HMD Global, the Finnish company that makes Nokia-branded phones, said it’s making a “value” flagship 5G smartphone with a launch date set for 2020.
The fact that a smartphone manufacturer is making a 5G phone is not surprising — almost everyone is — but the Nokia 5G phone will differentiate itself from the pack by being affordable.
How much exactly? Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer for HMD, told Digital Trends it will cost roughly half of what exists today. The 5G phones available to date in the U.S. come from Samsung and LG: The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G starts at $1,300, whereas the LG V50 ThinQ 5G sits at around $1,000. Halving those prices puts Nokia’s upcoming 5G phone in the $500 to $650 price range.
“We see a particular opportunity for us in bringing 5G to a more affordable segment as we enter the market,” Sarvikas told Digital Trends in a phone call. “I would say affordable in relation to what’s available today. I would love to see us at half of the price where you have 5G today.”
The most affordable 5G phone you can buy in the U.S. is the Moto Z3 or the Moto Z4, paired with a 5G Moto Mod. It’s not a true 5G phone as you can only access 5G when you snap the mod to the back of the phone, which makes the whole package cumbersome. The Verizon-exclusive Moto Z3 paired with the 5G Moto Mod will cost you around $800 at full retail price, but through promotions, you can get it for around $500. Then there’s the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which cannot be bought without a 5G data plan, but its price falls somewhere in the 800 to 900 euro range. It’s not available in the U.S. just yet, but it might be coming soon thanks to a collaboration with Sprint.
A Nokia 5G phone that costs around $650 will be a game-changer when it comes to boosting 5G adoption, but HMD will be facing stiff competition. MediaTek and Huawei are working together to create a low-cost 5G smartphone (though it probably won’t come to the U.S.), and the likes of Motorola and OnePlus will all be striving to deliver cheaper alternatives in 2020.
“I would love to see us at half of the price where you have 5G today.”
Sarvikas said HMD is “working closely” with silicon vendors — likely Qualcomm as most of its smartphones use Qualcomm chipsets — as well as with Nokia, which has been deploying and operating 5G services for enterprise customers. HMD said it’s also talking to U.S. carriers, which is crucial to bringing a 5G phone to the U.S. as there are no unlocked 5G devices available just yet. 5G phones at the moment are not interoperable like 4G devices, meaning if you buy the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G from Verizon and then switch to Sprint, you’ll need to buy Sprint’s version of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G. It’s unclear when this lack of interoperability will be fixed, but the problem likely won’t disappear in 2020. Expect locked carrier variants of the Nokia 5G phone.
What exactly will 5G enable? The next-gen network — which follows 4G LTE — delivers faster download and upload speeds, allowing you to watch and stream higher-quality videos and music on the go, and download content in seconds rather than minutes. That’s just one side of 5G, though; it has the potential to drastically alter the tech landscape as more devices will communicate with each other, enabling not just smarter products, but also smarter cities. You can read our primer on 5G to learn more. While all the major U.S. carriers have deployed 5G networks across the U.S., it’s only available in a sliver of areas of select cities. Nationwide coverage — like you enjoy with 4G LTE — isn’t expected until 2025.
Since January, HMD has made a concerted effort to expand its presence in the U.S. outside of the unlocked phones it sells through retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. It now has five smartphones available from carrier stores, including Verizon, AT&T, and Cricket Mobile. It’s an important step, as growth in the U.S. requires key partnerships with U.S. carriers — a move OnePlus has successfully followed.
HMD typically makes several major smartphone announcements at Mobile World Congress, so there’s a good chance we’ll see news around a Nokia 5G phone next February.
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