Key reason to upgrade your phone now
The 5G race is well and truly on with the nation's two major mobile carriers rolling out the new mobile networks around the country.
5G promises to bring faster download speeds, lower latency and more capacity to the mobile phone network, eliminating load times and opening up a wealth of new innovation in the smart cities of the future.
But you can't just pick up a 5G SIM card and connect instantly.
The technology requires new ways to connect, and you'll need a phone with a 5G cellular modem.
While the chip itself is tiny, it makes all the difference, and there's no practical way to add one to the phone you already have. This means you'll need a new 5G enabled phone.
As Optus and Telstra get their networks up and running over the next few years, 5G phones will become the norm and you won't have to think about whether your new phone can connect to the modern network.
Most of the 5G technology rolling out at the moment will use the 3500Mhz spectrum to transmit data, but Optus also has existing 2300Mhz spectrum it will use for 5G. Lower frequencies provide better range while higher frequencies are faster. You don't have to keep an eye on this as your phone will switch to whichever network is strongest in your given location.
There are already a number of great options on the market and even more affordable ones set to go on sale within the next year. See which one is right for you below.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 5G - $1599
The 5G capable version of the Samsung Galaxy S10 was the first 5G phone to hit the Australian shores earlier this year. It's largely the same as the usual Galaxy S10 but with a bigger screen, double the standard storage, bigger battery and a 5G modem. All this comes with an increased price tag to match, and you'll pay around a $500 premium for the 5G model. Next year's S11 will almost certainly have 5G built in as standard, so if you're not dying for a new phone it might be worth waiting.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10+ 5G - $1999
The Galaxy Note has always been quite a niche device, being targeted mainly at power users who need ultimate productivity.
This is why it usually has a larger screen than other phones in the Samsung stable.
It's also one of the only phones that comes with a stylus.
Accordingly it doesn't come cheap. The Note 10+ is the most expensive of the 5G phones currently on the market in Australia, but the way phone prices are going, it's unlikely to hold that title for too long.
SAMSUNG GALAXY A90 5G - $1049
You might have noticed a trend already with this list. Samsung is one of the companies that has been at the forefront of 5G deployment and, as such, is ahead of many other manufacturers in releasing 5G devices. Samsungs make up three of the four 5G devices available through Optus and three of the five offered through Telstra too. With a focus on imaging and sharing, the Galaxy A-series is targeted at younger customers who might want a flagship device but are unable to afford one. As such there are a few compromises in construction (more plastic appears on an A-series for instance), but this one retains the under-screen fingerprint sensors and triple-camera arrays of the more expensive models. It's also the cheapest 5G phone available in Australia at its recommended retail price.
LG V50 ThinQ - $1728
The V50 ThinQ is offered on a plan by Telstra but at this stage Optus is yet to include it in its line-up. You can still buy it outright and connect to the Optus network though. The standout feature on the V50 is its dual screen accessory, which adds a second screen to the device. It differs from the Samsung Galaxy Fold in that the phone can be put into its dual screen case or removed from it. Unlike the fold it doesn't create a seamless experience and the two screens remain clearly separated, but you do get the added screen real estate, plus 5G speed, for around $1250 less than you'd pay for the Galaxy Fold.
OPPO RENO 5G - $1199
If you're the type to get annoyed about notches and holes ruining your full screen phone experience then this is the phone for you. While Apple, Google, Samsung and others have tried different ways of hiding the front-facing camera, Chinese companies like Oppo have been a bit more adventurous. The display of the Oppo Reno takes up the full face of the phone, and the front facing camera is hidden away. A small wedge pops out of the phone when you want to take a selfie.
XIAOMI MI MIX 3 5G - $1399
Here's another phone that manages to hide the front camera. Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3 5G hides the selfie camera under the screen, which slides down magnetically. This effectively conceals the camera and also provides a strangely satisfying mechanism to fiddle with. The brand is new to Australia this year, but its phones have been available through grey importers for some time, and is one of the biggest smartphone sellers in the world. Xiaomi's 5G phone isn't officially sold through either telco, but you can pick one up through retailers like JB Hi-Fi or via the company's Australian online store. While you may have seen a Xiaomi branded "showroom" in Sydney, don't bother trying to walk in there and buy one because you need an appointment to get in.
WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON
More 5G devices will be coming on the market next year, and they'll also be getting cheaper.
While Samsung has been among the leaders of 5G development, chipmaker Qualcomm is also leading the charge.
The company recently announced its latest flagship chip, the Snapdragon 865, will only be available to manufacturers who also build a 5G modem into the device, which will likely force many to include one.
But more temptingly, Qualcomm also announced a less powerful but cheaper Snapdragon 765 chip that has 5G built right in.
Unfortunately for Apple fans, we might not see a 5G iPhone until 2021. The company is working on 5G technology after buying Intel's modem business, but it's not yet known whether 5G will be ready to go into the new iPhones that will come out next year.
This also means that if you've just made a sizeable investment in an iPhone 11 ($1199) or the even pricier Pro models (starting at $1749), you won't be able to enjoy 5G speeds at all. On the plus side, by the time you upgrade to a new phone the 5G network will be in more places and accessible on more phones.
Are you looking to buy a 5G smartphone or will you be waiting until the network is rolled out further? Let us know in the comments below.