How to decide if now is the time to move to a 5G phone
The launch of Apple's iPhone 12 range has acted as a trigger for many people to begin more seriously considering 5G connectivity as an option. So, is it worth buying a 5G phone and will 5G end up costing much more than you currently spend?
5G coverage is still limited, so it's important to know whether you can even receive 5G in the areas that you live and work. This really is the first place to start and will inform your decision on whether to invest in a 5G phone now or to wait until the coverage rollout actually reaches you.
WhistleOut's network coverage checker tool lets you see whether the different carriers (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) have 5G coverage at your location. Note, the Vodafone 5G network is very limited at the moment so if you're planning to be a Vodafone customer for the next couple of years then don't expect to have access to 5G speeds.
If you are lucky enough to be in an area with 5G coverage then you'll need a 5G-capable device and a mobile plan that includes 5G access in order to get connected. Let's take a look at how much these phones and plans cost.
Which phones can you get and how much do they cost?
If you're in the Apple camp then your only option is the new iPhone 12 range. However, there are four models to choose from, (iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini), each coming in three different memory size variants. The iPhone 12 64GB version will likely be the choice for most people, and comes with a $1,349 price tag.
As a comparison, other recent iPhones like the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE start at $999 and $679 respectively, so most iPhone users will pay at least a $350 premium for having access to a 5G device.
As with Apple, it's largely the high-end Android devices that are 5G-capable including flagships from the likes of Samsung, OPPO and Google. However, Android manufacturers had already introduced 5G-ready phones well before Apple came to the party and there are also some cheaper models to choose from. Examples include the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G 128GB from $1,149, the Google Pixel 5 from $999, and the OPPO Find X2 Lite from $749.
5G phone plans
At the moment phone plans with 5G network access are limited to the big three carriers: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. We would expect that in time they will grant 5G access to the other smaller carriers that use their networks, but that's not an option right now. As mentioned earlier the Vodafone network is still in its infancy, so Telstra and Optus plans are currently your best bet.
Telstra refreshed its plans last year to simplify its offering and let users build the mobile package they want. Telstra's cheapest plans don't include 5G connectivity so users would need to purchase a Medium plan or higher, which start at $65/mth and include at least 80GB data. You have the option of buying a 5G phone on a contract with Telstra or purchasing the device outright and choosing a no-contract plan to go with it.
Like Telstra, Optus also refreshed its range of plans late last year, simplifying its range and adding more customisation options. 5G connectivity is included on all Optus plans so you can choose from its Small Optus Choice Plan that comes with 10GB for $39/mth, Medium Optus Choice Plan which includes 60GB for $49/mth or up to much higher price points and data inclusions.
Is it worth upgrading to 5G?
5G is the next major evolution in mobile network technology and promises much faster network speeds, lower latency and the ability to enable all the wonders The Internet of Things is expected to bring. However, 5G coverage just simply isn't available everywhere and what coverage this is is spotty at the moment, so unless you're sure that you can get 5G coverage where you live and work we wouldn't suggest making 5G a key criteria when choosing a phone right now.
Also, with 5G mainly being available on high-end devices you'll be hard-pressed to find a compatible phone under $1,000. For those that don't want to spend that much on a handset, 5G is largely out of reach. In addition, people can't access the low-cost phone plans that Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) often offer, which also lifts the ongoing costs of running 5G.
That said, if you're in the market for a flagship device and plan to keep your next phone for three or four years then 5G would be future-proofed on your handset and would certainly be nice to have when 5G connectivity becomes available to you. Just don't make it a focus right now unless you know you have network coverage and the funds to comfortably access and run it.