Look but don’t touch: OnePlus’ 5G prototype phone sits behind glass at MWC 2019

Aside from foldable smartphones, 5G is all the rage at Mobile World Congress 2019. It has even lured OnePlus — a company that hardly has a presence at any major convention — to show off a prototype smartphone connected to a super-fast 5G network.

But no one can touch or pick up this phone — it’s in a glass box and most of it is obscured from view. Only the screen is mostly visible, and one of the two devices showed off the capabilities of game streaming with 5G. The game itself is Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown for the PlayStation 4, and game streaming means everything is being powered by data centers owned by the streaming provider — in this case Shadow — meaning you don’t need a powerful phone to play the game. The OnePlus phone is simply maintaining the 5G connection.

The game streaming technology is similar to Google’s Project Stream, which let people play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on its Chrome browser — no gaming PC needed.

The OnePlus phone was tethered to a TV, where it was displaying the contents on its screen, and there was a person that paired a Bluetooth game controller to it to play the game. The person’s inputs were instantly registered in the game, showcasing the impressive low latency 5G brings, but keep in mind this was a controlled demo.

The phone in question is quite possibly the rumored OnePlus 7, though the company could easily release a separate device for these 5G capabilities — similar to Samsung’s strategy with the Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10 5G. The OnePlus 7 will likely debut in late spring or in the summer, but there is a good chance the 5G phone could be delayed for the second half of the year as the “T” version.

OnePlus isn’t the only manufacturer showing off 5G devices — Sony’s 5G phone was also in the same Qualcomm booth (both use the X50 modem in the Snapdragon 855 processor to work with 5G), and it was incredibly thick, and very much a prototype. Meanwhile, Huawei, LG, Samsung, ZTE, and Xiaomi all have phones at the show that are 5G ready, now we’ll just need to wait for carriers to bring 5G networks online.

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