and/or due to space constraints. Samsung will be launching another model of the S20 with mmWave antenna modules in Q2 2020, according to Verizon. All 3 devices in the U.S. use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 SoC along with the discrete Snapdragon X55 modem.
While the sub-6GHz frequency allows for a wider range and a greater ability to penetrate through solid objects like walls, waves traveling over the mmWave spectrum offer more bandwidth and higher downlink and uplink speeds – analogous to the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands. However, it must be noted that mmWave networks will be limited to only certain parts of the country initially as their ability to penetrate buildings is significantly limited.
Samsung leads the way
Although Samsung is trying its best to offer a similar 5G experience across all network providers, only a certain carrier might fit the bill depending on your location. This is because different carriers have established their networks in specific regions. Sprint, for example, only offers its sub-6GHz 5G network in a few cities, though, with the recent approval of their merger with T-Mobile, that list could expand greatly. Both Verizon and AT&T are gradually expanding their mmWave and sub-6GHz networks respectively, and by the end of this year, we should see a large portion of the continental U.S. blanketed with 5G connectivity.
As each carrier expands its networks, we should note that the new networks aren’t available in all parts of every city, but we can expect further expansion throughout this year. Despite these challenges, Samsung’s announcement of the S20 series will bring forth a much wider adoption of 5G connectivity. Once consumers finally have their hands on devices capable of 5G—and the smartphone is often cited as one of the first gateways—all adjacent industries should follow suit.
4G LTE models for other markets
Just like we informed you in our last month’s exclusive leak, Samsung will also launch 4G LTE variants of the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+ for markets that aren’t likely to get 5G connectivity anytime soon – at least not in 2020. In most markets outside of the U.S., those Galaxy S20 series devices will be powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 990 chips. For those non-U.S. markets that actually do have 5G networks, Samsung will offer Exynos 990 variants with Samsung’s 5G Exynos Modem 5123. We don’t know which modem the 4G-only Exynos models will be paired with at this time. We do know that the 4G models will support LTE Cat.20, LAA, up to 7CA, and enhanced 4 x 4 MIMO which will enable support for up to 2.0Gbps download and 200Mbps upload speeds.
We will hopefully soon learn about the company’s plans for 5G support in more markets.