- 5G has been a buzzword in the tech community for years, but the next-generation wireless network is expected to have a banner year in 2020.
- Cristiano Amon, president of mobile chipmaker Qualcomm, recently sat down with Business Insider to talk about the most noticeable changes smartphone owners will see when 5G networks become widespread.
- When 5G networks become prominent, smartphones will be able to maintain a more reliable connection to the cloud and internet-based services, which will boost performance and enable more sophisticated apps to run on your phone.
For years, we've been hearing about how next-generation 5G networks are going to change the way we access the internet, revolutionizing industries from agriculture to manufacturing and the automotive sector.
But now, after years of hype, 2020 seems poised to be the year that 5G finally goes mainstream.
Major mobile carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have launched 5G networks in select cities across the United States, and smartphone makers like Samsung and Motorola have already launched 5G-capable phones. Apple is expected to release its first 5G iPhone in 2020, and sales of 5G phones are expected to exceed 1 billion units by 2025, according to Strategy Analytics.
But as 2020 approaches, there's an important question: What exactly can we expect from our phones when 5G networks become the norm?
Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm -- whose Snapdragon processors power popular phones from Samsung, LG, OnePlus, and others -- recently sat down with Business Insider to talk about what 5G means for how we use our mobile devices. Below are some key takeaways from our conversation.
It'll be much easier to get a signal when you're in a crowded environment.
Struggling to make a phone call, send a text message, or use any app that requires the internet during a crowded event will soon be a problem of the past.
"Every technology needs to solve a problem," Amon said. "3G was about [providing] wireless internet, 4G was about broadband on a phone, [and] 5G is for a mature wirelessly connected society."
As such, 5G will be developed to handle congestion and crowded scenarios, so you'll no longer have to cope with sluggish speeds when trying to upload a photo from a music festival or football game, for example.
"5G is being designed so that you'll have a consistent level of performance," Amon said.
Unlimited data plans will be much more common.
Major carriers like Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T all offer unlimited data plans, but some of those options often come with trade-offs like slower speeds after a certain data limit has been hit or lower video quality.
With the advent of 5G, however, unlimited data plans are likely to become the standard, which means you probably won't find yourself scrambling to connect to the nearest WiFi network nearly as often. "That's going to disappear," Amon said. "5G is all about unlimited data plans, and it's been designed to handle the data."
That, of course, will depend on whether carriers are willing to adjust their current offerings to match the demand for unlimited data.
Apps won't be limited by the hardware on your phone.
Since 5G networks will be capable of connecting mobile devices to the cloud more reliably than before, apps will be able to run power-hungry operations from the cloud and beam it to your phone, Amon says. That means performance won't necessarily be tied to the hardware inside your phone, which could enabled a new class of "super" apps, according to Amon.
Companies like Google and Microsoft are already experimenting with services that let you play console-quality games on any device by streaming it to your phone or TV through cloud-connected servers.
"Users will see a more reliable connection, and that's going to allow many of those services to evolve based on that," Amon said.
Streaming video on your phone will be just as easy as streaming music, even with a low-quality connection.
Today with 4G LTE, even a poor signal is still usually sufficient enough to stream a song on Spotify. But that's not usually the case for video.
This could change as 5G networks become more prominent. "It's just going to work seamlessly, Amon said. "No matter what signal you have."