Brace yourselves: 5G phones are coming, and most of them are expected to cost more than $1,000. And chances are you won’t even be able to use anywhere close to the full speed of 5G most of the time, as the carriers are still deploying their networks. The solution — if you really want to hop on 5G speeds — is HTC’s 5G Hub. It’s a mobile hot spot that goes much further than most devices of its kind.
The 5G Hub brings you 5G without needing to buy a 5G smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G or LG V50 ThinQ. It’s a small, wedge-shaped device that you can leave at home or work, or toss in your backpack to use on the go. It’s heavier than a phone, but not enough to be dramatically noticeable if it’s in a bag. There’s a SIM inside, and in the U.S. it will be powered by Sprint’s 5G network when it launches this spring.
Think of the 5G Hub as a secondary phone or tablet, because it’s running Android 9.0 Pie and has a 5-inch HD (1,280 x 720) touchscreen. You can install all the usual Android apps you love through the Google Play Store, stream video and play games, and there’s a USB-C port on the back to connect the device to a TV (USB-C to HDMI) so you can stream 4K content without interruptions and at a high quality thanks to 5G’s promised gigabit-per-second speeds.
Another promise of the next-gen mobile network is low latency, the delay between data transfers. This is critical, as you can use the hub to connect devices like HTC’s own Vive Focus virtual reality headset to stream games without needing to be tethered.
True 5G wasn’t available at HTC’s booth at Mobile World Congress 2019, but I played an emulated version of using the hub to play Superhot on the Vive Focus, and while the experience stuttered a bit, the vision was easy to see. Game streaming will be one of the biggest ways the average person will experience 5G’s full benefits, as cloud computing can help power a graphics-intensive game, without you needing to own a powerful computer.
The other key feature is the hub’s ability to connect up to 20 other devices, so if you’re with a team of people — whether it’s friends or coworkers — they can all benefit from 5G speeds by connecting to the 5G Hub.
The Hub is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor with the X50 modem that enables it to connect to 5G networks. It’s a special version of the X50, though, as it supports the sub-6GHz spectrum. It supports the new Wi-Fi 6 standard as well, has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and even has a MicroSD card slot. There’s a 7,660mAh battery inside, which should keep it going for quite some time, though it’s unclear what kind of battery drain 5G commands.
So should you buy the HTC 5G Hub? Sprint has just released availability and pricing information for the HTC 5G Hub, and it’s a hefty investment with an MSRP of $600. That’s twice the $300 price we’d hoped for, and it may be a tough proposition for many. It may be worth waiting to purchase a cheaper 5G phone in a year or two, after the inevitable price drops.
That said, if you jump on Sprint’s deal quick enough, you could get the Hub for the more desirable $300 price point. Sprint is currently offering the hub for just $12.50 a month for 24 months as a time-limited deal. That brings the cost of the Hub out to $300, making it much more desirable. You can also get 100GB of high-speed data with your hub for just $60 a month. However, the hub has limited availability at launch, and will only be available in Sprint’s 5G markets of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City to begin with, before coming to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., in the next few weeks.
The hub is currently available for pre-order from Sprint, and it will work on Sprint’s network in the U.S., Telstra in Australia, as well as Three UK, Deutsche Telekom, Elisa, and Sunrise in Europe. The device will eventually be sent out on May 31, likely chosen to coincide with the launch of the LG V50 5G, and Sprint’s 5G networks, which are going live in May in Chicago (20 square miles), and will eventually be rolling out to select areas in Kansas City, Washington, New York City, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.
Updated on May 17, 2019: Release date and pricing information have been revealed.
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